A lot has changed since the last time Roger Federer met Juan Martin DelPotro (‘Delpo’) at the US Open. Delpo has undergone multiple surgeries, Federer has battled injuries and both of them have a different game today. Federer has beaten Delpo at every Grand Slam except the US Open, where their lone meeting was at the title match in 2009, which Delpo won in five thrilling sets. Having said that, Federer would want to avenge his loss which broke his streak of five consecutive US Open titles. Had Federer won the 2009 US Open, he would have held all four Grand Slam titles together, a feat he has been unable to achieve. He had won the French Open and Wimbledon in 2009 and went on to win the Australian Open in 2010. Even though Federer boasts of a 16-5 head to head record against Delpo, the numbers don’t actually reflect the true story. Nobody is a clear favourite against Delpo. He is extremely talented and has the ability to beat any player on a given day. These two have played many great matches together including the semi-final of the 2012 Olympics where Federer edged Delpo 19-17 in the final set.
DelPo has had a tough time staying fit. He was just 20 years old when he won his first Grand Slam title back in 2009 and in the past eight years he has not been able to win any other major title. His only other significant victories have been his Olympic medals in 2016 and 2012. Back in 2009, one of the many reasons why Delpo’s victory was considered special was that he had beaten both Rafa Nadal (semi-finals) and Federer (finals) en route to victory. Should he win his match against Federer tomorrow, he would be facing Nadal again in the semi-finals. Nobody in his right senses would want to face either of the two in a Grand Slam, let alone both together, but Delpo considers it as good omen.
In his previous match, Delpo saved two match points against Dominic Thiem to win the match in five sets. It was one of the most remarkable comebacks in recent times. He lost the first set and was down 0-3 in the second. It was only during the third set that Delpo finally started playing freely. Thiem played a great match throughout but Delpo played better when it mattered. He has lately started taking control of his nerves when he starts losing and is able to put the pressure back on his opponents. He took away the Davis Cup trophy from Croatia last year in similar fashion in his match against Marin Cilic.
Federer on the other hand seems to have finally found his rhythm. He took five sets to win his first two matches but won his subsequent matches in straight sets. Federer is yet to lose a Grand Slam match this year. He is 18-0 so far in Grand Slam matches in 2017. While age is on Delpo’s side, Federer could reap some advantage from Delpo’s fatigue from his previous match.
Top seed Nadal is yet to face a difficult opponent. He has had a comfortable draw and his first hurdle to the championship could be his semi-final match against Federer/Delpo. Somehow, Nadal seems to be using a different strategy in comparison to the one he had in the Australian Open this year. He is back to playing the ball late and standing way behind the baseline. His last opponent, Alexandr Dolgopolov felt that this could be the deciding factor and could swing the match in Federer’s favour, should the two meet. Federer is known to take time away from the opponent by playing fast and keeping the points short. That makes it difficult to counter attack on fast courts, and before you realise Federer would have zipped through the set. The other half of the draw is sure to produce a first-time finalist.
Pablo Carreno Busta has reached his first Grand Slam semi-final and has done it without dropping a set. In the semi-final he would face a fellow first-time semi-finalist in either Sam Querry or Kevin Anderson. Querry is the only American left in the draw and is the first American to reach the quarter-finals since Andy Roddick in 2011. While one semi-final would consist of two first-time semi-finalists, the other could have two former champions. That is pretty contrasting.
DelPo once said, “My biggest challenge is myself”. Maybe Federer would prove him right.