September 26, 2010

Return of the Man

You know the feeling when you comeback to work after a long vacation and it seems like everything has changed? Your passwords don't work, your desk is on the other side of the floor, you're now reporting to a new manager?

Well a lot has happened in the eight months since we last saw Juan Martin Del Potro in Australia. Roger Federer reclaimed the title in Melbourne after a three year absense, Rafael Nadal, once only the king of clay is now riding a twenty-one match Grand Slam win streak. Some new faces grace the top ten -- Mikhail Youzhny, Tomas Berdych -- while some previously unstoppable players -- Nikolay Davydenko, Andy Roddick -- seem to be just holding on to their spots.

It is into this much-changed world where DelPo will be making his return this week at the Thailand Open.

The 2009 U.S. Open champion, a staple on the American hardcourts over the last few years, pulled out of multiple Masters events in the late winter and spring due to a wrist injury and then announced he'd miss the entire summer after opting for surgery on that wrist. Without even stepping on a court he climbed to a career high rank of #4 in the world back in January, but unable to defend titles in Washington and New York, has since falling out of the top thirty.

He's still given a fifth seed in Bangkok, though, and has a wholly winnable first round against Olivier Rochus. But things get only tougher from there, as Nadal, Fernando Verdasco and another rising star Jurgen Melzer are all in the draw and they've all spent more than a few hours on the courts this year. It's not the best surface on which to launch a comeback -- hardcourts are notorilously brutal on your body -- but it's where Del Potro thrives, having won five of his seven titles on it. And, although it been a while since we've seen him, it's hard to forget the fight he's able to put up. It sure would be great to see him get a few wins in his first tournament back.

It'll be a long road for Juan Martin to get back in the top ten, and though it could be a long shot to do so by the end of the year, I don't think we'll wait long for this champion to climb into the elite again. And whatever his results in Bangkok, it'll be great to see him back on Tour.

At six-foot-six, he might be hard to miss, but I certainly have.

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