In a clash between one of the game’s established stars and a rising name, Indian Wells champion and world #3 Juan Martin del Potro takes on Hyeon Chung of South Korea. For del Potro, it has been the best season of his career since 2009 when he won the US Open, thus far his only Grand Slam crown. Chung began the season with a bang by reaching the Australian Open semifinals, but injury has rather halted his progress since. Who will come out on top?
This will be the first meeting between del Potro and Chung. In terms of experience, it is unsurprisingly del Potro who comes to the match the better equipped. The Argentine has won 22 titles in his career and 419 matches and has lost just 165 times. But he did turn professional in 2005, nine years before Chung, who has posted more modest numbers with a career record of 73-54 and no titles, although he did win the Next Gen Finals in Milan last November.
Path to the second round
As the fourth seed in Cincinnati, del Potro has not yet taken to the courts at the Lindner Family Tennis Center after receiving a first-round bye. He was not present in Toronto after withdrawing to rest his left wrist, an announcement that was no doubt concerning to his many fans after the number of serious injuries he has had to his wrists. But two weeks ago he did make the final in Los Cabos, losing to Fabio Fognini in straight sets.
Chung missed the French Open and Wimbledon with an ankle injury, but returned to action on the hard courts of the Atlanta Open, where he lost in the quarterfinals to eventual finalist Ryan Harrison. He then lost in the third round in Washington to Alex De Minaur before withdrawing from Toronto. But he began his Cincinnati campaign well with a 2-6 6-1 6-2 win over the struggling Jack Sock, who has won just five matches all year.
How do they match up?
This match should present an entertaining clash of styles between the ultra-aggressive del Potro and the more defensively minded Chung. The centrepiece of del Potro’s formidable arsenal is his forehand, which is unquestionably the biggest in the game. He has used it to hammer through the best defences in the game and Chung will need to keep the ball away from it as much as he can in order to have a chance in the match. Thus targeting the del Potro backhand will be essential.
All the more so because how del Potro will be able to hit it is unclear. Over the past year or so he has been striking it with increased confidence, but he rarely came over it in Los Cabos and if he is carrying another wrist injury he will likely return to relying on the slice. Chung himself is an excellent baseliner, at his best when on the backfoot but with the power to step into the court and dictate, with his forehand, despite an unorthodox technique, a useful weapon for him.
If, as is hopefully the case, del Potro’s wrist injury was the result of fatigue rather than anything more serious, he should have enough to come through this match. Chung has struggled to find much form over the past few months, a problem doubtless exacerbated by his injury problems, problems he does not seem entirely recovered from. With the fast surface also in del Potro’s favour as the more aggressively inclined of the two, expect him to advance in three.