Ddel Potro’s success at the Citi Open in Washington last weekend has made him a serious contender for the US Open. After climbing back into the top ten in 2012 following two seasons derailed by a wrist injury, the 2009 New York champion finally looks set to challenge for another Grand Slam trophy.
The first sign that he was well and truly back came at the end of 2012, when he beat Roger Federer twice indoors. In Indian Wells earlier this year, he again produced some jaw-dropping tennis to defeated both Djokovic and Murray. A viral infection hampered his progress during the clay court season, but his five-set Wimbledon semi-final with Djokovic was an all-time classic that he could have won. In Washington, he dropped only one set in five matches.
So we know that Del Potro can emulate the elite in terms of performance, but can he match them for consistency and durability? In his second round match in Montreal, the 24-year-old had a torrid time against Ivan Dodig. Although he showed admirable mental strength to prevail 7-5 in the third set, he had to fight back from a break down in the decider and was on the brink of a disappointing defeat.
Speaking of disappointing: Milos Raonic, although still ranked inside the top 15, has endured a mediocre season so far, falling before the quarter-final stage in all but two tournaments. He was lucky to come through his opening match in Montreal, edging Jeremy Chardy 6-3, 4-6, 7-5, but he was much more solid in his second round clash with Mikhail Youzhny, hitting 13 aces and winning 90% of his first serve points.
This will be the first meeting between the two 6’5”+ giants. Raonic might say that he has nothing to lose against a more experienced and accomplished opponent, but in truth he is under a lot of pressure. A loss for the Canadian would not only be a letdown in front of his army of fervent supporters, it would also lead to more doubts about his ability to beat the best on the biggest stages. As the leading member of the ATP’s next generation, Raonic knows it’s time for him to step it up.
Given Del Potro’s level of play/fatigue on Wednesday night, this is a prime opportunity for him to do so. Raonic isn’t as strong as the Argentine from the back of the court, but – at its best – his serve is more reliable and he can win many cheap points with aces and unreturnables. By keeping Del Potro on the run and playing aggressively on the crucial points, Raonic can produce a rabble-rousing triumph in three memorable sets.