Del Potro plots his path back to the top
Date published :
07 Sep 2012 - 05:47:12
Juan Martin Del Potro, the only man to break the Grand Slam stranglehold of the world's three top tennis stars since 2005, is closing the gap on the greats but still can't find that championship form.
Defending champion Novak Djokovic ended the Argentine seventh seed's run at the US Open on Thursday with a 6-2, 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 victory. Serbian second seed Djokovic negated Del Potro's powerful serve with astounding return skills.
"It's not easy when you fire your best weapon and the other guy returns all the serves," Del Potro said. "It's difficult when you have in front of you a warrior.
"He's playing better and better every day. He's the favorite to win this tournament. I saw him playing at a very high level for the three hours in the match and he has intensity to win all the matches."
Since the 2005 Australian Open, Djokovic, Spain's Rafael Nadal and Swiss legend Roger Federer have won 29 of 30 Grand Slam titles, missing out only when Del Potro upset Federer in five sets in the 2009 US Open final.
With Nadal injured and Federer ousted by Czech sixth seed Tomas Berdych in a quarter-final, this will be the first Slam since the 2004 French Open that will not feature Federer or Nadal in a semi-final, a run of 33 Slams in a row.
The door is open for British third seed Andy Murray, Spanish fourth seed David Ferrer or Czech sixth seed Tomas Berdych to deny Djokovic and seize a moment as Del Potro did three years ago at Arthur Ashe Stadium and win a first Grand Slam title.
"I had my big memories here in this tournament and I would like to say thank you a lot for these things," Del Potro said. "I enjoy when the crowd is really excited."
Del Potro suffered a right wrist injury that sidelined him most of 2010 and battled back last year, becoming the ATP Comeback Player of the Year. This year he reached the quarter-finals at Australia, Roland Garros and the US Open.
"I'm top 10. I'm getting closer to the top five," Del Potro said.
"I know they are playing much better than me. Also Berdych, Ferrer, (ousted French fifth seed Jo-Wilfried) Tsonga, some nice players, and it takes time to be in that group.
"It's tough getting closer to them. I'm working for that. Working every day very hard. Maybe I will have the chance to be in that group again.
"I have a lot to learn."
That includes how to cope with the return skills of Nadal and Djokovic.
"Nole and Rafa can return and play very long rallies," he said. "Not many players can do that, but they are the best of the world. It's amazing what they do."