2009 US Open champion and third seed Juan Martin del Potro will be desperate to continue his excellent year with a deep run in New York. But standing between him and a place in the second week is the veteran 31st seed Fernando Verdasco, who was once ranked as high as 7th in the world and has slain his fair share of giants over the years. Will he be able to pick up another big scalp against del Potro or will the former champion have too much?
Verdasco and del Potro have met five times at Tour-level and it is del Potro who has had the better of it, winning four of those five matches. That includes the first, which was a hard-fought 6-4 3-6 7-6 win in London at the ATP Finals in 2009. Verdasco had his revenge two years later in San Jose, beating del Potro 6-4 6-4 in the semifinals. Since then, del Potro has claimed three wins without reply, including last year when he edged Verdasco out 6-7 6-4 7-6 in Stockholm in the last four.
Path to the third round
After withdrawing from the Canadian Open in Toronto and losing in the quarterfinals in Cincinnati, there was some concern over del Potro’s health coming into the US Open, especially his left wrist. But he did much to allay those fears by dismissing Donald Young of the USA 6-0 6-3 6-4 in the first round in New York. Young’s compatriot Denis Kudla fared little better, as del Potro scored delivered another dominant performance to advance a 6-3 6-1 7-6 winner.
Verdasco began convincingly enough, besting his countryman Feliciano Lopez 6-2 7-5 6-4, in what is likely to be Lopez’s final US Open with the 36-year-old due to take over as tournament director in Madrid next year. That victory earned him a shot at the 2012 champion Andy Murray, unseeded after a long injury layoff. It proved a real battle, encapsulated by the 12-minute long final game, but it was a battle Verdasco won impressively, 7-5 2-6 6-4 6-4.
How do they match up?
There is little subtlety to be found in the approach of either del Potro or Verdasco, although both do in fact have surprisingly soft hands. Nonetheless, it is power that is their calling card and both have plenty of it. Verdasco was able to dictate to Murray with his forehand, pulling the former-world #1 from pillar to post in the second round and it was his forehand, along with some big serving, that won him the match.
But del Potro has a forehand more powerful still than that boasted by Verdasco. One runs out of superlatives to describe the sheer force with which del Potro clubs his forehand, but it is an almighty weapon and one very few can stand up to. Verdasco will need to keep the ball away from that forehand as often as he can, but targeting the backhand of del Potro is not a fool proof tactic. He defends it well and will start to camp in his backhand corner if Verdasco becomes predictable.
Impressive though Verdasco’s victory over Murray was, the Scot is still far from his best after such a long period away from the game. He will find del Potro a more challenging proposition. Indeed, del Potro is playing the best tennis he has in some years and has a real chance of winning the title in New York. Expect his power from the back of the court to overrun Verdasco and for the Tower of Tandil to take his place in the fourth round after a four-set win.