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By Chris Oddo | Tuesday March 13, 2018


Watch out tennis world, Juan Martin del Potro just keeps getting better. Could the best be yet to come for the 29-year-old Argentine?

It’s starting to look and feel that way.

Del Potro was dominant again today, flashing bursts of power from both wings, and blanketing the court with his fluid movement and long levers to power past David Ferrer, 6-4, 7-6(3).

Del Potro dropped just six first-serve points and faced the only break point as he forced Ferrer to buckle beneath a barrage of high-octane groundstrokes that should send fear through the heart of the men’s singles draw at Indian Wells.

Del Potro is the only Top 10 player remaining in his half of the draw, and he very well could be the only player with a shot at stopping Roger Federer from defending his title at the BNP Paribas Open.

He’s been back in the game for over two years since returning from multiple wrist surgeries (the grand total of surgeries is four--three on the left, one on the right), but in many ways Del Potro is still developing trust in his body and confidence in his strokes. He has always made it clear that he was in no rush to sacrifice his health before he felt he was ready, and because of his conservative approach, Del Potro avoided his two-handed backhand for nearly a full year, hitting primarily slice. When he did hit it he was more nudging it than cranking it.

Over the last year we’ve seen Del Potro start to gain comfort with the backhand again, and today he struck it with authority.

It may not be the backhand it used to be (though if you watch the video above you might say it's pretty darn close now), but it seems like with each passing month it is closer and more potent. Perhaps more important is the fact that Del Potro believes the whole difficult process has made him a more complete player, and he has confidence in his ability to deploy different tactics to win matches.

“I know I'm playing a different game than few years ago,” he said on Tuesday. "I mix it up with the slice, dropshots. I try to come to the net more often than years ago. And I think I like—I like the way I'm playing now. It's more fun to watch, also. And I improved on other things in my game as my volleys and slices, and I think I have a complete game at the moment.”

Del Potro’s part-time reliance on the backhand slice has given him great feel for the shot. Now he can use it as a neutral ball or as a defensive shot to help him reset the point. He can also use it to transition to the net, or just for variety. And as his two-handed topspin backhand comes back into the fold, he has the potential to be a befuddling player that can hurt opponents with more than just power.

The improvement in his backhand is obvious, but the World No.8 still claims that he has much work to do. If he really does keep improving the shot, watch out.

“I'm not good enough with my backhand at this moment of the tournament,” he told reporters. “I know I could hit much better than I did today, and I need a better backhand to keep winning and to improve my ranking and my game. But it's day-by-day work. I do treatments for my wrist. And after all that things, I came to the court and practice my backhand, but does take time and I'm still dealing with that.”

Playing on the slow, high-bouncing surface at Indian Wells, Del Potro has looked extra lethal. His height and stellar movement allows him to make contact in his ideal strike zone, and he is allowed more time to get in position. On the other side of the net, Del Potro’s power makes it difficult for opponents—the Argentine is one of the few players that can hit winners on a gritty, slow-playing surface.

It happened often today against Ferrer as the "Tower of Tandil" earned his 20th lifetime win at Indian Wells. Expect it to continue to happen for the 2013 runner-up and don’t be surprised if he’s back in the final or even holding the trophy on Sunday.

Del Potro’s long road back to tennis has been traveled wisely. And now he’s starting to reap the benefits of his hard work, determination and patience.

Kohlschreiber Knocks off No.2-seeded Cilic

Philipp Kohlschreiber snapped a personal 12-match losing streak against the Top 10 by defeating World No.3 Marin Cilic, 6-4, 6-4. The German now owns an impressive 7-4 lifetime record against Cilic and he advances to face Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France in the round of 16. Hugues-Herbert advanced when Gael Monfils retired due to a back injury after falling behind by a set and a break to his compatriot.


Jack Sock fell to Feliciano Lopez in the night session, 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-4, while Marcos Baghdatis became the only qualifier to enter the round of 16 with a 7-6(5), 6-4 win over Dudi Sela.

American Sam Querrey edged Indian qualifier Yuki Bhambri, 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4, while Leonardo Mayer got past qualifier Taro Daniel, 6-4, 6-1.

32nd-seeded Milos Raonic also advanced, 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, over Portugal’s Joao Sousa.

The men will take center stage on Wednesday as all eight round of 16 matches will be played.

 

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