Sunday, February 27, 2011

One Step At A Time

There is no three title run for Nicolas Almagro. Such a thing was not writ in his destiny. Instead, David 'Lord Farquaad' Ferrer took the title. And he is looking gooooooooood. Australia was no fluke. David Ferrer is a force to be reckoned with and no mistake.

He is one of those dudes that, given the right draw, could go very, very deep at Roland Garros. Or even given the wrong draw. No one expected him to end up in the semis in Australia, and yet semis he made. So keep an eye on this one. No telling where he'll pop up.

He will be seeded. This we know. And he will be seeded high. So while it probably wouldn't be a top player's MOST FAVOURITE THING EVER to have Ferru land in their quarter, he's hardly a dangerous floater.

One of the other winners over the weekend, on the other hand, is. Welcome home, Juan Martin del Potro.

I don't want to go proclaiming that JMDP is 'back' in some definable sense of the word or anything like that. For one, that's not really a quantifiable concept; and two, it's a long way back up to where he was, because he was forced to fall from so very high. But winning titles is the way to get back up there - step by step, rung by rung, hand over hand on the ladder.

Sure, it was a Mickey Mouse tournament - there's not much else going on this week. But Mardy Fish and Janko Tipsarevic are quality opponents and JMDP basically ate them for breakfast. These are all good signs, positive signs. While Juan's results over the Australian summer might not have been spectacular on paper, I think they did give him some useful matchplay. Want to get your eye in? Try playing three hours against Feliciano Lopez. It's been a grinding, wearing summer for JMDP, but it is paying off.

Delray Beach is JMDP's first title since he lifted the trophy at the US Open in 2009. I don't see him lifting another Slam trophy this year - or maybe not even next year - but these signs are all good. In a lesser field, his return might be quicker. Unfortunately, we have an extraordinary level of depth in men's tennis at the moment, crowned with some truly extraordinary players at the top. If JMDP is going to get back up there, climb the mountain again, it's going to take a while. No single title win is suddenly going to propel him back among the echelons of the top ten.

But there's only one way to climb a mountain, and that's step by step. And winning Delray Beach is quite a large step - one might almost call it a leap.

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