In 2009, Juan Martin del Potro, standing in the far left, was the youngster among the ATP's top players at the year-end championships.
Juan Martin del Potro is putting the ATP Tour on notice. He aims to break into the "Big Four."
When tennis fans talk about the "Big Four" they are referring to Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Roger Federer.
Although currently ranked No. 7, Federer remains loosely in the Big Four because of his past accomplishments. He leads all active players in Grand Slams won and prize money earned. However, as Federer continues to struggle, including him becomes increasingly questionable.
Meanwhile, del Potro, affectionally known as DelPo, is making noise among the top tier players. He defeated Nadal in the semifinals at Shanghai. He lost to Djokovic in the finals, but pushed him to a tie-breaker in the decisive third set.
DelPo, ranked No. 5, also qualified for the ATP Championships in London. If he makes it to the finals, he could make a serious case for replacing Federer in the Big Four.
He certainly would be the biggest of the four. At 6'6", del Potro is an imposing figure on the court. He's aggressive and his forehands are downright scary.
He stunned the tennis world when he upset Federer at the 2009 U.S. Open. After that win, many thought the young Argentine would become a household name and win multiple Grand Slams. But shortly after, DelPo suffered a serious wrist injury. He underwent surgery and missed much of the 2010 season.
I think I'm playing even better than 2009 or 2008 or last year. That's important and a good thing for the future. I still have the same goal, which is to get closer to the top guys. If I still work like this, I hope I can be there one day.
DelPo is where Murray used to be, on the verge of taking his place among the elite. He is one of the few top-tier players who truly believes he can beat those in the Big Four. That's because he has.
He's won his last two matches against Federer. He defeated Djokovic in the Olympics. He defeated Murray earlier this year in the quarterfinals at Indian Wells. Before his wrist injury, del Potro had a 3-3 record against Nadal. In fact, he had defeated Nadal three times in a row.
The ATP Championships provide an opportunity for DelPo to make his case. But perhaps this case is already closed. Murray withdrew from the tournament. Federer is struggling to qualify. Although David Ferrer is ranked ahead of DelPo, he's not feared on tour like the big guy; the next guy to break into the Big Four.