Monday, September 28, 2009

A Star Is Born?

by MMT

The newly-crowned US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro waves from a fire engine at people gathered to see him on September 17, 2009, following his arrival in his hometown Tandil, a city of 120,000 inhabitants in Buenos Aires province. Del Potro, who defeated tennis world number one Roger Federer in the final of the US Open, has enjoyed a meteoric rise through the ranks over since he emerged in 2006 from the tennis centre of Tandil, which also produced Mariano Zabaleta and Juan Monaco.
Getty

The newly-crowned US Open champion Juan Martín del Potro waves from a fire engine at people gathered to see him on September 17, 2009, following his arrival in his hometown Tandil, a city of 120,000 inhabitants in Buenos Aires province. Del Potro, who defeated tennis world number one Roger Federer in the final of the US Open, has enjoyed a meteoric rise through the ranks over since he emerged in 2006 from the tennis centre of Tandil, which also produced Mariano Zabaleta and Juan Monaco.

::

He had a lot of opportunities to pack it in on that Monday evening in Queens – down a break in the second and receiving to stay in the set, or up a break in the 4th and giving it back before serving to stay in the set.

But he didn’t.

Because he is, if nothing else, tough as nails and supremely determined. The fact that he won two of his sets in tie-breaks is an indication that the mental resolve to stay in the moment and struggle for a result is reminiscent of the very pantheon of men he seeks to join and maybe even take for his own one day…maybe.

For all his technical prowess, hitting his strokes with massive power and direction on both sides, with consistency and steely resolve, one thing missing from his game that makes me wonder how long he’ll be able to continue generating the results he had in the 2009 US Open, is the plan B.

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Newly-crowned US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina arrives at La Bombonera stadium before the Argentine First Division match between Boca Juniors and Godoy Cruz in Buenos Aires, September 20, 2009.
Reuters


Arriving at La Bombonera stadium before the Argentine First Division match between Boca Juniors and Godoy Cruz in Buenos Aires, September 20, 2009.

20 comments:

dapxin said...

I dont know if it applies,
but you dont truly get to worry about Plan B in football,
until Plan A - which is usually an assortment of all that you got -
takes you far enough.

Surely you must worry about it @ some point.

But then and again, football is a team game...

MMT said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MMT said...

Daxpin - I think it does apply. And surely there (already has and) will (in the future continue to) come a time when del Potro will need to go to a plan B.

I just don't know if, despite his fantastic performance this year at the US Open, he's demonstrated an ability to do that with the consistency necessary to make him a "star" in the mold of Nadal and Federer.

The jury is still out, in my opinion.

tangerine said...

I agree with MMT, I can't see Del Potro being an international star the way Federer and Nadal are.

It will be interesting to watch him next year, to see how he handles his new fame and status as a grand slam champion and contender. Will he rise up to the task or crumble under the pressure?

More importantly, will Murray, or anybody else, finally get their breakthough slam win next year?

dan said...

Hi, I'm a Del Potro fan and I've seen him win a lot of matches playing really bad, that's the aspect of the game that amazes me the most about his game: the ungodly amount of matches he wins playing ugly (Cilic in the quarters of the US open comes to mind) and against Federer he played great off the ground but his serve wasn't even at a 30% of his potential, after those two DF in the 3rd set he stopped going for it and just spined it in. Besides the "B game" thing is a tall story IMO, Nadal himself said it clear in the press conference before the semis against JMDP: "You can't improvise much on the court, I can't go out there and serve and volley 'cause that's not what I do, you just have to play to your strengths and hope for the best" and that's basically what all the guys on the tour do.

Craig Hickman said...

Being a star isn't just about winning Slams. It's entirely possible for del Potro to win more Slams and not become an international star in the vein of Rafa and Raja. Or even AndyR for that matter with his lone Slam title. I've come to admire del Potro's toughness even though I didn't like all those retirements and on court no shows over the past few years. He does know how to play to the crowd and that certainly makes him appealing.

