U.S. Open SF preview and prediction: Nadal vs. Del Potro

When the U.S. Open draw revealed itself almost exactly two weeks ago, it had the cruel idea to pit Rafael Nadal against Roger Federer in the semifinals instead of the final. Juan Martin Del Potro had other ideas.

It will be Nadal against Del Potro, instead, after the Argentine upset Federer 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(8), 6-4 during quarterfinal action on Wednesday night. The two former champions of this event will be facing each other for the 14th time in their careers on Friday when they battle for a place in the title match. Nadal leads the head-to-head series 8-5, but Del Potro is 5-4 against the current world No. 1 on hard courts.

They have squared off only once since the end of 2013, with Del Potro prevailing 5-7, 6-4, 7-6(5) in the semifinals of the 2016 Rio Olympics on his way to the silver medal. Perhaps their most memorable–but also more in infamous than famous–encounter came at the same stage of this same tournament in 2009, when Del Potro destroyed Nadal 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 and then stunned Federer in five sets to capture his first and only Grand Slam title.

Given the circumstances, a return trip to the U.S. Open final would be even more improbable–and not just because Del Potro no longer has the same backhand he once wielded prior to multiple left-wrist surgeries. The world No. 28 was all but left for dead earlier this fortnight when an illness plagued him in his fourth-rounder against Dominic Thiem and led to losses of 6-1 and 6-2 in the first two sets. Later saying that he refused to retire only because he did not want to disappoint his throng of supporters, Del Potro found another gear and eventually triumphed 1-6, 2-6, 6-1, 7-6(1), 6-4 in hard-to-believe fashion.

The former world No. 4 preceded that result with routine defeats of Henri Laaksonen, Adrian Menendez-Maceiras, and Roberto Bautista and followed it up by ousting Federer in an entertaining but not exactly a classic four-setter. Del Potro fought off four set points in the third-set tiebreaker against Federer, eventually took it 10-8, and promptly took complete control in the fourth.

Nadal’s trouble at this event came in rounds two and three, when he trailed Taro Daniel by a set and a break and Leonardo Mayer by a set and 15-40 early in the second. The top-seeded Spaniard eventually won both of those contests in four. He also coasted past Dusan Lajovic, Alexandr Dolgopolov, and Andrey Rublev while saving six of his best sets for last–hammering Dolgopolov 6-2, 6-4, 6-1 and Rublev 6-1, 6-2, 6-2.

“He’s the No. 1 player of the world and he’s playing so confident this tournament,” Del Potro assessed. “He’s a lefty, so he has (a) chance to find easily my backhand. So I don’t know what’s gonna be my strategy for that match. But for sure I will try to make winners with my forehands and don’t run too much, because my legs are tired. (It) will be (an) interesting match to play.”

“When he’s playing well, it’s difficult to stop him,” Nadal said of Del Potro. “Probably the forehand is maybe the fastest on the tour. If he [is serving] well and [hitting] well his forehand, he’s a player that [has] the chance to win against, of course, everybody. I have to play my best tennis. I need to be very focused with my serve and play aggressive, because if you let him play from good positions with his forehand, you are dead.

“I need to play against his backhand, and then open the court, no?”

Yes, that is correct. Del Potro’s backhand came up big at crucial moments against Federer, but it will be under attack on a consistent basis from Nadal’s heavy topspin. The underdog will have no choice but to come over it with two hands more often than not. It’s a shot that can still be effective but is prone to break down when it comes to this post-surgery, not-as-healthy version of Del Potro. And when the deuce court is open, perhaps no one in the sport–except maybe Del Potro, himself–has a better inside-out forehand than Nadal.

This has been an energy-sapping fortnight both physically and emotionally for Del Potro, so the end may be near.

Pick: Nadal in 4

79 Comments on U.S. Open SF preview and prediction: Nadal vs. Del Potro

  1. Nadal in 4, wins the title. His year has been insane! THREE grand slam finals (not likely) and 2 masters 1000’s, with one 500 and 8 finals!

