Third seed and Indian Wells champion Juan Martin del Potro will begin his quest for Canadian Open glory when he takes on Dutchman Robin Haase. The Argentine has been enjoying his best season since he lifted the US Open in 2009, highlighted by the aforementioned Indian Wells title and a run to the French Open semifinals (lost to Nadal). But Haase has shown himself a giant-killer in the past and reached the semifinals in Montreal last year. Who will come out on top?
Haase and del Potro have met five times so far and it is not a rivalry that has favoured the Dutchman, who has lost all five. Their rivalry began six years ago at Wimbledon in the first round where del Potro was a 6-4 3-6 7-6 7-5 victor. They did not meet again until 2016 when del Potro dismissed Haase 6-3 6-4 in Basel. They then met twice in 2017, at the Masters 1000s in Miami and Paris with del Potro winning in straight sets on both occasions. He then won 6-4 5-7 6-2 in Miami this March.
Path to the second round
As the third seed, del Potro enjoyed a first-round bye and thus has not yet taken to the court in Toronto. But he was in action last week in Los Cabos where he made a run to the final, defeating Marcos Giron, Egor Gerasimov and Damir Dzumhur without dropping a set. In the title-match, however, he was crushed by the red-hot Fabio Fognini, who won his second title in just three weeks after also winning in Bastad.
Haase, unseeded, opened his campaign against Kei Nishikori. The Japanese was the heavy favourite going into the match having made the final the last time the ATP Tour stopped in Toronto (lost to Djokovic). But it was Haase who took the first set, edging out Nishikori with a late break. Thereafter he was virtually unchallenged as he romped home to a 7-5 6-1 victory, despite Nishikori’s attempts to make a late stand.
How do they match up?
The centrepiece of del Potro’s formidable arsenal is his monstrous forehand. No one in the game hits it bigger off that wing than the Argentine as evidenced by the 107 mph winner he struck against Nadal in their epic Wimbledon quarterfinal last month. His serve is also formidable and will force Haase to return at his best. His backhand, though the least effective of his shots, has improved considerably since his return from wrist surgeries and is no longer a weakness to be exploited.
Haase cannot match del Potro’s power, although it’s hard to think of anyone that can, but he can inject a fair amount of pace into the ball himself with his forehand. But his game relies more on variety than power. He will look to unsettle del Potro by giving him a variety of looks and spins and by ghosting into the forecourt when the opportunity arises. He is also an excellent server and will be trusting in his power when stepping to the line to keep del Potro at bay.
Haase played superbly in his victory over Kei Nishikori and he appears to have a real affinity for playing in Canada. But whilst del Potro has not had much success in Toronto or Montreal since reaching the final in 2009 (lost to Murray), he should have too much for Haase in this one. He’s been one of the best players in the world this season and is rightly the world #4. Expect to have too much power for Haase in a straight sets win.