Part of becoming a star has as much to do with they propagandists as it does with the tennis a player produces. Will del Potro be hyped by the tennis media going forth and, if so, how will he handle it?

As for the meat of the essay: I believe del Potro possesses a game with more variety than he's shown, even in winning this Slam. When I first saw him play at an event in Australia in 2007 (Sydney?) I was impressed with his transition game and net play. He's become a comfortable baseliner, to be sure, but he can play the whole court. His return of serve is also excellent. He's 20 years old and has been to the final 8 of three different Slams and I'd imagine his allergy to grass will go away someday as well. The ATP is still mostly a collection of talented headcases. Seems to me his A game can take him pretty far.

Graf_sampras said...

haven't had much time nor inclination to talk tennis , nor follow it much until the last grand slam -- mainly to see how serena and venus would do - and see who'd win the men's . BUT i was NOT surprised Del Potro came through. there was a certain stubbornness in his playing even 2 years ago but clearly just needed experience in big moments. it didn't seem a matter of having the game against top players but how to translate it, along with learning how to adjust to pressure during a match.

i tend to disagree with the opening title notion that he does not have "plan b" - on the contrary, what del potro showed was :

despite clearly overpowering federer, made possible by his having worked on his fitness, del potro actually was quite clever ,especially in the closing 2 sets, in holding BACK on some shots - it was a brilliant tactical "plan b" - that flustered federer even more that made del potro's powerful shots even more potent when del potro would come back with those. that combination, imo, showed that del potro DURING THE COURSE of the match was LEARNING and applying quickly something that most others would likely not have the presence of mind to apply, to realize. and that was: that besides showing federer he can be overpowered...the opponent can also take pace OFF (particularly in some serves of del potro that reeled in federer into exchanges in which he would then be outplayed). that to me - was a "plan b".

if del potro can maintain his "learning curve" and digs his feet in to a brilliant beginning - he can win more majors.

of course this depends on what one's view is of a Plan B.

but it was evident that del potro was NOT afraid to close at the net - that's a "plan"

he beat roger in baseline exchanges and as most players might try ...that's a Plan"

he INSTEAD of continuing all the way with huge serves...actually HELD BACK in some of them, throwing off federer...that's a PLAN

in fact - since roger is often cited as the Mister MAgic of "many plans" ...

the words of Del Potro after the match reveal what was IN his mind:

"I tried to imitate roger..while i was playing i was observing what he was doing...".


PLAN A? B? Del Potro had them...and returned them to roger with interest.

but above all - regardless of plan a or b...del potro's greatest plan WORKED. he openly declared it before the match...

"I AM GOING TO FIGHT ALL THE WAY TO THE END..i have to do this out of respect for myself and the public".

Graf_sampras said...

Craig Hickman said...

Being a star isn't just about winning Slams. It's entirely possible for del Potro to win more Slams and not become an international star in the vein of Rafa and Raja. Or even AndyR for that matter with his lone Slam title. I've come to admire del Potro's toughness even though I didn't like all those retirements and on court no shows over the past few years. He does know how to play to the crowd and that certainly makes him appealing.

Part of becoming a star has as much to do with they propagandists as it does with the tennis a player produces. Will del Potro be hyped by the tennis media going forth and, if so, how will he handle it?

As for the meat of the essay: I believe del Potro possesses a game with more variety than he's shown, even in winning this Slam. When I first saw him play at an event in Australia in 2007 (Sydney?) I was impressed with his transition game and net play. He's become a comfortable baseliner, to be sure, but he can play the whole court. His return of serve is also excellent. He's 20 years old and has been to the final 8 of three different Slams and I'd imagine his allergy to grass will go away someday as well. The ATP is still mostly a collection of talented headcases. Seems to me his A game can take him pretty far.

