After a decent showing in 2011 since returning from injury, Juan Martin Del Potro has continued to push on in 2012 and is getting closer to the form that saw him pick up the US Open in 2009. His title in Basel finally confirmed his place in the World Tour Finals, and for me, just as important was ending his losing streak against Roger Federer.
Titles: Marseille (Indoor Hard), Estoril (Clay), Vienna (Indoor Hard), Basel (Indoor Hard)
Del Potro would start to get sick of the sight of Federer at the beginning of the year, losing in four of this first six tournaments of the year to the Swiss. A straight forward run to the Australian Open quarter final was ended in straights posing very little trouble to Federer. He would make the Rotterdam final in his next tournament but the same outcome occurred, with another straight sets defeat.
Sandwiched between that and his two tie break loss in the Dubai semi final to Federer once more was his first title of the season. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was surprised in the semi final in three and another Frenchman was defeated in the final, with Michael Llodra’s shock run finally coming to an end. The tour moved on to North America but it was the same old story, with Federer racking up yet another easy win at Indian Wells.
The clay swing began at a familiar place for him as he defended his Estoril title without losing a set knocking out Stanislas Wawrinka and Richard Gasquet on the way. Madrid and Rome saw him lose to fellow WTF competitors Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga respectively, the former in the semi final.
He navigated a fairly tricky route to the quarter finals at Roland Garros, defeating Marin Cilic and Tomas Berdych in consecutive rounds to book a match with Roger Federer. Despite leading 2-0 in sets and looking dominant, it would ultimately prove the same old story as his stamina failed him – eventually falling to a 3-6 6-7 6-2 6-0 6-3 defeat.
While David Ferrer had shown himself to be a competent all court player, defeat at Wimbledon was surprising, especially in the manner of which it happened. Del Potro picked up just 8 games in an extremely one sided match. He would have a chance to redeem himself on the same court at the London Olympics and he very much did so. Nemesis Roger Federer was between him and a guaranteed silver medal and for a set and a half he was far the better player. A tie break loss would see the match go to a decider but it would be hard to predict what happened next as the match set a record for the longest three set match in history. Heartbreak wasn’t far away once more though, as he was on the wrong side of a 19-17 final set defeat. He would play Novak Djokovic in the bronze medal match instead, coming out on top for an incredibly emotional victory for one of just 4 Argentina medals at the Olympics.
The week after the Olympics, a physically spent Del Potro was ousted in his opening match at the Rogers Cup by Radek Stepanek but he would bounce back to make the semi final in Cincinnati. Novak Djokovic would get revenge for the Olympics on his way to the title but it was a tournament that suggested he could be a dark horse for the US Open.
He would have the honour of playing in Andy Roddick’s final match, and showed class post-match to allow Roddick his moment in front of the Arthur Ashe crowd. Despite playing at a very high level in the quarter final against Novak Djokovic (many considered the second set the set of the tournament), he would lose in straights at the quarter final stage.
Victory over Radek Stepanek put Argentina in prime position for a place in the Davis Cup final but injury niggles that had plagued him for some of the year meant he could only compete in one match. Replacement Carlos Berlocq would put up a huge fight against Tomas Berdych but class would tell in the end as Czech Republic came out on top to make the final.
He would miss the Asian swing but return for the start of the European indoors and has put together a very nice nine match winning run. While Vienna saw him matched up against weak opponents, Basel was extremely impressive with the dangerous Richard Gasquet knocked out for the loss of just four games. Roger Federer was denied another Basel title to add to his collection though, with Del Potro toughing out a three set win to finally end his Federer hoodoo.
With an excellent 17-1 record indoors this year, Del Potro has a great chance of upsetting the top three and knowing he now has the confidence to beat Roger Federer once more will do wonders for him.