April 2, 2009

I'm Sorry, What Now?

Okay, so Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin Del Potro don't exactly have the long history that Rafa and Roger Federer have, or the ten-plus year rivalry of the Williams sisters. That's probably because it hasn't been that long since DelPo became a real force in the tennis world -- a year ago he was #81 in the world, he'd never gotten past the second round at a Grand Slam, he hadn't won a single singles title.

Now he's securely in the top ten, a quarterfinalist at the U.S. and Australian Opens, a five-time tournament champion -- including titles in Los Angeles and Washington.

Still, it would seem that, in a match-up between the two, Rafa clearly had the advantage. During their careers Nadal and Del Potro had met only four times and the world #1 had never lost a set. But three of those matches were in 2007, before the Argentine hit his stride, and today in Miami he was clearly in top form.

In what is -- in my humble opinion -- the biggest upset of the Sony Ericsson Open so far, Juan Martin rallied from a 0-3, two-break deficit in the third set to force a tiebreak. In total Nadal actually won two more points than his opponent, but we know that's not what counts in tennis, and DelPo was the one that walked away triumphant.

I admit that I'd almost forgotten about Juan Martin this year. Even though he'd made it to at least the quarters in every tournament he'd played -- and took the crown in Auckland -- Rafa seemed to be the one with the momentum. That ended tonight, and Juan Martin now faces Andy Murray in the semis, another player he's never beaten before.

But as he's already proven, history means nothing in this sport -- and he's surely eager to make a new mark.

Good luck!

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