Mon Sep 28, 04:29:00 PM

==========

i remember very clearly Craighickman's observations many , many months ago ...and he is right. del potro in fact got OUR attention right here because of those characteristics...the POTENTIAL to bear on his variety that was just waiting to be developed and mature. that of course depends on the competition to some extent.

some develop or cultivate that variety potential if they are challenged. others develop it because they are FREE of challenges.


roger for example developed his "variety" because there were really FEW that bothered him .

del potro is developing it because he has to challenge nadal, federer, roddick.

but the variety was incipient in his game. craighickman is correct from long ago, including that fitness problem. del potro will more stumbles...but as far as game is concerned - it was there already.

i remember most of us pointed out his transition game. how advanced it already was in comparison with most other players in that:

where most others - you can clearly see their reluctance and often are FORCED in their manner and awkward...as if there was an invisible wall between their groudn game and the net, and the wall was standing in the service line and they had a hard time "flowing" from the backcourt to the net...del potro already showed a certain fluency and READINESS to do it.

and it paid dividends in the USO..several of them CRUCIAL points that broke roger's own resistance.

but most of all - i really liked the way del potro seemed to be so wrapped in the emotion that he was winning it not just for himself but his family, his friends, his hometown, his argentina....:"to all of you in argentina, this is for you".

it was not about "ME" only. he remembered where he came from.

i really admired that in him. may he have more success and in his success grow to be a fine, fine champion, player and person.

Graf_sampras said...

(Cilic in the quarters of the US open comes to mind) and against Federer he played great off the ground but his serve wasn't even at a 30% of his potential, after those two DF in the 3rd set he stopped going for it and just spined it in. Besides the "B game" thing is a tall story IMO, Nadal himself said it clear in the press conference before the semis against JMDP:=============
============


but as one can see:

a lot depends on how and what one defines concerning "plan b".

such thinking, imo, is generally too "linear" ..in the sense that we tend to think that things are just a matter of having something recognizable to be able to call it a entity: "Plan".

but games are games because part of it is the moment and how the little adjustments to what we might call a "SINGLE PLAN" work out.

just because - for example:

roger federer "switched" from baseline playing to "volleying more" - where those two things are much clearer to differentiate..we easily say
"oh ya - roger has plan B..and also a C if necessary".

we say this is all part of his "variety".

but SO has nadal . he takes advantage of short balls too and volleyes, as good if not better than roger...although BOTH of them are baseliners.

same with del potro. he is a baseliner - who is able to volley or transition if the moment presents itself and he has done that.

where some aspects don't work -- the BIG SERVES which he did well in the beginning, but suffered somewhat as the match progressed - he sacrificed bigness for placement and just getting the ball IN. that ws his "plan B"....in order to continue to be in the match and bring it to its successful conclusion.

if by plan B - people think that del potro shoudl ALSO perhaps take pace off his groundstrokes - he wouldn't BE del potro that defeated seven opponents - including nadal, roger - and survived five setters.

was del potro supposed to - now or in the future - to go to "plan b" - that being something that does NOT represent his over-all game: and play with softie shots , short balls, stay BACK at receiving second serves, ?


to place nomenclatures in tennis about this or that player having "plan B" , PLAN 'C' = etc

imo is an illusion. there really is no such thing.

all players simply react to the moment. if they react successfully most of the time , whatever their style - that is the plan.

it's simply that the players that are LESS capable of ANY particular execution than his or her opponent is going to lose if they both execute as well as they should and then the mental or psychological pressure plays its usual part between the players.

between two of about equal executing capabilities - one is bound to have more intimidation than the other..the other is more bound to break - where he wouldn't against others.

anyway - that's just my point of view.

Craig Hickman said...

Graf_Sampras said....

between two of about equal executing capabilities - one is bound to have more intimidation than the other..the other is more bound to break...

::

Bingo. This is what I saw between del Potro and Roddick in their two tight matches prior to the US Open.

I thought it ironic (poetic?) that del Potro would seem to be a kind of Federer to Roddick in their matches and then del Potro goes on to finish off Raja in 5 sets at the US Open after Roddick failed to do the same thing at Wimbledon.

