Indian Wells champion and world #4 Juan Martin del Potro faces a tough third round battle against the talented Frenchman Benoit Paire. The Argentine is looking to return to the second week at the Championships for the first time since his run to the semifinals in 2013. But Paire has the quality to stop anyone when he is at his best, and he has looked close to that so far at Wimbledon this year. Who will come out on top?
Paire and del Potro have met just once previously with that match coming back in 2013 at the Italian Open, before del Potro’s lengthy absence with a wrist injury that eventually required him to have two surgeries. It was Paire who won the match, upsetting the then-seventh seeded del Potro in straight sets in the third round 6-4 7-6. However, whilst del Potro is a former Major champion and has reached the quarterfinals or better at every Slam, Paire is looking to reach a fourth round for just the third time.
Path to the quarterfinals
Del Potro, who elected to withdraw from Queen’s in order to rest after a run to the French Open semifinals, took to the grass for the first time this season against Germany’s Peter Gojowczyk. The fifth seed played an excellent match to dispatch Gojowczyk in straight sets, winning through 6-3 6-4 6-3 despite some moments of ill-temper. He then overcame former quarterfinalist Feliciano Lopez, demolishing the man from Spain 6-4 6-1 6-2.
Paire, who took Federer the distance in Halle where he held two match points against the great man but was unable to convert, was first scheduled to play two-time champion Andy Murray. But following the Scot’s withdrawal he found himself taking on Taiwan’s Jason Jung, a lucky loser. Paire did not have it all his own way, but progressed in straight sets nonetheless, 7-6 7-6 6-4. He then managed to down the talented teenager Denis Shapovalov despite a woeful start, winning 0-6 6-2 6-4 7-6.
How do they match up?
Central to del Potro’s success throughout his career has been his monstrous forehand. Though there is more to his game than just his forehand, with del Potro equipped with a powerful serve and an increasingly effective backhand, it is his forehand that elevates him to the top of the tennis tree. And it has been firing so far this week. Neither Gojowczyk nor Lopez were able to come up with anything resembling an answer to del Potro’s power off that wing, but if Paire wants to win, he will have to.
The Frenchman does have some considerable weapons of his own however, his backhand chief amongst them. Paire is comfortable stepping into the court and unleashing with it and will rely on it to do most of the damage. He also has excellent feel and will likely bring out the drop shot often in this match although he would do well not to overuse it. The real weakness in his game is his forehand, with the shot often breaking down under pressure.
Though Paire presents a test, del Potro’s sparkling form should be enough for him to advance to the second week. He looked comfortable on the grass against Lopez and the Spaniard wasn’t able to lay a glove on him, which, when Lopez’s unquestionable grass court pedigree is considered, speaks to just how well he played in that match. When del Potro is playing well, he has the power to take the racquet out of his opponent’s hands, and he will do that enough against Paire to win in four.