You have to thank your lucky stars if you are a tennis fan. First, tennis lovers were fortunate enough to get a healthy Juan Martin del Potro back this year after two wrist surgeries robbed a major chunk of his last two seasons. And now, thanks to the Davis Cup semi-finals, the tennis world will get to see him clashing with the Olympic champion Andy Murray just a month after the two set the Olympic Tennis Centre in Rio de Janeiro on fire!
This time too, both of them have nationalistic pride to fight for in this showdown on indoor hardcourts at Glasgow. While the British No. 1 will hope to continue his country’s Davis Cup title defense, a rejuvenated Del Potro – the Argentine No. 2 – will push to give the four-time runners-up another chance to win their maiden title at this premier team competition.
This semi-final tie surely can’t get off to a more blockbuster start!
The head-to-head record of these two Grand Slam champions, who know each other from their junior days, perhaps does not do justice to how engaging this rivalry is. Murray apparently looks very comfortable with a lead of 6-2 over the Argentine.
But if one makes a closer inspection, one will notice that just a single match out of their eight meetings has finished in straight sets. That surely makes for a tantalizing prospect.
After being out for so long, the 27-year-old Argentine is slowly making his way back up to the top tier. At Rio, he gave enough glimpses of his brilliance on his way to finishing the second best. With an array of monstrous forehands and a backhand that is still not as effective as before, Del Potro accounted for the likes of the World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, the 14-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal before stretching Murray to four sets in a spectacular final.
That inspired the 2009 US Open winner to make it back to the quarter-finals at the Flushing Meadows where an emotional Del Potro was seen shedding a few tears as his army of fans kept chanting vociferously for him. Del Potro is clearly feeling the love and is thoroughly enjoying himself on the court again. His passion for his sport remains the same as ever despite the hardships that he had to face the past couple of years. If anything, the currently-ranked World No. 64 is only too happy to get more meetings with the elite players of the game.
The ‘Tower of Tandil’ had been a part of two campaigns where Argentina reached the final – in 2008 and 2011. Delpo has no pressure right now and is the underdog in this clash which might prove to be deadly for Murray, who has had an exhausting summer winning the Wimbledon and Olympic titles and reaching the final at Cincinnati.
Considered the co-favourite to win the 2016 US Open title, the World No. 2 shockingly let the 2014 runner-up Kei Nishikori come back into their quarter-final clash and snatch a win in five sets. The British No. 1 unfortunately also has a personal setback to deal with. A day before the tie, the 29-year-old lost his paternal grandfather and his Davis Cup duties would prevent him from attending his grandfather’s funeral.
But being the professional that he is, the three-time Major winner is expected not to let that affect him as he takes the court on Friday. But if the match wears on and Delpo can find his range and gets into his aggressive mode, chances for an upset cannot be ruled out.
All in all, it is supposed to be a riveting encounter and all eyes will be on it especially after the absorbing play both produced at Rio just a month back.
When things spiralled out of control
There are, however, reasons other than just tennis that makes this match-up even more fascinating. Consider their very first Tour meeting at the Rome Masters in 2008. Eight years ago, the start to their rivalry was an inauspicious one. Far less mature then, the two were involved in a spat where Murray alleged that Del Potro had made an insulting comment about his mother.
They have long buried their differences though. Being elderly statesmen of the game, they surely won’t allow any such tantrums now to spoil their latest meeting which happens to be the very first time that they will cross swords in Davis Cup.
Having said that, playing for one’s country does make it a totally different affair. Emotions run high, the ambience is always a super-charged one and more often than not, the crowd too becomes an integral part of the Davis Cup matches.
The stage is thus set for a grand spectacle at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena. Suffice to say, this will be one battle that is absolutely not to be missed!