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Creature vs. Creature: Del Potro's Chances at the Slam of Upsets

PARIS - MAY 28:  Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina hits a backhand during his Men's Singles Second Round match against Viktor Troicki of Serbia on day five of the French Open at Roland Garros on May 28, 2009 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
Rajat JainSenior Analyst IMay 29, 2016

Federer fans, please look at Gil's arguments.

There is something strange in the air of Paris. I do not know what, but those granules of red sand seem to have heavily affected the atmosphere in the areas near a place known as Philippe Chatrier. It has not gelled well with some players well-accustomed to it, and even those who are witnessing the events unfolding through the idiot box. 

Introduction: Roger Federer is not only contesting for his maiden dirt-slam, but to create history with the most Grand Slam final appearances, joint holder of most number of Slams, and most of all, a further (possibly conclusive) step towards the G.O.A.T. crown. There stands a tall Argentinean between Roger and these plethora of records that he may accomplish on Sunday.

Juan Martin Del Potro broke through the top 10 last year, but was never taken seriously as he bowed down against the top four time and again. This reached an absolute low as he failed to win a game in two sets against Roger Federer in the quarters of the Australian Open, and was being touted as a one-dimensional player. Since then, he has reinvented himself by adding a lot more variety to his game, and his recent victories over Nadal (Miami Masters) and Murray (Madrid Masters) have rocketed his rankings to the top five and is being considered a serious threat in the coming tournaments.

The semifinal matchup between Federer and Del Potro is expected to be a one-sided affair, as Del Potro is most vulnerable against the Swissman, having failed to even take a single set out of him in five meetings.

Will lose if: At the risk of sounding pessimistic, it is almost certain that Potro would in fact come out second-best. The pivotal reason being, the age-old theory of matchup, where Potro’s game suits Federer’s style of play. He is aggressive, likes to keep the points short, and goes for winners. It is another matter that Federer follows the same strategy exceeding his opponent in all these departments.

As Gil has argued (for which I have no counter arguments…and I can be serious!), Del Potro stands a chance only if Federer plays much below his potential, and Del Potro exceeds his by the same degree.

Will win if: One would be a spendthrift to bet one's money on this outcome, but such has been the aura of the air surrounding Paris that upset cannot be ignored.

Del Potro did not allow Tsonga to settle into his huge service games, by taking the ball early, and trying the same on Federer’s serve would be a good starting point. It would also help if Federer continues this match by starting slowly—as he has in his previous rounds—into the match. Del Potro would make a serious contest out of this (unlike Federer’s previous opponents) if he manages to exploit this scenario and take the opening set.

Moreover, Federer may find himself in a tricky position in case the conditions are windy (Miami, anyone?), unlike Del Potro, whose balanced game would still hold well.

All in all, a combination of many things need to go right for the Argentinean if he can even dream of challenging Federer, let alone taking three sets out of him.

Shots to watch out for: Watch out for Del Potro’s anticipation on Federer’s backlash, which negates out his inferior movement on clay. Of course, his down-the-line forehand is a delight to watch, and while he may be no Stefan Edberg at the net, he bends his back enough to make some decent volleys.

Prediction: I have a feeling that the air continues to be adulterated in Paris, and we might see Del Potro ranking his first victory over Federer (and Gil herself has forced me to predict Del P, since my predictions at Roland Garros have been worthless so far).

Either way, Roger Federer will be calling himself a Destiny’s Child.

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