2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro, the third seed in New York this year, will begin his campaign for a second dose of US Open glory against American qualifier Donald Young. For del Potro, 2018 has been the best year of his career since the halcyon days of 2009, and he has won titles in Acapulco and Indian Wells as well as reaching the last four in Paris. For Young it as been a season of toil and struggle, but he will surely relish the chance to take a shot at del Potro. Who will come out on top?
Like several of the first-round matches, this will be the first between del Potro and Young. In terms of experience, however, the third seed has a considerable advantage. He has won 421 matches in his career and amassed 22 titles and $22 million dollars worth of prize money. Young’s career record reads a more modest 124-186, and he has never won a title, losing his two previous finals. But he has twice made the fourth round in New York.
Last time out
After making the Wimbledon quarterfinals, narrowly losing to Nadal in a five-set thriller, hopes were high for del Potro coming into the summer of hard court tennis in North America. But things have not entirely gone to plan. He did make the final in Los Cabos, but came over few backhands and lost heavily there to Fabio Fognini. He then withdrew from Toronto citing a wrist injury, but did reach the quarterfinals in Cincinnati, losing 6-7 6-7 to David Goffin.
Young’s difficult year continued at Wimbledon where he failed to reach the main draw, losing in the qualifying. He returned to Tour-level action in Newport, but lost first round to Vasek Pospisil. He then defeated Ivo Karlovic in Atlanta, just his second win of the year, but lost to Matthew Ebden in the round of 16. He qualified into Washington, losing in the second round to Kei Nishikori, before beating Mats Moraing, Simone Bolelli and Peter Polansky to reach the main draw in Flushing Meadows.
How do they match up?
Both men’s best shots are their forehands, though they are of rather different calibres. Del Potro’s is a monstrous, wrecking ball of a shot, the power of which is equalled by no one on Tour. He can strike winners with it from almost anywhere in the court and if Young leaves anything in the middle of the court del Potro will end the point swiftly. Young, a lefty, can put a lot of spin on his forehand, but cannot come close to matching del Potro’s for power.
The American will likely focus much of his attacking attention on del Potro’s backhand, the notably weaker of his two wings, especially if he is indeed carrying a wrist problem. But del Potro defends that wing excellently, and what his backhands may lack in power, they make up for in accuracy. And Young’s backhand is not particularly impressive either. It will certainly have to weather a storm against the del Potro forehand.
Whether del Potro’s body will hold up well enough for him to go all the way at a Slam is a permanent question mark hanging over his title credentials. Unfortunately, it looks as though it could well hold him back again. But with all due respect to Young, there is a big difference between beating him in the first round and winning six more matches. And whilst del Potro may well not be able to do the latter, he should not have too many problems in doing the former. Expect a straight sets del Potro win.