  2. CORRECTION:
    Nadal in 4, goes on to wins the title. His year has been insane! THREE grand slam finals (most likely), 2 grand slams (most likely) and 2 masters 1000’s, with 1 500 and 8 finals!

    • Not impossible, but unlikely IMO. I think that Delpo’s wild ride may end on Friday. Rafa should be fresher and also more relaxed now that he has secured the ATP pole position at least for another few weeks. Also, Roger made Delpo look good because of his many untypical lapses. This match should’ve gone to a fifth set. But I guess, Roger’s heart wasn’t in it anymore…

      • Interestingly Roger said in his presser that in the semis Delpo has better chances against Rafa than he himself. Now, that is a very revealing remark and supports my impression that Roger’s heart wasn’t totally committed to the match against Delpo.

        • littlefoot, I did not listen to the Roger presser, else might have kept away from Roger and saved some money or would have bet Delpo instead.

          If you would have shouted loudly about this roger’s presser remarks…myself and other bettors of fed might have backed out of a roger bet.

          Littlefoot, next time please come forward with all the info. you have well before the match starts if possible as the smallest latest info./news can affect the outcome of a match and the bettors money.

          • Roger, first of all I never bet. And Fed himself divulged that crucial bit of information about his mindset only after the match against Delpo! He never gave the betting community a fair chance, lol!

          • Huh? The remarks littlefoot quotes came in Roger’s POST match presser. Fed would never, ever talk like that before a match. He plays his cards close to his vest.

        • Well I dont agree. He had no business losing the 3rd set. He had 4 set points. Had he won that 3rd set he would have won the match. He simply got tight seeing a beauty of Delpo rocket FH both at 5 all in 1st set and in TB of 3rd. The smash miss in 4th and volley miss in 4th to set up break point was also tightness, not lack of commitment. Ofcourse the tightness can come from lack of trust in your ability to win at that time. There is now no doubt after reading the presser that he would in no way have beaten Rafa and that is a lost oppty for Rafa.

          • Sanju, I agree: Fed had no business to lose that third set – but he did. And managed to waste four set points along the way. Therefore the end of the third set is Exhibit A for my argument.

  3. Nadal should really win against Delpo.
    He will constantly attack his backhand, nobody dies it better.

    I just don’t see Nadal losing.

  4. Rafa is not gonna let this one slip away. He is going to win this in 3 or 4 competitive sets. I will give my reasoning a bit later.

    • vamosrafa, why don’t you give your reasoning now as people can bet on nadal confidently and big.

      Nadal had hiccups in the 1st 3 rds (just like Federer had) at the start against lajovic, Daniels and Leo Mayer. These could be the tremors before the real earthquake comes in the form of Delpo!

      There are many indicators pointing to a Delpo win…but I want nadal to win…because all my research is pointing to a Delpo win in 4…same way as Delpo won against Federer.

      If you can detail your strong reasoning for a nadal win now and here, will help me shift my bet from Delpo to nadal.

      Other factors working in favor of Delpo are:-

      1) Delpo is a natural hard court player. His playing style is more suited to hard. nadal’s playing style is suited to Clay and will not work against a strong, genuine hard court player and definitely won’t work against a GIANT hard court player like Delpo who has the:-

      i) hard court game

      ii) Greater physical strength and reach than Nadal

      iii) Is in better form and confident than Nadal…having beaten Thiem and “Roger Federer the Goat”

      iv) Is highly motivated to win his 2nd US Open Title

      v) Has the support of the Argentinian fans, who may be in the 100’s but are more vocal and passionate than the 1000’s of Americans/Spanish fans!

      vii) Has the bigger weapons and more weapons on hard than Nadal

      vi) Has won the last TWO (2) H2H matches against NADAL that too on hard courts!

      vii) Delpo seems to be in good health and has recovered from the Viral sickness…indicated by his fine win over “Roger Federer the Goat”.

      viii) Nadal hasn’t really been tested so far in this tournament {but still struggled initially in the 1st 3 rds against low ranked players…one of whom was his fan and melted like Ice (Rublev)!lol but Delpo is not Rafa’s fan. Interviews show that Rafa is kinda scared of Delpo!} but Delpo has been tested by Agut, Thiem and Federer…thus making Delp more confident and dangerous to all the top players in the world!

