There’s something special, even mystical about Juan Martin Del Potro’s relationship with the U.S Open. He won this tournament in 2009, becoming the first man to defeat Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in consecutive rounds of a grand slam and winning it. He also had the privilege of seeing off Andy Roddick in the 2012 US Open after a fourth-round encounter. Ironically, Andy Roddick was also a US Open champion all the way back in 2003, and the last American to win a grand slam. So far, Juan Martin Del Potro shares that particular piece of history with Roddick. They both have one grand slam title to their names, and it is the US Open.
His relationship doesn’t end there, however. Juan Martin Del Potro may have a mild-mannered attitude and a hospitality that would rival the south, but his presence and game simple shout New York. I believe that more than anything is what the crowd loves about him. He is soft and kind, but he communicates his ferocity in his game. His sheer energy can be felt in his thunderous forehand which practically shakes the foundations of Arthur Ashe. His grunt rivals the New Yorker crowd’s roar. Simply put, Juan Martin Del Potro oozes power in a powerful city.
Imagine the shocked silence of the crowd as Dominic Thiem took him to the cleaners in the first two sets. Del Potro admitted to feeling out of sorts early on and struggled with breathing problems. He even considered retiring from the match in the second set. It showed. He just didn’t show up and Thiem, one of the games rising stars did not hesitate to ruthlessly dismantle him. At two sets to love up, it appeared a quarterfinal match against Federer was inevitable for Dominic Thiem. That’s when the New York crowd decided to wake up Del Potro. More specifically, that’s when the Del Potro forehand decided to make its return. This match was a tale of two parts. Part one featured sets one and two – the warm up. Part two featured sets three, four and five – the main event. You could effectively say that Del Potro won this in three sets. We really don’t know who Thiem played in Sets one and two.
Juan Martin Del Potro’s forehand is an obliterating bomb when it’s firing on all cylinders. In 2009, the combined might of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer could do absolutely nothing to stop this weapon when it activated. The only thing that has truly stopped Del Potro since he became a grand slam champion is his own body. Yet behind that gentle demeanor is a fierce warrior. Del Potro has fought his way back, banged up wrist in tow, right to highest levels of men’s tennis. His backhand is a shadow of what it used to be, but you wouldn’t have known it in the last three sets. Credit Thiem for not going away. This was a see-saw battle of potent firepower and Thiem did his best to hang tough with an awakened giant. However, he’ll rue his missed chances in closing out this match. Once he let Del Potro back in, the Argentine played with an ominously increasing power that eventually overran Dominic Thiem.
This has been arguably the best match of the fortnight. Thiem was a glorious vanquished but in the end, the Tower of Tandil was still standing. He moves on to play Roger Federer in a rematch of their epic US Open final. As glowingly as Federer spoke of him in his post-match conference, you can be sure he’s looking forward to a chance at revenge. If the forehand awakens again though, it will not be so easy to get.