US Open 2018: Armed and dangerous, Juan Del Potro looking for another memorable run at Flushing Meadows

A favourite to win the quarterfinal clash against Isner, Juan Del Potro has emerged as the most dominant player in the men’s draw so far.

Deepti Patwardhan September 03, 2018 13:26:29 IST
US Open 2018: Armed and dangerous, Juan Del Potro looking for another memorable run at Flushing Meadows

The US Open is Juan Martin Del Potro’s happy place. In the heart of the Arthur Ashe stadium, with the steep walls of fans and noise rising above him, the Argentine has given some of his most stirring performances.

The chants of ‘Delpo, Delpo, Delpo,’ rung loud on Sunday evening as well, as Del Porto took on young gun Borna Coric in the Round of 16. The Argentine turned a possibly tricky encounter against Coric, having the best year of his career, into a one-sided affair. What the match lacked in drama, Del Potro made up with his swashbuckling, crowd-pleasing shot making. He fired 33 winners to beat world No 20 Coric 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 in just over two hours.

US Open 2018 Armed and dangerous Juan Del Potro looking for another memorable run at Flushing Meadows

Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro has emerged a dominant player at US Open 2018 so far. AFP

For the third year in a row, Del Potro now finds himself in the quarterfinals of the US Open. Also, he is the only player in the top half of the men’s draw to have advanced to the last eight without dropping a set. With the mercury rising in New York this year, Del Potro has also done well to not indulge in energy-sapping dramatic long-drawn matches. On an average, he has spent only two hours and 11 minutes per match, saving his body for the intense battles that await the second week.

“I think to win in straight sets every match is important for the body, for the legs, for the physical condition,” Del Potro said. “But in the end every match is a new battle, and you must be 100 percent for that moment. It doesn't matter if I win in three sets or five sets, in the next round will be a new match.”

“In this tournament particularly, I'm playing free of pain, which is pretty good for me,” added the 29-year-old.

Pain has been Del Potro’s constant companion since his US Open breakthrough in 2009. The Argentine had won the match of his life, beating five-time defending champion Roger Federer in five sets in the final at Flushing Meadows. The unassuming lad from Tandil, 20 years of age at the time, was living his American dream. But rather than the Grand Slam victory propelling him to further success, he was brought down by wrist injuries. Over the years, the Argentine has had four surgeries on his wrists. Del Potro also puts tremendous strain on his joints, especially on his favourite hard courts, as he hauls his 6’6 frame around. The ghosts of injury never truly leave the Argentine, making him forever the comeback man. It also brings a special celebratory air to Del Potro’s performances and his wins.

Nowhere does he thrive better than in New York.

Last year, he came back from two sets down to defeat Dominic Thiem in the fourth round. He followed it up with the upset of the tournament – beating Federer, who had already won two majors in 2017 by then 7-5, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 in the quarterfinals. Though Del Potro couldn’t go all the way, his incredible run to the semi-final had shown why he can never be discounted at the majors. The big man is a big match player.

Del Potro has enjoyed another injury-free run this year. After winning the Miami Masters, he recorded his best finish at the French Open in a decade by making the semi-finals. Del Potro also made the final eight at Wimbledon, making it one of the better Slam seasons of his career.

And he is armed and dangerous at the US Open again. More confident in his body now, Del Potro is playing with rare variety and freedom. Deceit and destruction.

“I'm being able to choose between slices or two-handed backhands, which is a good combination for my new style of game,” said the Argentine. “As I did today, I mix it up a lot of backhands, slices and drop shots. I think it's the good part of my game when I feel 100 percent with my wrist.”

This mix of power and precision was crucial when he overcame Fernando Verdasco in the third round. Though the left-handed Spaniard is not in the form of his life, he had beaten a returning Andy Murray in the previous round and always has the ability to spring a surprise. But Del Potro got out of the physical match with only a few bruises, and his confidence restored.

He will next take on local favourite John Isner, who has once again spent more time on court than he would have liked. Marathon man Isner defeated Canadian Milos Raonic 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 in three hours and eight minutes on Sunday to follow up on a five-set win over Nicolas Jarry in the second round (3 hours 38 minutes) and a tough four-set battle against Dusan Lajovic (3 hours 26 minutes) in the third.

A favourite to win the quarterfinal clash against Isner, Del Potro has emerged as the most dominant player in the men’s draw so far.

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