In that timeframe, Del Potro won all his tiebreaks against both players. Roddick lost all of his.

What this has to do with anything is beyond me, but just thought I'd point it out.

Graf_sampras said...

Bingo. This is what I saw between del Potro and Roddick in their two tight matches prior to the US Open.

I thought it ironic (poetic?) that del Potro would seem to be a kind of Federer to Roddick in their matches and then del Potro goes on to finish off Raja in 5 sets at the US Open after Roddick failed to do the same thing at Wimbledon.

In that timeframe, Del Potro won all his tiebreaks against both players. Roddick lost all of his.

What this has to do with anything is beyond me, but just thought I'd point it out.

Mon Sep 28, 09:35:00 PM

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I didn't even realize that until you explained it Craighickman.!

maybe that kind of thing:

"someone eventually breaks down"...(although that is also in terms of given days...some have it more than others. etc.) ..

isn't the norm for every match up. i mean - what can we really know what's going on in the player's minds in those moments, except for what we observe outwardly and describe for ourselves?.

BUT - just as you explained - it seems that there is some substance to seeing it this way.

i mean , there's NOT that much difference between a roddick or del potro,

and we've seen that when roddick plays WELL and digs in - at least for 99% of the battle like in wimbledon - there's not much difference between him and roger EITHER.

they just play tennis styles differently from each other, differnt habits, and all that - but the LEVELS as professionals are about "equal" or near-parity...

and it's in THAT worldclass level - as our example - (or even between two weekend warriors on THEIR parity level) -

someone ends up breaking down, somehow, for one reason or another.

to us as observers, the more a player "breaks down" against another - the more we judge it to be "he's intimidated"...then that's where the psychological drama colors the whole picture between two players of some parity.

I think, maybe, this is what has happened between

"roddick/federer"...
"federer/nadal"...

none are REALLY THAT superior to the other..even if in the end HOW they use their weapons in total , and their presence of mind, maybe, somehow directly influences the exchange until - indeed, someone "breaks down".

but this is NOT the same as a player actually OVERPOWERING someone else. and we know there's no contest.

i think you put your finger on the button when you made that original comparison:

Roger/roddick
del potro/roddick

and somehow del potro BROKE through against roger in a major way where roddick hasn't ...yet.

'YET' - is important.

when del potro and roger were playing -- i was telling myself :

"now - what is so much MORE special about del potro, whatever his full future potential is yet to be, that roddick hasn't already shown anyway ..BUT why does roddick NOT get over those crucial moments?...when del potro TOO had bad moments but picked himself up AND built on it - to the point that
ROGER BROKE DOWN? - the way nadal made him do in Australia - also 6-2 last set?"

i just find that strange.

joji said...

now - what is so much MORE special about del potro, whatever his full future potential is yet to be, that roddick hasn't already shown anyway ..BUT why does roddick NOT get over those crucial moments?...when del potro TOO had bad moments but picked himself up AND built on it - to the point that
ROGER BROKE DOWN? - the way nadal made him do in Australia - also 6-2 last set?"

i just find that strange.

-----------------------------------
I do think the difference is "believe" that he can beat roger; roddick does not believe.

Graf_sampras said...

JOJI:

I do think the difference is "believe" that he can beat roger; roddick does not believe.

Tue Sep 29, 03:14:00 PM

=========

it's so easy (for me) to forget how simple a Truth can end up to be.

as JOJI puts well..and Craighickman always reminds us :


a Lot comes down to something simple:


BELIEF.

joji said...

JOJI:

I do think the difference is "believe" that he can beat roger; roddick does not believe.

Tue Sep 29, 03:14:00 PM

=========

it's so easy (for me) to forget how simple a Truth can end up to be.

as JOJI puts well..and Craighickman always reminds us :


a Lot comes down to something simple:


BELIEF.

