Juan Martin Del Potro managed to upset the 10th seed Tomas Berdych at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati 3-6, 7-6(1), 6-0.
The former World no.4 and 2009 US Open Champion Juan Martin Del Potro has been plagued by injuries for the last few years. After several left wrist and right wrist operations, it is very doubtful that he will ever return to his best form. Due to the surgeries, he had to completely change his backhand and it’s a very defensive shot at the moment. However, his forehand is still a fearful weapon and it allows him to win matches even against the very best in the world.
Del Potro has been playing fine all year but he’s definitely lacking good wins. Because of his lower ranking, he often has to face top players in early rounds, with five of his ten losses so far being to a Big Four player (3x Djokovic, 1x Federer, 1x Murray). He played two tournaments on the Summer American hard court season before Cincinnati, losing both in his second match. He lost a tight straight-setter to Kei Nishikori in Washington and also came up short against a rising star Denis Shapovalov in Montreal.
Berdych is the icon of consistency on the tour. He finished the year ranked in top 20 for eleven straight years and the last seven he ended up as a top 10 player. He still lacks spectacular results, with his biggest win to date being 2005 Paris Masters tournament he won as a 20-year old.
2017 is not an exception, Berdych is yet to win a tittle but owing to a series of good results, he still registers as no.11 in the Race to London ranking. After Wimbledon, he has played just one tournament, losing in the Los Cabos semifinal to Thanasi Kokkinakis. After that the Czech decided to withdraw from Montreal.
The pair have met eight times before this match came to fruition and the rivalry stands at four wins apiece. Their first meeting dates back to Prostejov Challenger in 2006. On hard courts, it was 2-1 in favour of the Czech, who also took their last encounter at Indian Wells Masters 2016, 7-6 (4), 6-2.
Berdych was the more aggressive and more confident player in the first set, both struggled on the return, but it was the 10th seed who managed to hit some deep returns to make Del Potro struggle with his movement. This paid off in the fourth game as he broke to go up 3-1. The Argentinian never really had a chance to come back into the set as he couldn’t make any inroads in his opponent’s service games. Berdych took the first set 6-3, winning every single point on his first serve.
It seemed like Del Potro finally stabilized his own serving, but he was still not able to handle the Czech’s hard hitting in the baseline rallies. The momentum shift was obvious and in the fourth game of the second set the Argentinian gained his first break point. Berdych helped him a lot by committing three forehand unforced errors in that game but made up for it by producing composed tennis on the break point. However, Del Potro was able to survive the 10th seed’s huge strokes and won a “cat and mouse” rally with a backhand passing shot to seal the break.
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The second set followed the same pattern as the first one, with that one crucial break in the fourth game, allowing the player to serve for the set. However, at 3-5 down Berdych hit two amazing forehand winners and a forehand unforced error from Del Potro gave him three break points. The Argentinian was very clutch to save the first one with an all guns blazing forehand winner but a mishit at 15-40 gave the Czech the much coveted break back.
Handed a lifeline, he consolidated the break with ease to level the set. The momentum was on Berdych’s side as Del Potro started his next service game with two consecutive double faults. He managed to win four points in a row and forced Berdych to serve to stay in the set for the third time. The 10th seed won the game to 15 and the tie-breaker ensued.
The Argentinian was the first one to get a minibreak as the Czech just missed an inside-in forehand. Del Potro then went up 3-0 after Berdych double faulted. Two amazing forehand winners later and Del Potro was sitting on a 5-0 lead. Another simple error at 5-1 gave the world no. 30 five set points. He only needed one, as he converted the very first opportunity with an ace.
Berdych was suffering a bad patch of play in the opening game of the third set. Staring down 15-40 on his serve, he saved the first break point. The second one was arguably the best point played in the entire match as Del Potro had a chance to finish the rally earlier but the Czech fought his way back into it only to come up short when he tried to retrieve a beautiful forehand passing shot from his opponent.
The 10th seed’s forehand was spraying errors left and right and at 0-2 the Argentinian earned himself another pair of break point chances. Berdych was very erratic in that game, mixing up good plays with terrible errors. Eventually, Del Potro broke on his fourth opportunity and went up 3-0.
A brief moment of weakness from the World no. 30 followed as in the next game he had trouble to put his first serve in. However, he managed to fend off a break point with a wonderful second serve and consolidated for a healthy 4-0 lead. Del Potro was returning brilliantly and a stunning backhand volley gave him break points again.
Berdych was playing with an all-or-nothing attitude and hit some extraordinary shots to save three of them but an amazing inside out forehand pass gave the Argentinian a 5-0 lead and a chance to whitewash his opponent. A quick hold to 15 gave Del Potro a 3-6, 7-6(1), 6-0 win.
Del Potro put up a good performance here, but the real question remains this: what happened to Tomas Berdych? After dominating the first set he was basically non-existent for the rest of the match (not counting that come back in the second from 2-5 to 5-5). The Czech is going to have a longer rest before the US Open and he will have to work hard to get himself into shape.
As for the big Tower of Tandil, his next opponent will be world no.244 Mitchell Krueger, who has managed to demolish Benoit Paire 6-2, 6-1. There’s not much to say about that upset as the American was basically handed a win by the Frenchman and should not be able to trouble Del Potro who might be destined for a long run here.
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