Derailed by a wrist injury in 2010, Juan Martin Del Potro’s last final was the 2009 U.S. Open. Tonight, the Argentine took care of American Mardy Fish 6-1,7-5 in the semifinals of the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships to advance to his eleventh career final.
Following a comfortable opening game, Del Potro obtained a break point when Fish pushed a forehand up the line wide. With a forehand crosscourt winner, Del Potro broke. This was the first time Fish had surrendered his serve the entire tournament. When Del Potro’s forehand crosscourt landed wide, Fish had a break point of his own. However, after scrambling beautifully to defend, Fish misfired on a neutral backhand down the line to let Del Potro off the hook. With two good serves, Del Potro consolidated for a 3-0 edge. Subsequent to both players holding without difficulty, Fish committed three straight errors to hand Del Potro triple break point. By bludgeoning a forehand crosscourt for a winner, Del Potro broke again for 5-1. Promptly with another unadventurous game, Del Potro pocketed the set.
Throughout the initial set, Del Potro was crushing the ball and Fish played right into the Argentine’s hand by camping out on the baseline. The second set, Fish altered his strategy and decided to take his chances at net. Subsequent to a difficult hold, Fish provoked three forehand flubs from Del Potro for double break point. When Del Potro’s backhand failed to go over the net, Fish had a 2-0 lead. But, by connecting on a backhand down the line for a winner, Del Potro got to break point. When Fish’s forehand bounced wide, the players were back on serve. Nevertheless, Fish continued to press and again with three miscues in a row from Del Potro, he arrived at triple break point. On that occasion, Del Potro double faulted to gift the American the break. Despite facing a break point, Fish ultimately consolidated for a 4-1 advantage. Although his service games got harder, Del Potro kept up with Fish to limit the deficit to one break. Serving at 4-2, Fish made three mistakes to donate double break point to his adversary. Del Potro gladly accepted by ripping a forehand down the line which lead to Fish’s response going wide. Then at love, Del Potro leveled the set at 4 all. With a quick hold, Fish inched ahead 5-4. Yet, Del Potro had no problem squaring the set. Later, off a booming backhand down the line by Del Potro, Fish watched his backhand land into the net to give the Argentine break point. Del Potro converted by overpowering a forehand which resulted in a mistake by Fish. After falling behind 0-30 while serving for the match, Del Potro produced two sensational winners to get to 30 all. When Fish’s forehand did not clear the net, Del Potro had match point. Del Potro sealed the victory when Fish misfired with the backhand.
After the match, Del Potro was asked how it felt to be in his first final after so many months. The Argentine admitted that although “ I feel tired, it’s [an] amazing comeback . . . I just want to enjoy the final tomorrow and hopefully win”. According to Del Potro, the key to counteracting Fish’s improved performance in the second set was “playing better at the important moments”.
Del Potro confessed that after a spectacular 2009, his focus was trying to climb to the number one ranking. With adversities he’s had to overcome in 2010, Del Potro says his priorities have changed. Del Potro expressed “my goal is to improve my game day by day and match by match . . . I don’t know [if being number one can be a goal again] because I don’t know [where my game will peak]”. As a consequence of his forced hiatus, Del Potro said that he is taking nothing for granted. He appreciates and enjoys every moment he is out on court.
Tonight, Del Potro showed the ball and his opponent no mercy. If he maintains this fine form into tomorrow’s final, Janko Tipsarevic will have to wait for another tournament to hoist his first ATP trophy. As Del Potro continues to strike the ball without abandon, one gets the impression that his current ranking of 166 will soon be a distant memory.