Roger Federer will face Juan Martin del Potro on Day 10 of the 2012 French Open. This match marks their fourteenth head-to-head meeting on tour with Federer holding an 11-2 edge over the Argentine.
Del Potro last enjoyed success against Federer during the latter parts of the 2009 season. However since returning from a wrist injury that kept Delpo off the courts for most of 2010, he has yet to take a set off of Federer in five matches played.
The two players have only faced one another twice on clay in their careers with Federer winning both matches. One of those two matches actually took place at Roland Garros; Federer defeated del Potro in a five set match in the 2009 semifinals.
Day 10's match will mark the first time that Federer will actually face a proven major talent at the 2012 French Open. Through the first four rounds, Federer has had the least talented draw of all players remaining in the tournament. That was largely due to the fact that both Andy Roddick and Feliciano Lopez were two seeds placed near Federer in the French Open draw, and both of those players were, and remain, massive underachievers at Roland Garros.
Their early departures, which had to be expected, ensured that Federer played against players who were inexperienced in Grand Slam play even in the fourth round. I think a fair analysis of Federer's play at the 2012 French Open references the fact that he has faced easy competition and has struggled a bit against that easy competition.
In the second round, Federer faced Adrian Ungur, a 27-year old playing in his first Grand Slam. In the third round he faced Nicolas Mahut, a player who has never won a third round match in a major. In the fourth round he faced David Goffin, another player making his Grand Slam debut. All three of those matches probably should have been straight sets victories—or maybe one dropped set in all matches combined—but Federer faced moderate challenges in each match.
Federer has had opponents at Roland Garros that have, so far this year, been lenient. Neither Tobias Kamke, Ungur, Mahut nor Goffin possessed the talent needed to beat Federer even though he was not at his best. However, the grace period is over, and if the Swiss Maestro doesn't bring his best tennis on Day 10, he can't expect leniency from Delpo—a player determined to reprove himself as he has not been much of a factor in Grand Slam play since the 2009 US Open victory.
For me, this quarterfinal is a very difficult match to predict. Federer has such a convincing head-to-head record against del Potro that it's hard to pick the Argentine. But Federer's play at the 2012 French Open so far remains unconvincing, and Delpo—unlike the inexperienced players Federer has faced so far—can punish a top talent who is playing below standard.
I actually expect Federer to play a lot better in the quarterfinal than he has so far at Roland Garros. Del Potro, on the other hand, remains the question mark that he has been since returning from his wrist injury.
However, I like that the Argentine handled both Marin Cilic and Tomas Berdych fairly routinely, winning both matches in just a combined seven sets. I think if Federer had faced a player with either Cilic's talent or Berdych's talent in the first four rounds of the French Open, the World No. 3 might already have been sent packing (or at least would have faced a fifth set).
Prediction: del Potro straight up (+250 with Boylesports)