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Brothers In Very Long Arms

Posted by gauloises1 on January 16, 2010

I really liked this del Potro featurette from The Times today:

You have to cock an ear and move your chair nearer when Juan Martín del Potro talks. He does so with a gentle lilt, muffled by his five-day growth.

He is seated in the players’ garden at Melbourne Park, feeling a touch cramped, until the conversation’s end when his body unfurls, he rises to his full 6ft 6in and looks at home in this, the city of the Eureka Tower, the highest public vantage point in the southern hemisphere.

There is a good deal of looking up to do. For Del Potro, the sensation of being the last man to appreciate how it feels to lift one of the sport’s four treasures, the US Open crown that he bludgeoned from Roger Federer’s grasp in September, remains exceedingly strong. Although the 21-year-old says that he will not grow any more in the physical sense — “now I am OK with my body” — he feels bigger inside when the subject of New York is raised.

“I had won my first grand-slam, my favourite slam and no one could say anything about my tennis or my physical side, because I beat Roger in five sets in five hours,” he says. “But then pressure comes again — sponsors, people, tournaments, everyone comes to watch you in matches and it’s a little more to deal with. But I have stayed the same person. I’m doing the same things, trying to improve my game every day.”

[…] With his victory at Flushing Meadows, Del Potro was forced from the shadows, where he had enjoyed doing his own thing, pointed at more for his height than his achievements. The US Open success meant a refocusing.

“I am a quiet man,” he says. “When I am working, I know this is my work, so I [can] be focused for three hours, four hours, or whatever, and outside I am a person like you or the children playing soccer in the street. If I have the possibility to help them, or say something to make them happy, I will do it. This is the most lovely thing I get after the US Open — the children have a very good recognition of me. It’s important that I won a tournament because they see how you are, like a person, and for my parents, too, that’s very nice.”

But the part I really enjoyed was this:

Some within tennis argue that Del Potro represents all that is unsettling about its future, the towering physical specimen with pounding ground strokes and gruff, on-court persona.

“I don’t care what they say,” the Argentinian says, with a beaming smile. “If I can move fast, I can show good tennis. Look at [Marin] Cilic, he has a beautiful style. [Mario] Ancic, too. Maybe it doesn’t always look good with [Ivo] Karlovic.”

First of all, I love that the only players he can apparently think of off the top of his head are Croatian ‘ic’es (a partiality of mine). But I’m also permanently fascinated by the dynamic between him and Marin Cilic. They’re so close in age, born just five days apart in September 1988; they are officially the same, somewhat excessive height (although Marin insists Delpo is taller); and they share a certain endearing soft-spoken quality which is on occasion exploded by on-court ferocity. Marin has in the past listed Delpo as a friend and comrade since juniors, while Delpo is always incredibly respectful and complimentary about Marin’s game.

All of this is by way of linking to this piece, previewing their match at last year’s Australian Open. It seems a long time ago now, but I remember a lot of speculation (or at least doing a lot of speculating myself) about whether it would be Cilic or del Potro who would make a big breakthrough at Slam level first. Conventional wisdom seemed to be that one of them was ripe for a breakthrough, but nobody was quite sure who. As it happened, Delpo beat Marin to advance to the quarterfinals (what happened in the next match we shall not speak of here) and beat him again in the quarterfinals of the US Open last summer. But I think there’s potential for a really interesting rivalry there, and I can’t wait to find out what happens in the next few years.

They could, incidentally, meet in the fourth round in Melbourne again this year …

8 Responses to “Brothers In Very Long Arms”

  1. Maria1 said

    Ahhhh lovely interview, he does speak so softly. Le sigh. ‘He does so with a gentle lilt, muffled by his five-day growth.’ LMAO! I think my ovaries are tingling….I love the similarities/comparison with Cilic.

  2. irefusetotellyou said

    ” Maybe it doesn’t always look good with [Ivo] Karlovic. ”


    • lauren said

      Aww, poor Ivo. He’s never pretended to be the Next Big Thing, and yet has borne all the flak about tall tennis players basically being physical cheats and freaks. He’s done the best with what he’s got, having had little support or opportunity along the way.

      And no-one can tell me that Isner or Querrey are more interesting to watch. At least Ivo has that exceptional accuracy with his service placement that isn’t just a by-product of his height.

  3. […] by gauloises1 on January 22, 2010 Well, I’m getting what I wanted; another AO fourth-round match between Juan Martin del Potro and Marin Cilic after both advanced in […]

  4. […] less good (but with two working wrists); I blog about him all the time anyway; a specious excuse to talk about Delpo; much adorable Goran-age is implied, if not necessary; a nice line in deadpan; excellent […]

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