They’re both former US Open champions, share a long history together, and have been drawn to potentially face-off in the third round in New York, but Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro enter the final Grand Slam of the season in very different places and with contrasting approaches.
Del Potro is ranked a career-high No. 3 in the world and has won 37 matches this year. Only three players have posted more victories on tour in 2018. The 29-year-old Argentine has finally moved past the three wrist surgeries that nearly ended his career and is back to becoming a force to be reckoned with on the tennis court.
Already a two-time titlist this season, Del Potro has made two semi-finals and one quarter-final in his last four Slams and is now back to his beloved US Open, where he has experienced his first and only major title triumph back in 2009.
“I’m feeling good. I’m in good shape. As everybody knows, this is my favourite tournament on tour, which I have big expectations at, playing in New York,” said a cool and confident Del Potro on Friday ahead of his first round against American qualifier Donald Young on Monday.
The ‘Tower of Tandil’ has reached the quarter-finals or better in five of his nine US Open appearances and has a 29-8 win-loss record at the tournament.
New York often has a magical effect on Del Potro and last year, he came back from the brink against Dominic Thiem despite being ill and trailing the Austrian two-sets-to-love. He went on to defeat Roger Federer in the quarters before losing to Rafael Nadal in the semis.
Buscando un poco de ritmo. 😂🕺🇲🇽 pic.twitter.com/ZNkOkpw9fC
— Juan M. del Potro (@delpotrojuan) July 30, 2018
While he still has to be meticulous when it comes to his body and recovery, Del Potro is miles away from three years ago, fighting so hard to salvage his career.
“The most important thing that all my injuries and problems is completely in the past. Now I’m feeling good. Sometimes I have to deal with any pain on my wrist, which is normal after all my surgeries,” he explains.
“But I think it’s amazing for me just thinking about tennis, don’t talk anymore about the injuries, which is the most important thing to myself and come to this tournament thinking about my highest ranking or my big expectations playing the tournament. It’s the best things I could feel before a tournament.”
For Murray, expectations will have to remain in check for now as he slowly recaptures his pre-hip surgery form. The Scot will be contesting his first Slam since Wimbledon 2017 and is just seven matches into his comeback from injury.
He skipped the last six months of 2017 then had an operation in January that kept him sidelined until June this year. He opted out of playing Wimbledon, which means the US Open will be his first best-of-five test in 14 months.
“It feels slightly different, this one because for the last 10 years or so I’ve been coming and trying to prepare to win the event, whereas I don’t feel like that’s realistic for me this year. It’s a slightly different mentality for me coming in than what I have had the last 10, 11 years of my life,” said the 31-year-old Murray. “That feels a bit odd.”
The US Open is where Murray captured his first Grand Slam title, in 2012, after losing all of his four previous major finals. The former world No. 1 opens his campaign on Monday against Australia’s James Duckworth before a possible second round against either Feliciano Lopez or Fernando Verdasco. Del Potro could be waiting for him in round three.
“I’m happy that I’m able to be back competing again here. It was tough missing it last year. I was pretty upset at the time. Yeah, really, really pleased to be back. I’ll try to enjoy it as much as I can,” said Murray, who is currently ranked 378 in the world.
Will his body be ready for best-of-five matches?
“I need to see. I haven’t played one, so you don’t know until you actually get out there and do it. That’s the thing,” said Murray.
“I played some long matches in Washington. They were all over two-and-a-half hours, and a three-hour match. Three of them in four days. The benefit of the slams is having that day off to recover in between, which will help me.”
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