ATP Tennis 360

September 16, 2009 4:44 PM

Giant achievement

This simple headline testifies the greatness of Juan Martin Del Potro, capable to dethronize the five times reigning champion and by many indicated as the Goat (even if this label appears at least controversial, not to say stupid).

I saw this 6'6 shy Argentine two years ago, in Rome. He lost in the qualification rounds: he withdrew cause of a back injury, one of a long series of physical inconvenients. My first impression, seeing this young and tall guy with timid green eyes and long straight blond hairs was probably the same I had admiring Tsonga: will he be able to continue his development? He was capable to thwart his teenager adversaries in the juniors event, but his fragile skeleton would be able to support his ambitions, his dream of greatness? Monday I had the answer, the most astonishing answer I could expect to receive.

His stunning forehands should be labelled as non conventional weapons, he could impress an extremely heavy rotation causing a lethal acceleration, above all when he hit inside-out from the center of the baseline to the right angle. The appearent lazy mood hided an iron-made self confidence, not nocked by the tough openings, when Federer started the nth repeat performance meant to satisfy his narcissistical ego. Exceptional variations, chopped cross-court backhand passing shots, volleys and demi-volleys: although he continued to serve with percentages you could register in a provincial championship first round, that showing off seemed enough. But it was not. Del Potro believed in himself till the last point, his game was not the most agreeable to aesthetically educated eyes, but got is job done.

Roger lost his match at 5-4 30 all in the second set on the first of two carbon-copy down the line forehand passes. He started quarreling with the chair umpire and the Hawk Eye and simply lost his mind. His show, so perfect, so straight, transformed itself in an improvised and scheming performance. The King felt the earth sliding down his shoes, saw his narcissistical ego shattered with the mirror of his apparently asettical beauty. Palito multiplied his forehand winners, as many stabs to the ex-King wounded pride. So rattled was the Swiss to launch an unusual before than angry complaint towards Jake Gerner, the umpire, after he allowed the Argentine a call late (he took a lot longer than what is allowed) in the third set: "No, it’s too late,” an angry Federer said. “I wasn’t even able to challenge after two seconds and he takes ten seconds every time. Do you have any rules in there?”

And reprimanded a gesticulating Gerner in this way: "“Don’t do that with your hand. Don’t tell me to be quiet. I don’t give a s*** what he said. Don’t f***ing tell me the rules.”

The match, surely not the most enchanting of this edition (for real spectacle see Navarro-Dent, the best show of the 2009 Us Open), was by no doubt the greatest upset in the last ten years. Roger, benefitting from the Roddick indecent backhand volley, found a real contender for his next Grand Slam campaigns. Anyone who beats Nadal and Federer on consecutive days is a force to be reckoned with.

His renewed consciousness made him the most possible danger for the Big Four in the big events, cause they would face him in quarters. He can now win other slams, probably not on the clay, because his fisiological lack of horizontal mobility, and his scarce confidence in his backhand that brings him hit forehands from the left side and cover more free court. But on hardcourts and on the grass he's a menace for everyone, above all for the half-dull Djokovic or the Higueras-like Murray of this period.

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