      The only negative I can think of for Delpo is that:-

      1) Delpo mat be a bit extra tired having played 1 set more than Nadal. Delpo

      played 18 sets to 17 for Nadal. Not a big factor I think.

      2) His backhand may be 10% weaker than Nadal’s. But Delpo’s Nadal stood the test against Federer and should be ok with nadal as Delpo will make nadal worry more about Delpo’s powerful serves and forehand missiles.

      vamosrafa…how many more reasons do you need to understand that Delpo has too many advantages over Nadal to win this match comfortably!

      3) Nadal has 1 extra days rest.

      I gave you 8 strong reasons above!

      What is your reasoning in favor of Nadal…besides the above three(3)?

      Max. handicap points on Delpo (+4.5) and Over 39 games may be a good bet, IMO.

  5. I agree, maybe he loses a set at most.
    He will come out really hot and not allow Delpo any eit rhythm. Plus, Rafa’s best shot goes against Delpo worst. Plus Rafa will make it so physical. Rafa wins in 3

    • Delpo is prepared for it and anticipates it. He said it in his presser that match with Rafa will be harder than against Roger and that Rafa is lefty and he will attack his BH relentlessly and make him run and tire him. He knows what to expect.

      • I am a huge RAFA Fan but this guy Delpo makes me so nervous. We said the same about his chances against Fed but the result was quite different. Delpo can make this a contest and if his forehand and serve hold up, we are in for a real cliffhanger..Hope Nadal attacks the backhand and breaks him down but it is touch and go. Delpo is serving Missiles..

  6. My point is DElpo had wrist injury even during OLympics last year and Rafa could use that same game plan yet he narrowly lost. So its not a given. Delpo feeds on adrenaline and that he will get in plenty from crowd. Ofcourse we cannot forget that Rafa came back to OLympics just from injury.

  7. For the first time I have doubts about Rafa against this Delpo. Rublev was not a fair yardstick, too far down Rafa’s level. Rafa’s serve has not been tight enough this NA HC swing, too easily broken. Delpo only needs to nick a game a set or a TB point or two and it’s game over because Delpo’s serve is going to be difficult to break.

    I hope Delpo has an adrenalin crash, really do. If he plays at the level he plays against Fed, he will pull off an upset. I say upset because Rafa is coming in as the favourite.

      • RITB, I understand and share some of your doubts. Rafa really hasn’t been tested so far. But he’s healthy, well rested and supremely motivated for sure. And he has the monkey of having to defend his No 1 ranking against Roger off his back. Some of the pressure should be gone.

        • And their last encounter in Rio should not be overestimated. Rafa was still not healthy then, and was also tired because of playing singles and doubles – and winning the Gold Medal with Marc 🙂
          Tomorrow will be a whole new chapter in their modest rivalry.

          • @littlefoot, I will not watch the match live, my nerves will not take it. A lot of these players appear to develop a second wind when they see Rafa across the net. I bet Delpo will be scurrying around the court like a spring chicken.

            Vamos Rafa!

            • Yes, Rafa seems to have very often a very uplifting effect on his opponents. Rublev just didn’t get it, lol!
              I’m not very good at watching life either. I prefer the canned version myself, when I’m rooting for a player.

            • I will watch live but mute it, so that I won’t need to listen to the commentators’ blah blah blah the whole match. Watching live without any sound works for me, I won’t be as nervous even though I may shout at my tv screen when Rafa frustrates me.

