The Argentine appeared poised to make an even bigger dent in both ATP Tour events and Grand Slam events following his victory in New York. However, a major wrist injury cost Del Potro nearly a year's worth of tennis, and he missed the 2010 French Open, Wimbledon 2010 and his title defense at the 2010 US Open.
Del Potro has been back for a year now, but there have not been many major highlights for the former No. 4-ranked player in the world. He currently only holds two active titles, and those were only in 250-level tournaments on the ATP Tour—titles from Delray Beach and Estoril.
With the exception of a match-win over a battle-worn Novak Djokovic in Davis Cup play—a victory that came via retirement—there were not many significant victories for Del Potro in 2011. He did beat Soderling en route to the Estoril championship, and since that win came on clay against the two-time French Open finalist, it has to be respected.
However, Del Potro lost hard-court matches to tons of lesser-talented players last season, including Florian Mayer, Marcos Baghdatis, Mardy Fish, Ernests Gulbis, Marin Cilic, Gilles Simon, James Blake and Marcel Granollers.
There isn't a weak player in that list, however. To date, only Baghdatis has made a Grand Slam final (2006 Australian Open loss to Federer), and the Cypriot was unable to claim victory over a player that Del Potro was able to best in a match of identical magnitude.
Still, despite all the hard-court losses to weaker players last season, there are those who think that Del Potro will be able to take down a Grand Slam title in 2012. The Argentine, for example, has enough backers in the betting markets for the majors to put him on the shortlist of favorites for each event.
He certainly has enough pure athletic talent and mental strength to crack the "Big Four." However, if you discount the win via retirement against Djokovic, Delpo hasn't beaten anyone in the "Big Four" since making his comeback.
Without the flukiest draw of all time, he'll probably need to beat at least one of them to win a Grand Slam title—if not two or even three of them in the same tournament.
Del Potro's odds to win each of the four majors in 2012 are provided below:
Australian Open: +1600 (16/1) Bodog
French Open: +1100 (11/1) Victor Chandler
Wimbledon: +1600 (16/1) Blue Square
US Open: +1000 (10/1) Ladbrokes
I was one of the few writers tipping Del Potro to win the 2009 US Open prior to that tournament beginning. To quote myself writing at Crunchsports.com in an Aug. 16, 2009 article:
"My recommendation is to pick Del Potro to win (at ATP Montreal) and to pick him...to take down the US Open. His price of +800 (8/1) to win in Flushing Meadows does justify the risk."
I mention this quote to show that I'm not anti-Del Potro; I'd actually like to see him win another major.
However, I think people are wrong to expect another Grand Slam title from the big man in 2012. Once giants like the 6'6" Del Potro start taking injuries, they hardly ever really get back to 100 percent.
Maybe the stars will align for the 2009 US Open champion once again, but keep in mind that he never even made a Grand Slam quarterfinal last year. I think that he will make one this year (if he stays healthy), but by then, the big man will have too much tennis taxing his body over a short frame of time with not enough rest and recovery time to compete with less injury-prone and lighter players.
If Del Potro goes deep in a major without getting a walkover or a lucky win via retirement, anyone as talented as Gilles Simon or better should be able to pick Delpo off.
Delpo 2012 will not be Delpo 2009, and all I would expect from the big man this year is a spot in the Top 8 and a chance to make the ATP World Tour Finals.
Hedge your bets.