Juan Martin Del Potro is currently ranked 19th on tour, a ranking that will surely increase before the end of the 2011 ATP season provided that the Argentine stays healthy.
Del Potro, who was injured at this time last year, has no ranking points to defend for the balance of 2011 and that means he can only improve his position on tour. He has a chance to make the ATP World Tour Finals still although in order to do that he will have to turn in some very competitive results for the balance of the Masters Series events in 2011 and at the US Open which starts later this month.
But based on what he's done lately, Del Potro does not appear likely to turn in to many distinguished results, at least not in the best tournaments on the ATP World Tour.
Del Potro has recent losses on tour that are somewhat questionable for a player considered to be the fourth favorite to win the 2011 US Open. According to Stan James the former champ is 7/1 to win the title at Flushing Meadows and only Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have shorter odds.
The last time Del Potro played at Flushing Meadows, in 2009, he claimed the title with a five-set victory over Roger Federer. However heading into the 2009 US Open Del Potro had a ton of momentum as he had won ATP Washington and he had made the final at ATP Montreal (l. to Murray).
Del Potro has had plenty of time to work out any kinks he had in his game that were due to his lengthy layoff from his 2010 wrist injury as he has been back on tour for over seven months now. He has picked up a couple titles since returning to tour but both of those titles were at the 250 level.
At ATP Delray Beach Del Potro didn't have to beat anyone better than Mardy Fish to win the tournament. At ATP Estoril Del Potro beat fifth-ranked Robin Soderling on clay, a more than solid win, however one that hardly proves that the Argentine is poised for another title run at Flushing Meadows.
In fact if you look at what Del Potro has done on tour this year he hasn't really proven that he's worthy of making a run even just to the Flushing Meadows semifinals.
Del Potro is 2-6 against players in the top 10 in 2011 and both of his victories came against Soderling. There is no reason to believe that Del Potro will be able to beat Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic or even Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and the Argentine will have to beat at least one of those players, in all likelihood, in order to make the semis at Flushing Meadows.
Del Potro will probably enter the US Open as something like a No. 16 to 18 seed or so and that will mean he could face a top-10 player as early as the fourth round with a tougher match expected for the quarters.
How far will Del Potro go in the 2011 US Open?
It's hard to picture Del Potro winning matches that late in a Grand Slam given his recent losses to Marin Cilic in Montreal, Ernests Gulbis in Los Angeles and Adrian Mannarino back at London's Queen's Club.
Cilic isn't exactly the top-10 player he was in early 2010 and Gulbis, though he appears to be getting back into form, is still a player that a genuine threat to win the US Open should be able to handle on the hard court surface. A loss to Mannarino (grass) is really discrediting and those that think Del Potro might win the US Open this year are guilty of looking into their memories and seeing the player that was two years ago and not the player that is there right now.
In the summer of 2009 there was no way Cilic, Gulbis or Mannarino could get in Del Potro's way and the big man should be much farther down the list of favorites to win the US Open than he is considered to be right now.
Andy Murray, despite the Montreal blip, is more of a favorite than Delpo and I think that Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is more dangerous than Del Potro as well. Mardy Fish and Milos Raonic are more likely to put a deep run in Flushing Meadows together than Del Potro is and if you want to take the recent results at face value, Marin Cilic looks like he's playing better right now as well.
Del Potro 2009 is a ghost who dismissed Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in back to match matches. Del Potro 2011 is nowhere near his former self as the unfortunate wrist injury in 2010 has turned the talented Argentine into a one-Slam wonder in the making.
Perhaps the stars will align again for Del Potro at some later point in his career as he is still just 22 years old. However, that time is not now. Look for Del Potro to go out in Cincinnati's quarterfinals or earlier and don't expect the former champ to beat a top-five player at Flushing Meadows.