      • Delpo will have the crowd. The usual noisy Argentinian contingent will be complimented by Fedfans. Just as well Rafa has experienced this in Paris………

        • Yup, but he can deal with that for sure! And the roof will probably be open.
          Rafa will not lose because he’s flustered by the crowd 😉

        • Rafa can handle that as he has played in DC away ties often. I doubt Rafa will be affected this time, after what he had gone through at RG in 2009.

  8. I know Rafa will lose the first set bcos of nerves and adjusting to the crowd support for Delpo. New York just loves this guy a lot this year more than ever, and I understand. Rafa has already complained about the noise, lol!

    However, I expect Rafa to regroup and execute his strategy with full aplomb and win the final three sets in a tight encounter, expect perhaps for the last set where Delpo will feel tired form all that running, lol!

    Rafa wants this, he really, really, really wants this!!!

    Vamos, Rafa!!

  9. On paper should be Rafa, but seeing Delpo coming back to SLAM semi is certainly not to be under estimated. this is the only slam he gets to semi, plays his best and he does not have mental block here.

    Either Rafa in 4 or Delpo in 5.

  10. Rafa will attack his back hand till it breaks down. I am relaxed.
    Also, this is a virtual final. There is more pressure. Deplo wont be as relaxed

  11. All those mentioning the Rio encounter, sure it is important to consider it but circumstances are different. Some people have already highlighted the differences above so I won’t repeat those and only add a different one:

    -Rafa had employed a very different serving tactic in that match. If anyone remembers, he was in the phase of experimenting with an abnormally wide positioning on the ad court! I never liked that strategy and no wonder Rafa reverted to his usual positioning soon after. In that match, that positioning allowed him to avoid Delpo’s forehand return but his first serve’s ability to win free points was heavily compromised IMO.

    The conclusion I am making from the above is: Rafa’s serve will be much more effective. Delpo also hasn’t played Rafa with the latter’s improved 2nd serve. I expect Rafa to serve really well and take advantage.

    • I agree with vr. We need context when it comes to Rafa losing to Delpo in Rio. We have to remember that Rafa just came back from the wrist injury. It would turn out to not be the best decision, because he aggravated the wrist and ultimately had to pull the plug on the season.

      This is a healthy Rafa. That is a huge difference. His serve is much improved. He knows how dangerous Delpo can be. The crowd will not affect Rafa. If it was Fed then he would have been dealing with that. I remember how pro-Fed the crowd at the AO final was throughout the match.

      It will be a tough match because Delpo has gotten on a roll now. He’s had two really tough matches and won. That should give him confidence. But this is not going to be the 2009 USO. If Delpo or anyone else thinks so, they are making a big mistake.

      • nearly all of Rafa’s forehands falled into servebox in that olympic SF and still lost in 3rd set TB with a huge net approach mistake . this Rafa wont be even on edges i think .

    • Rafa should also probably have won the Rio match!! He had control of it then went into his shell playing safe after making a couple of mistakes on the forehand…
      His serve forehand and backhand are all better now and he has moya

      • I wasn’t surprised when I woke up and saw delpo had won. Before the match I was thinking of his match against nole at Wimbledon when he was on one leg after beating ferrer. He took nole to the limit that day and I honestly wonder if being injured or otherwise disadvantaged doesn’t make him more dangerous as he plays on sheer heart with the crowd going wild for him.. And man does delpo have a big heart!!

        • Frankly, I wasn’t surprised either. I had a hunch that Roger in his slightly diminished state might not be that eiger to face Rafa who apparently managed to play himself into form. Maybe, Roger would’ve converted one of his four set points in the third set if Rafa had lost or at least struggled some more.

          • Roger is susceptible to these thoughts. It’s not outright tanking. But as he himself has admitted now and then, his motivation can take a real dive when he assumes he might run into difficulties in his next match.

