While the tennis world was busy discussing Roger Federer’s class, Rafael Nadal’s fightback, Novak Djokovic’s power and Andy Murray’s precision, there was one player working out silently down these years to regain his reputation in an ill-fated career that almost saw him giving it up through severe injury woes.
Juan Martin Del Potro, now 29, had every possibility to become one of tennis’ great when he defeated 5-time defending champions Roger Federer in the US Open final back in 2009 after knocking down another all-time great Rafael Nadal in the semifinal. But his misfortune hit him hard the very next year as he was forced to withdraw himself temporarily through wrist injuries that troubled him for the next six years before slowly regaining his earlier self from 2016.
The Argentine was standout in the Olympics and Davis Cup tournaments and reached his career-best ranking (#3) the last month before the inception of this year’s final Grand Slam contest. He showed great character in his recent major outings but surrendered against the defending champion Nadal in the semis of last year’s contest as well as this season’s French Open and Wimbledon championships. Del Potro, however, has finally broken the jinx this term with a stellar performance that saw him winning the semi-final tie versus the maestro from Spain who was forced to retire after losing first two sets 6-7(3-7), 2-6 and the 6 ft 6 in ‘Gentle Giant’ is now closest to reconquering the US throne after 9 long years when he will be contesting in-form Novak Djokovic on Sunday evening.
Djokovic, the reigning Wimbledon champion, won it in straight sets over Kei Nishikori in the other semi-final and is determined to take his Grand Slam tally to 14 to get closer to Rafael Nadal ( who is having 17 GS titles). The Serbian, too, had a couple of injury-riddled years but is now back to his very best and the challenge will be tougher for a now experienced Del Potro to replicate his excellence of younger days.
This, surprisingly, is his second Grand Slam final, however, the player is determined to leave those painful years behind and salvage some deserved glory before hanging up boots. The lack of ventilation in Arthur Ashe Stadium will trouble both the finalists, but the big server from Argentina must mix his shots properly, execute his foreheads, make long rallies to weaken Djoker and utilize his pace as well as power to win the ultimate battle. Del Potro has often been seen losing the plot after a few unforced errors – something he needs to work on and must not repeat en route to achieve greatness.