-----------------------------------Look; Roddick was my all time favorite; I saw Roddick first time as a casual fan in 2003 in the classic match with El Ayanoui (sp.)at AO. And I was hooked to following tennis; most especially Roddick. That Wimbledon final;while the match was going on and Roddick was leading in the tie break for a two set to love lead; my head was spinning and then Roddick losing it; it was because Roddick did not believe. I was with a low mood for a week. I hope and pray that he can still win Wimbledon 1 day. Hope is eternal isnt it?

Graf_sampras said...

JOJI:

I do think the difference is "believe" that he can beat roger; roddick does not believe.

Tue Sep 29, 03:14:00 PM

=========


-----------------------------------Look; Roddick was my all time favorite; I saw Roddick first time as a casual fan in 2003 in the classic match with El Ayanoui (sp.)at AO. And I was hooked to following tennis; most especially Roddick. That Wimbledon final;while the match was going on and Roddick was leading in the tie break for a two set to love lead; my head was spinning and then Roddick losing it; it was because Roddick did not believe. I was with a low mood for a week. I hope and pray that he can still win Wimbledon 1 day. Hope is eternal isnt it?

Tue Sep 29, 11:02:00 PM


=============

exactly like you - that match with EL Aynaoui will ALWAYS stand out in my mind as among the very best , most exciting, CONSISTENTLY HIGH QUALITY performancES from BOTH players from ANY era I have ever witnessed -

the STUBBORNNESS that both players displayed was simply phenomenal on top of the no holds barred, damn it all playing that kept challenging each other for better and better playing , always rising in quality the higher the stakes went...

and it's partly , along with that wimbledon 2004 that for some reason Roddick allowed to eat him up just because he lost to "the great federer", that at times makes me still somewhat angry at Roddick actually.

it's almost as if, despite all the running to and fro to this or that famous coach - INSIDE roddick's mind - he really began to think that he REALLY wasn't capable of playing LIKE he did in that AO which, imo, was of the very highest quality...it's as if he began to believe that he wasn't REALLY "good enough" and henceforth was only worthy of "always trying and STILL have to LEARN how to play LIKE roger"...

it's NONSENSE.

Graf_sampras said...

and that's what I really hate about the HYPE surrounding roger by the media - before he even got a major - and when he began to win - like in wimbledon , considering that to START off his "long- awaited greatness"

it took a WEAK draw (which roger himself acknowledged :"the only reason i won was because the draw was so weak" and soon forgotten by the tennis world)

which gave him his "freedom" to become "convinced" that he is as great as he was PRE_ordained to be -

and THIS affected the ENTIRE proceedings of the years SINCE - basically TELLING EVERYONE ELSE that HENCEFORTH -- roger is to be the KING and NO ONE DARE THINK that they are as "talented"

EVERYONE MAKE WAY!!

and when roddick got to that wimbledon finals -- that ADVANCE proclamation

ALREADY ate inside Roddick - and in the crucial times, i AM CONVINCED roddick became the VICTIM of that media creation of how "great roger is - so no one BETTER be stubborn when he is across the net...everyone BETTER break down...because that is the ORDER of the Tennis world".

IMO -- THIS is really what happened to ALL these players -

from roddick - to soderling, to gasquet, to berdych.

THEY BECAME the UNWITTING accomplices of THEIR own failures against roger federer

as the collective RECIPIENTS of the ADVANCE proclamations that they were ALL SUPPOSED to be

HANDMAIDENS to the March to Greatness of Roger Federer.

roddick on down -= all became the unwitting participants in STUNTING THEIR OWN developments and potentials to have already won their OWN majors along with roger federer....

and THAT is what I believe that Australian Newspaper in 2008 eventually SUMMED UP of Roger's generation:

"THOSE THAT CAME WITH ROGER ARE SO RESPECTFUL TO THE POINT OF BEING DEFERENTIAL".


imo. they , blake, roddick, soderling, berdych, that nobody ljubicic , etc...

were LITERALLY SET UP for years to BECOME roger's PRE-CONDITIONED servants...

and to forget that THEY were Actually tennis champions in THEIR own right and SHOULDN'T give in to roger federer...