  12. If Rafa was not a lefty, I would say this match will be close. I see Rafa simply playing against DelPo the way he used to play against Fed- pound that lefty forehand repeatedly to DelPo’s backhand over and over and over. Except what makes it even harder for DelPo is that Fed at least can step in and take the backhand early, ripping winners. Del Po doesn’t have that anymore- just a slice! That combined with how tired he will have to be by then, I just can’t imagine Rafa losing even a set… The only way DelPo can win is if, similar to his match against Fed, he serves absolutely lights out and gives nothing to Rafa on his serve, and if Rafa’s level isn’t that high and/or he hits too many UE. As long as Rafa has a tidy match, I see Rafa winning the title in 6 straight sets. I predict that it will end up being the easiest major win of Rafa’s career. The guy deserves an easy run at the title given how many times he’s fallen in hardcourt finals the last 3-4 years. I hope for the sake of the sport that the match is competitive. I just don’t see it happening. Although I never in a million years saw him beating Fed in the condition he was in after the Theim match, so maybe I shouldn’t sell him short?

    • Dont sell him short. He will give Rafa all that he has and throw the kitchen sink and more at Rafa. I think hardly anyone picked Delpo over Fed here as he had flu and went to 5 and he said in presser, earlier win was enough :-)..but he proved all wrong. He loves to turn up against Rafa, Roger, Novak at slams

      • That’s precisely why I just would be so shocked for Del Po to make the final- if he is really as sick as he is, he just can’t possibly have enough left in the tank his next match. I hope we get a 5-set classic, but I can’t help but be skeptical!

  13. one point everyone is missing….Delpo just cannot serve the same way against Rafa as he did in the quarters. Remember quarters was indoor!
    Semis will be outdoor, no chance of rain. With some wind, that level of serving from Delpo is highly unlikely. This means more rallies and more chances for Rafa to attack his bh.

    • Santu, why can’t it mean this way?…More rallies=more chances for Delpo also to attack the weak forehand with his powerful flat forehands, besides more chances for Rafa to attack delpo’s bh also?

      Delpo beat fed in rallies besides in the serving department, right? It is going to be attack & counterattack the whole match. The FH’s of each will attack the weaknesses of the other! It will be a battle of the FH’s here. If Delpo doesn’t tire out or get injured or sick, I give him a 51% chance of winning.

      To break the resistance of wind you need power and Delpo has loads of that in his forehand, right?

      This should be a close fight ending in 4 or 5 sets.

      Sanju who are you betting for finally and how much $$$?

      • I dont think Rafa will let him use his ferocious fh. He will continue hitting to his bh until it breaks down. what he did to Fed until 2017.

        • Exactly what I think will happen, atul. Del Po’snonky chance is to continue serving lights out, and dictating most of the points in his service games. If he can get a high percentage of first serves in, then Rafa would mostly not be able dictate and go constantly to DelPo’s backhand. However, if Del Po doesn’t serve well, then that will allow Rafa to attack the second serve and return it well to Del Po’s backhand. I really think the quality of this match will likely all come down to how well Del Po serves. If he can’t serve well, it’s hard to imagine him beating Rafa, especially in the condition he’s in.

      • Ricky says Rafa in 4. That’s probably as good a prediction as you are going to get. As a gambler you know that nothing is 100% guaranteed. Whichever guy plays best will win.

        Btw, Rafa is an excellent wind player, regarded by some as the best ever. The roof over Ashe has hurt him some, even when it’s open. The court is now less windy. Before it was a very tricky court with odd swirly breezes sweeping through. Rafa didn’t like that any more than the rest of the field did, but he handled it better than most.

  14. Thanks for the highlights Sanju, loved all except the 2013 FO semi, reason being the net incident which tainted the match for me, and the Novak fans on another certain forum parroting about how unlucky their guy was not to win that match, just cringe now everytime i see or here about that match now ….

    • Djoko has had misadventures with overheads over the years – that one is one of the more infamous. Rafa says he was a “little bit lucky” there. Rafa also says “a match is a lot of points”.

