Monday, September 14, 2009
Final word. . .for now
Federer was beaten in five sets by the Argentine. If you were there, you definitely got your money's worth. The weather looked good. I think the tennis was so so, especially from the Swiss Maestro.
Del Potro is 20 years-old and at 6'6" he has a HUGE career ahead of him. What was most interesting, aside from Johnny McEnroe's obvious Del Potro bias (I get it; a lot of people are sick of Federer), was the mature strategy employed by the youngster.
With his height and strength, the kid can hammer a first serve. He was characteristically tossing 125 - 135 mph first serves Federer's way. getting a return on that meant at best that Del Potro could use his dominating forehand to finish the point. His forehand will be legendary. He doesn't have the classic one-hand backhand like Sampras or Federer, but his forehand is brutally good. Incapacitating.
However, the wise-beyond-his-years strategy came in the later part of the match when he started putting first serves in play at ~95 mph. First serves! McEnroe thought he was tired. Carillo thought he'd lost his nerve after double-faulting to lose the 3rd set. But the guy was simply making sure his first-serve % stayed productively high and trusted the rest of his game. Taking a little off that huge first serve enabled him to use a little more spin and placement to keep Federer off balance. During the 3-5 set range I recall his % being roughly 75%. This from a 20 year-old. Keep in mind, he always had the 130 mph monster waiting to feed. I would say wow. In contrast, a guy like Andy Roddick will show-off his 140+ first serve all match despite getting out played in every other way. Del Potro showed some serious high-stakes savvy, something one needs to beat Federer. In fact, Nadal and Del Potro both appear to be very intelligent players and both have had success against Roger (Del Potro took Roger to 5 sets in the French this year), which might suggest that Roger is not quite as smart as he looks. Intelligence was the term people were throwing around in Australia after Nadal beat Federer. Rafa is not as talented, so he has had to use el cerebro. Del Potro, in complicating his service game, demonstrated some prodigious maduriz.
Federer, unfortunately, finished the match with a service game of 50%. And that was for the entire match. During the crucial 3-5 set range, he was at roughly 45%. That is terrible. As the Argentine gained more confidence, Roger's margin for error shrank, and that kind of serve isn't going to cut-it in just about any match let alone the finals at the U.S. Open.