Rafael Nadal vs. Juan Martin del Potro
When I first looked at the US Open draw, I thought Rafael Nadal is probably going to win this event. I did not feel that Nadal had played great in Montreal or Cincinnati, but I felt he had a a draw filled with guys he should beat. One of the things Nadal has done for over a decade is regularly beat players he should beat. That is a mark of greatness even if it doesn’t sound that exciting to say, “He won when he was favored.”
This match is an interesting challenge for Rafa. JMDP represents his first opponent at this event in which victory is not something one would expect with a high degree of certainty. If Rafa loses, it won’t be by the 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 scoreline that JMDP hung on him in the 2009 semifinal round, but JMDP knows he can beat Rafa at this stage of the US Open. He also beat Rafa at the semifinal round of the Rio Olympics. Delpo has a huge serve and an elephant gun forehand. His post right wrist injury slice backhand can also be an issue. Finally, he is tall. Rafa’s high bounding spin is not apt to bother JMDP as much as it would most other players.
So JMDP Wins? Maybe not. Rafa is faster, has a more versatile backhand at this stage of their careers, Rafa is #1 in the world, and has the ability to move JMDP around. I think the match will hinge on two questions. How often can Nadal make Delpo have to move out of his comfort zones to strike the ball? How often can Delpo drive some two-handed backhands to mix up rallies and threaten Rafa? Delpo put in 67% of his first serves versus Roger Federer and won 81% of his first serve points. If that happens, the path to victory for Nadal will involve at least one tiebreak. So a third question is how well can Rafa pressure Delpo’s service games?
I am not sure of the answers to these questions. I can see this match going twenty different directions. However, I need to make a prediction. Shockingly, I will pick the #1 seed because as I started out Rafa tends to make what is supposed to happen a reality.
My Prediction: Rafael Nadal d. Juan Martin del Potro 6-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4