        • Exactly my point. Novak snatched a very close one that could go rafas way had he not narrowly missed the bh in ao12 . .same for Rafa here…

          Similarly rafa has beaten Roger over many close ones in a slam over the years so he deserved the final top this time. It always can’t go one person’s way amongst top players.

    • Alison Hodge says AT 6:54 PM: “…the net incident which tainted the match for me…”
      ===
      You shouldn’t let yourself be intimidated by Djoko fans who don’t know the tennis rules.

  15. Delpo in 4. I have no doubts. Nadal’s partially “parabolic” balls are a clear advantage for Delpo, a solemn invitation to his strong and lethal forehand. Rafa has no chances against him, but we will see…

  16. I can’t see Nadal losing this one with so much on the line. He will push Delpo to the absolute limit to win it in terms of defense and offense.

    Nadal blinked in the Aus Open final with a lot on the line, i don’t think that will happen again here.

    This is really a final also and we know what Nadal is like in finals.

    Nadal in 4.

  17. Juan Martin Del potro might win in 4 sets or 5 sets but if Rafito wins this match not only will R. Nadal win the title but he deserves to win it.

  18. Your arguments did not help me decide who ti put my phone bill/water bill money on. I think I’m just betting over 41 games then since everyone says it’s tight.

  19. I am strongly backing Stan’s prediction of Juan Martin Del Potro to win in 4 sets or 5 sets. If DelPo wins this SF, he will definitely win the 2017 US OPEN title.

    I have listed 8 strong points why Delpo should win the 2017 US OPEN in one of my above posts. Check it out and respond/discuss in detail here 1st b4 betting!

    BB = Delpo +4.5 handicap points, over 39 games or whatever number your bookie gives

    As with an additional days rest (saturday), Delpo should be able to beat Kevin Anderson in 4 or 5 sets in the FINALS and become the 2017 US OPEN Champion for the 2nd time.

    Tomorrow Kevin will beat the clay courter PCB ( who has looked good beating low level qualifiers and brain washing many bettors here to bet and lose money on him…just like somebody was brainwashing all of us to bet on CoCo Vandeweghe…who was smashed 6-0,6-1 by Madison Keys. Same can happen to PCB or over can hit as all spanish dogs are great fighters…who will fight hard until the end!) in 3 or 4 or 5 sets (it all depends on how much PCB wants to fight b4 he loses like in the previous 2 easy H2H match loses!lol). PCB losing in 3 or 4 sets is most likely. Over can hit but not betting on it or bet just small on it.

    BB = Kevin ML,-1,-2,(can try -3,-4 or more in LB)

    I hope this helps Uncle SAM(lol) in making up your mind to bet…with your phone bill/water bill money!

    WARNING:-

    Just as Cigarette smoking & drinking alcohol is Injurious to health, betting blindly without doing your own 100% thorough research is dangerous for your pockets/Bank Balance!lol

    Just as you own the Cancer caused by drinking Cigarettes (after smoking/drinking Cigarettes & Alcohol much against your doctor’s, Family, Friend’s and Relatives advice), own your betting profits as well as your losses without blaming the Cancer (lol or anyone!)!lol

    • Roger Moore, in WTA, What’s you pick? I’m rooting for Stephen Sloanes to win over Madison Keys. Is it good or what do you think?

  20. even with an injured wrist , rafa was so close winning at the olympics last year . this delpo is better than that delpo ; but this rafa is better at least 5 times than that Rafa . Best player to create the game on playing opponent’s backhand on tour . He is THE specialist on that . I’ll go with Rafa in 4 , wont be easy but wont be tough as hell either .

    • The term, “at least 5 times”, is exaggerated. IMO. If he’s really 5 times better, then, you should have picked, Rafa in 3 (or scoreline 6-1 6-1 6-1).

      • I mentioned 2016 model Rafa . yes he is 5 times better now and yes still he may lose a set . that is not exaggerated , delpo is playing decent as well but if you still want a bet option , go with over 3.5 set betboy 🙂

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