US Open Men’s Singles Final Preview Juan Martin del Potro Vs Novak Djokovic

Photo courtesy of wikipedia commons.

The US Open final is set and it’s a good one- Juan Martin del Potro (3) versus Novak Djokovic (6). So, the big question- Who Will Win?

What’s at stake: For Novak Djokovic, a 14th slam title, tying Pete Sampras, and a 3rd US Open title (previously won 2011, 2015).

For Juan Martin del Potro, a 2nd slam title, his 1st coming in 2009 at the US Open when he was just, in his own words,  ‘a kid’.

Favors: del Potro. The Argentine has nothing to lose here. An extra slam on his resume would be a worthy addition, and he would join the likes of Yvgeny Kafelnikov, Sergi Bruguera, Pat Rafter, Lleyton Hewitt, and Marat Safin as two time slam winners, but win or lose, this is his first slam final for nearly ten years and a step forward in his career.

del Potro is also a big match player. Djokovic is, too, and arguably the greater of the two considering their respective resumes. However, when del Potro plays a big match, he turns up to play, while the same cannot always be said for Djokovic who has been a little flat in some big matches.

However, Djokovic is unlikely to be anything less than fully pumped up this US Open final after writing himself back into the all time great narrative at Wimbledon, and 14 slams would not only tie him with the great Pete Sampras, but also leave cut his haul deficit to four behind Nadal and seven behind Federer.

That pressure to tie and close in on his all time Great rivals might tell on Djokovic if del Potro comes out swinging and finding his mark, and the Serbian is prone to letting pressure get to him in slam finals. (He’s won 13, but also lost 9 times and is 2-5 in New York, the event at which he has lost the most slam finals.)

Path to the final: Novak Djokovic has beaten Martin Fucsovics (4 sets), Tennys Sandgren (4 sets), and then defeated Richard Gasquet, Joao Sousa, John Millman, and Kei Nishikori, and all in straight sets.

Juan Martin del Potro did not drop a set on his way to the quarters, beating Donald Young, Denis Kudla, Fernando Verdasco, and Borna Coric, before beating John Isner in four sets and then defeating Rafa Nadal 7-6, 6-2, ret.

Favors: del Potro. He’s had arguably the tougher route to the final and the first set versus Nadal in which he dropped serve when serving for it at 5-4 and then managed to pull himself together and take the tiebreak was as tough as any period of play Djokovic has encountered bar the Serb’s struggle with Fucsovics in round 1.

Surface: The US Open courts have been slowed down this year, according to the tournament director.

Favors: Djokovic. The slower the hard court, the better.

Conditions: Both men have had to play in some of the, reportedly, toughest conditions of the Open era, though Naomi Osaka pointed out it was not too hot for her as she trained in Florida, and both men have had great success playing in hot humid conditions in years past.

On Sunday afternoon, 4 pm, the weather in New York is forecast as 19 degrees with showers, which would mean the final would be contested under the roof.

Favors: Djokovic. But not by much. del Potro is also a handy player indoors and has even more margin for error on his forehand side.

Head to head: Djokovic leads del Potro 14-4 and has never lost to him in a slam (leads 4-0, 2-0 at US Open). On outdoor hard courts, Djokovic leads 7-2. On indoor hard, Djokovic leads 3-1.

del Potro’s wins have come on outdoor hard in Rio (16) and Indian Wells (’13),  on grass at the 2012 Olympics, and on indoor hard in the 2011 Davis Cup SF (won 7-6, 3-0).

Favors: Djokovic.

The match up: Aggressive defensive baseliner (Djokovic) Vs Aggressive baseliner (del Potro).

del Potro has his serve and forehand which can help him get short balls from Djokovic and hit winners.

Meanwhile, Djokovic has the return to break the del Potro serve, the point construction and speed to move del Potro around, force errors of the forehand and thus unravel his strength, and break down the weaker backhand side.

In this match up, del Potro has to serve in the mid to high 70s, go for his shots, and be firing on the forehand if he is to have a chance of winning.

Favors: Djokovic.

Form: del Potro was cruising through the draw until Isner engaged him in a real contest and played effective and aggressive tennis under a lot of pressure in the tiebreak versus Nadal in the semis.

Most encouragingly for del Potro is that the Argentine has been hitting his double handed backhand a lot more aggressively than of late, making that side no longer a much exploitable one, a factor which is, alongside his return to good physical health, perhaps the key to his reappearance in a slam final.

Djokovic has been playing some very nice tennis, particularly versus Gasquet and Nishikori. The Serbian has been serving particularly well, too, and is playing with great rhythm.

Favors: Djokovic. He has won 11 matches in a row and was in his element versus Nishikori.

Fans: Tennis darlings don’t get much bigger than del Potro and there will not just be the Tandil army out to support him, but many of New York’s Argentinian residents and his legion of fans.

Djokovic will also get plenty of support from Serbian locals and his fans, however neutrals are more likely to be cheering for del Potro considering his well documented struggles with wrist injuries and his easy natural charm.

Favors: del Potro. The US Open is one of the noisiest venues on the pro tennis circuit and it will get a lot noisier when del Potro hits a winner or has break or set point. Djokovic has, however, seen it all before, such as versus Roger Federer in the 2015 final, and come out on the other side the champion.

Prediction: The current US Open conditions and surface are where Djokovic thrives and he is coming off a Wimbledon and a Cincy win. As much as sports entertainment would be better served by a del Potro win, the nitty gritty of tennis, the match ups and favorable conditions, means Djokovic most likely has this in five sets.

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Christian Deverille

Christian Deverille is a tennis writer with a diploma in Freelance Sports Writing from the London School of Journalism. He loves all things tennis, most of all the Federer and del Potro forehands.
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