wimbledon 2004 - or FO 2009 !!!

roddick became the poster boy for THIS EXACT PRE-CONDITIONING to BE FAILURES against roger federer.

that's what makes me so angry at the whole series of "competition" that came "with roger".

there is a ReASON why it took NADAL and DJOKOVIC and DEL POTRO and MURRAY

ALL OF THEM belonging to a different generation that did NOT carry the BAGGAGE of those that "Came with ROGER" -

the baggage of being "entitled to become roger's accolytes"

as the conquerors of Roger Federer EVEN in the middle of his career!

Roddick and company were SUPPOSED to FAIL against roger - and SO - they DID.


NADAL , DEL POTRO, etc.

did NOT BELIEVE it. and SO

THEY could beat roger in the most crucial stages of a match.


does it NOT make sense?

it happens to ENTIRE populations and countries , u know.

people CAN be "mass-conditioned" to BEHAVE exactly as expected.

there is absolutely NO reason why this was not the case for the "generation" that came with Roger the Great.

and that really gives me the fits. especially because it is inconceivable that someone like roddick that could play and compete like no one in that AO against el aynaoui could be so thoroughly DEFEATED in his mind by things - media play - that he and others have NO BUSINESS believing in :

"ROGER IS SO TALENTED, all of us can just HOPE he lets us win a few GAMES".

it is complete NONSENSE.

joji said...

"THOSE THAT CAME WITH ROGER ARE SO RESPECTFUL TO THE POINT OF BEING DEFERENTIAL

-----------------------------------
sorry I was at work when I posted my last comment; Im home now; -----

Thats what happened in the tie break in that second set of the Wimbledon final; he had several set points (forget how many); can not convert any of them; at that point federer know that Roddick did not believe that he can win.

I know that he still played his heart out for the next 3 sets; but I know then that he will lose the match.

Anyway; only 3 peopl(nadal,federer and roddick) reach the wimbledon finals since 2004; so there is still hope that he will someday win wimbledon; one of his goals for his tennis career.

I so hope ......

Spoe said...

As former tennis pro and swiss citizen, i am obviously a huge supporter of the FedExpress. His performance throughout the year was extraordinary. I was overwhelmed and so happy for him when he lifted the "Coupe des Mousquetaires" in Roland Garros.
When it come to the US Open, i have to be honest, even though Roger had enough chances to sail the ship into the save harbour in the second set, Del Potro deserved to win and i am very happy for him. I think, this occurence adds value to tennis. It's great to have another contender entering the race for the top spot. If Del Potro gets physically a bit stronger and improves his footwork, he will be threat for the Big Four.
Luckily i got tickets for the Masters Cup in London mid November in London and I am very much looking forward to watch Del Potro and the battle for the tennis throne.

Whole Sight said...

I completely agree with Craig and everyone else who likes not only Delpo's existing ability, but his potential as he continues to learn.

When Delpo lost to Murray in Montreal, lots of folks, including I believe some commenters on this blog, were knocking him for "lack of conditioning," etc. Interesting how that all that flipped around when he & Murray met again, eh?

Although I am lukewarm about Johnny Mac as a commentator, I think he nailed it in his comments in either the Nadal or Federer match at the Open (I forget which) when he said admiringly that Delpo isn't just a banger, but a huge & evolving talent.

Compare Delpo to the likes of Sam Querrey - urk! - and it becomes clear this is not just a 6'6" slugger. Look past the power to the decisions he makes, the patience he displays. How much better can he get? Hard to say, but should be fun to watch.

Whole Sight said...

"Interesting how that all that flipped around when he & Murray met again, eh?"

Sorry - my mind is going - what I meant is, when Murry got beat by Cilic (not Del Potro!) at the Open, it seemed to be in part Murray's mental & physical weariness that did him in, despite his vaunted conditioning. Meanwhile Del Potro successfully played 4 hard sets against Cilic and 5 very tough sets in the final.