It’s official, Juan Martin del Potro has killed what remains of my brain. I am now unable to express myself in any fashion more eloquent than short and inane statements repeated in capitals. Sorry.
Juan Martin del Potro d. (32) Philipp Kohlschreiber 76(3) 76(7)
Eye of the tiger.
It was not a classic match. I shall resist the temptation to say ‘who cares?!’ and elaborate the point; in both sets JMDP was unable to hold on to his initial, early break and the points he played to surrender said break in the second set were among the worst you will ever see. He called the trainer midway through the first set, complaining (I gathered) of dehydration and fatigue, and he certainly looked to be in a bit of a fugue. Even having his banana confiscated by the trainer (clearly using the Mrs Landingham method of motivation) didn’t get him going.
In fact, he was doing that thing he used to do when he’s tired and not really feeling it, when he more or less wanders through the set playing a good point here and there, then suddenly conjures some magic out of nowhere to take the tiebreak. That’s certainly what happened tonight; he took the minibreak in the first-set tiebreak courtesy of a ridiculous cross-court sprinting get reminiscent of a certain USO-final-crowd-high-fiving moment. He had his chance to shut out Kohlschreiber in the second set and didn’t take it – and nearly got burned when the magic didn’t turn up (or turned up on the wrong side of the net) in the tiebreak. Kohlschreiber raced out to a 6-1 lead. Reports differ as to what happened after that. Some say Kohlschreiber choked. I say JMDP started hitting out.
Probably a bit of both. Sorry Phil.
However you see it, five match points came and went before JMDP took the tiebreak and the match 9-7 with a big roar. And I may be mad, but for me the most encouraging thing was – paradoxically – the somewhat lackadaisical quality JMDP brought to the court today. He was sufficiently relaxed not just to save his best for the key moments, but to exhibit his deadpan humour for the crowd – at one point, after he had chased down a drop shot and just failed to pop it back over the net, he smacked at the ball with his hand as if admonishing it until it finally obeyed him; at another (having been warned by Mo before the match not to take too long challenging between serves) he wandered up to the net, taking an inordinately long time to decide to challenge, lifted his finger – and then wagged it to say no, he wouldn’t challenge. OK, it’s not Oscar Wilde, but it was funny. It was meant to be.
I know that as a semi-official Delpo swooner I may not be the most objective person. But today he really looked to me for the first time like he was back to being comfortable out there. I don’t think the title at Delray Beach has meant as much to him as being able to hold his own for four rounds at a Masters series tournament, and against opponents who have been no slouch. Of course, he’s cruising for a bruising as soon as he meets a top-flight player (or possibly sooner), and that’s going to suck. But it’s a necessary part of the process and I feel for the first time like I can face that prospect with equanimity. Because he’s back.
(At this point I am contractually obliged to add the qualifier, “as long as his body holds together”.)
Come on, body, hold together.
Anyway. According to the man himself, it was mainly fatigue and heat that was bothering him today, which is either good or bad, depending on how you look at it:
“It was really hot and I play many, many matches, so I getting tired,” he said, “but the people tell me to fight all the match, and that’s what I did.”
He will face Tommy Robredo next, who has been having rather a nice 2011 and beat Sam Querrey 61 63 tonight. He did have something of a hamstring issue, which he’s hoping is recovered by the time he plays JMDP. I hope so too. No, I really do. What? I mean it. No players should be injured.
Injuries = bad.