Andy Roddick d. Juan Martin del Potro, 63 64
Hearty congratulations that I nearly almost feel to Andy Roddick, who played impressively to claim his first win over Delpo and advance to his 50th (!) career final. If he wins tomorrow, it will be his 30th career title. That’s just insane. As Delpo said, “Andy I think will be in the top 10 forever.”
It’s, you know, hard to overlook the dispiriting aspects of today’s match to what Roddick did right, but really he did a hell of a lot right and if he played like this every match then things would really become exciting. He was fired-up right out of the gate, an aspect of his performance noticeably lacking against Hewitt, and broke Delpo in his very first service game (shades of last week’s semi-final against Verdasco). He had his tactics worked out perfectly; Delpo had a fair amount of success in the first set when he pinned Roddick back behind the baseline, but Roddick refused to allow him to do that on a consistent basis, playing aggressively and actually hitting out.
Delpo did call for the trainer early in the first set for some intensive thigh massage, complaining of tightness in his hamstring, but it didn’t seem to hamper his movement too much. He was slow moving out to the forehand side and as a result Roddick repeatedly stung him with his backhand down the line (that he apparently has), but he’s had that problem since his comeback. As for the injury, I’m hoping (and believing) that it’s what it appears to be – a slight strain as the result of playing a decent amount of matches last week and this that his body has become unaccustomed to.
Roddick said after the match that he felt he’d played one bad game. That would be his first service game of the second set, a fairly woeful one which saw him give up the break; but Delpo, frustratingly, couldn’t hold despite ample chances. One of the things I’ve always associated with Delpo is his ability to pull the big serve, the big shot out of his pocket at the right moment, and he didn’t have that today. He had easy holds, but only when he was down a break; a fair amount of aces, but not at key moments; and some massive winners that he couldn’t land when he had to. Frustrating.
But I was talking about Roddick. He had some issues with his shoulder, self-diagnosed as a pinched nerve and not too much to worry about, but as the set went on and Delpo became more frustrated, his focus switched more to defense and he really showcased some absurd retrieving. There was one point in particular when Delpo was hitting the ball as hard as he could (meaty grunts and everything), and Roddick simply got everything back until he managed to draw the error. All in all, he had a solid tactical plan and executed it near perfectly.
And he made this face.
But as well as Roddick played, this match was a salutory reminder (again) of how far Delpo has fallen from his former level. I keep trying to remember how giddily happy I am to see him playing again, because there’s just nobody like him, and he’s taking lesser opponents in his mammoth stride right now; but there’s no denying that it’s utterly disheartening to see him being handled by players that we all know he can contend with. It’s an interesting education in the difference between mid-ranked players like Sela or Gabashvili, and the top-flight guys (I may be stretching a point to include Baghdatis in that, but the likes of Roddick and Verdasco, certainly). It just really bites that right now Delpo is on the wrong side of that line.
But then I’m losing myself in dark thoughts and I hear this quote from Delpo’s presser. Asked what the difference was in Roddick’s game that explained the result today, he said that the last time they played was in 2009 and “that was my year”.
And that just kills me. Because I simply will not countenance that kind of thinking. Obviously I’m charmed by his wry, man-of-few-words acceptance of his situation – I’m only human – but that’s the sort of thing I think to myself in maudlin moments. It’s not the sort of thing that anyone else is allowed to say or that he’s allowed to even think. Because your best days are not behind you, Delpo. They’re just not. You’re absurdly young, painfully talented, and healthy (sort of, even if you do need to be sellotaped back together in the middle of every match). You’re going to be fine, and back, and better than you were before. You just are. Keep the faith. No pasaran!
… Maybe the new tagline of this blog should be “drunken Delpo fan therapy”. But still.
Anyway, on to Delray Beach with Delpo. And Roddick will be facing Milos Raonic in the final, after the wee Canadian defeated Mardy Fish 64 46 63 earlier in the day. Fish was fairly feeble, I thought, but Raonic was once again very impressive. He’s guaranteed to become the highest ranked Canadian ever or something even if he doesn’t win the title, and if he does, that’s a ridiculous achievement. Hell, it’s still a ridiculous achievement if he doesn’t. I still think we’ll get his true measure once the white-hot confidence that’s currently sustaining him runs out and we see how he regroups and kicks on from there, but at the same time I refuse not to be a little bit excited about someone who holds out such great promise.