US Open 2013 –  Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) vs. Lleyton Hewitt (AUS)
Arthur Ashe Stadium – 7 pm EDT
Tonight’s marquee match will feature 2 former US Open winners. It has been a few years since either man won it, with Juan Martin winning most recently in 2009 and Hewitt winning 12 years ago in 2001.
In many tourneys between 2003 and 2008, Hewitt was beaten at various stages by the eventual champion, usually Federer, sometimes Nadal or Roddick. In 2004, Hewitt became the first man in history to lose to the eventual champion at each of the slam events. Lleyton Hewitt also had a host of major injury problems since 2008, where he incurred an injury to his left hip in March, which eventually required surgery after further damage to it at the Olympics. Hewitt eventually came back to form in 2009 at the US Men’s Clay Court Championships where he won his first title since 2007. He then played at Wimbledon where he beat Juan Martin del Potro in straight sets in the second round and went all the way to the quarterfinals where he was defeated by eventual finalist, Andy Roddick in a 5 set thriller with two tiebreaks. He then lost to eventual finalist Roger Federer in the 2009 US Open.
In 2010, he suffered a hip injury to his right side after the Australian Open where he lost in the 4th round to Federer again. Again it required surgery. He returned eventually, and finally won a title in Halle, defeating Roger Federer, snapping a 15 match losing streak since 2003. He lost at Wimbledon to Djokovic in the 4th round. He suffered a leg injury in Washington DC., and lost in the first round of the US Open. He then suffered a season ending wrist injury in a Davis Cup loss to Belgium. In 2011, Hewitt underwent surgery on his left foot, returned after 3 months, and suffered an injury to his ankle defending his title at Halle. In Atlanta, he again injured his foot, and it ended his season. He returned in 2012, and had a good run to the 4th round, defeating Andy Roddick and Milos Raonic before finally losing in 4 sets to Novak Djokovic. After the succeeding Davis Cup, Hewitt finally had surgery to insert a plate into his left toe. I think you have the idea of Mr. Hewitt’s misery.
2013 started off nicely for Hewitt where he won an exhibition, the AAMI Kooyong Classic, defeating Raonic, Berdych, then Juan Martin del Potro in the final on hard courts. But he disappointed in the Australian Open losing to Janko Tipsarevic in the first round. He finally found form on the grass at Queens Club, where he beat Querrey, Dimitrov, and Del Potro to advance to the semifinal, but lost in 3 sets to Marin Cilic who would shortly thereafter be apparently facing a doping suspension. At Wimbledon, Hewitt upset #10, Stan Wawrinka, in the first round, but inexplicably fell to Dustin Brown in the second round. He made it to the final in Newport, but was defeated by Nicolas Mahut after serving for the match. His form continued to look good in Atlanta where he made it to the semifinals.
After Juan Martin Del Potro won his 2009 US Open, great things were expected of the gentle giant. Unfortunately in 2010, as he advanced to world #4, he suffered a right wrist injury very early, which he tried to play with at the Australian Open, and it got worse. It persisted, and he finally decided to have surgery in early May. Del Potro was not to return till 9 months later where his rank had fallen to close to #500. In 2011, he finally won again at Delray Beach. He also won in Estoril on clay, and then in Davis Cup helped defeat Serbia in the semifinal winning both rubbers versus Tipsarevic and Djokovic. Later in the year, he suffered a slight shoulder injury, but returned to play the final in Davis Cup against Spain, where he had a heartbreaking 5 set 5 hour loss to David Ferrer, and then a 4 set loss to Rafael Nadal. Del Potro ended 2011 at #11 and was named 2011 ATP Comeback Player of the Year.
2012 was a very successful year for Del Potro, especially toward the latter stages where he beat Federer in Basel, who had previously dominated the results during the year, beating Del Potro in the finals or semifinals or quarterfinals of their previous 6 tournaments during the year. These results included a marathon 4 and a half hour loss to Federer at the Olympics and a 5 set loss at Roland Garros. In 2012, Del Potro still won 4 titles in Marseilles, Estoril, Vienna, and Basil, and finished the year as #7 in the world. During the year he had some minor problems with his knee and left wrist, but overcame them.
In 2013, Del Potro won in Rotterdam, then at Indian Wells successively beat Tommy Haas, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, before succumbing to Rafael Nadal in the final. Del Potro withdrew from Roland Garros with a viral infection, but returned to Wimbledon and advanced past David Ferrer to battle in a fine but ultimately losing effort against Novak Djokovic in a 5 set, 4 hour and 43 minute semifinal thriller, the longest semifinal in Wimbledon men’s singles history. He came back to win the Washington, DC, CitiOpen tournament, beating John Isner in 3 sets.
Against each other, they have split 4 ATP/ITF tour matches, Hewitt beating Del Potro on grass easily at Wimbledon 2009 and in 3 sets at Queens just this year, but losing on hard courts of Washington, DC in three sets in 2009 and San Jose in two in 2011. Hewitt did defeat Del Potro rather easily at this years AAMI Kooyong Classic exhibition on hard courts, but read into that what you may.
I believe it will be a good battle. Both men appear to be in good form and in relatively good health.
They both won in 4 sets, though it appeared that Del Potro had the tougher time with Guillermo Garcia-Lopez that included two tiebreakers.
One has to favor Del Potro on hard court as one would favor Hewitt on grass, but Hewitt can give a good account of himself on hard courts. They’ll be playing at night with forecast of nearly 80 F./26 C. and breezy conditions but relatively low humidity.
I think this match comes down to a couple of keys. Will Hewitt be able to force Del Potro to hit enough shots to make errors, and use enough variety to move Del Potro around the court out of his comfort zone, or will Del Potro be able to use his fearsome forehand to blast Hewitt off the court?
Hewitt definitely moves better on grass than Del Potro, but on hard court it is a bit different story. Hewitt has the better return. Del Potro probably the better serve. Each player has a high degree of mental toughness, but I think Del Potro may have a bit higher at this stage in their career, and has consistently been playing better opponents. Del Potro has had better results in New York.
For those last two reasons, I’m going to give a slight edge to Juan Martin Del Potro, but Lleyton Hewitt is certainly able to beat Juan if Juan Martin is off a bit and Lleyton is firing on all cylinders.
Juan Martin del Potro to defeat Lleyton Hewitt in 4 or 5 sets.
Good luck and good health to both players!