Wimbledon 2011: Rafael Nadal Takes on Juan Martin Del Potro
It's one of those matches that stands out as soon as the draw is out. The world No. 1, Rafael Nadal, already paired with a slam winner in the fourth round.
Is that for real? It sure is.
For Rafa, as in every match at this year's Wimbledon, the No. 1 ranking is at stake. For his opponent, Juan Martin Del Potro, it is the opportunity of shouting "I'm back" with a massive victory over the defending champion.
Del Potro is on the rise. He missed almost all of 2010 with injury but has quickly ascended back up in 2011. The two of them have already met this year in Indian Wells, where Rafa won in straights.
What are we to expect from this match? Had it been any other surface, clay included, I would have liked Del Potro's chances better.
As far as grass goes, Delpo has not exactly been successful. This year is the first time in four tries that the 6'6'' tall Argentinian has made it past the second round at Wimbledon. Nadal, on the other hand, is riding a 17-match winning streak at the All England club.
Moreover, Nadal has shown impressive form and great serving in his matches so far. The French Open victory has brought back his confidence, and against Gilles Müller, he had an absurd winner-to-unforced errors ratio going for him.
To be exact, Rafa made 30 winners and three unforced errors. That's 10 winners per error!
Who else can boast of that? Nevertheless, Rafa had a hard time breaking the big-serving Müller. Delpo's serve is no slouch, either, and his return game is miles better than Müller's.
In his third round, he got by Giles Simon in three tight sets.
Both men have that rare ability to close out tight sets and win sets they should have lost. That's the mark of a champion. The question, of course, is, who will have it the most when they square of against each other?
There are a few things to consider about the matchup: Nadal's favourite weapon—high-bouncing forehands to his opponents backhand—is not particularly effective against the almost two-meter-tall Argentine.
Fortunately for Nadal, he has other weapons in his arsenal. The low slice should prove effective. So should a drop shot here and there. Moreover, he needs to get a good percentage of his first serves in.
When they two of them met at the US Open semi in 2009, Delpo was literary killing Nadal's second serve. Nadal might want to take just a few miles of his firsts to avoid having to hit the seconds. If he can do that and stay away from an outright slugfest with Delpo, he should have a very good chance of going through.
For his part, Delpo will have to do what he does best: belt his impeccable ground strokes into the corners until Nadal can't reach them any more. If he's serving well, Nadal will have a hard time breaking him, as evidenced by the fact that Simon only managed one break against him despite being a top returner on the tour.
If Delpo can consistently hit his forehand deep and flat to Nadal's forehand, he might not only force short balls to prey on, but also errors.
Nevertheless, the defending champion will have to be the big favourite going into the match riding his 17-match winning streak against a non-accomplished grass player. Then again, if the favourite always won, half the purpose of watching would be gone.
My bet is that Delpo will provide more resistance than we would expect, but Nadal will eventually close it out.
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