Delpo ahead of schedule

By Scott Riley,
Tennis Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Good news for the ATP. Bad news for ATP players.

Argentine slugger Juan Martin del Potro appears to be well ahead of schedule as he continues his recovery from 2010 wrist surgery.

"Delpo" captured his first title since 2009 when he ran the table at the hardcourt event in Delray Beach over the weekend. The 6-foot-6 South American star hadn't titled anywhere since stunning the great Roger Federer in the '09 U.S. Open final, which he did in dramatic five-set, come-from-behind fashion to hand Federer his first loss in Flushing in six years in the process.

Note: That day also marked the first five-set final at the U.S. Open in 10 years (Andre Agassi d. Todd Martin, 1999).

Delpo went 5-0 Last week in Florida, including a sweet victory over tough Serb Janko Tipsarevic in the final, his first championship match since losing to Russian grinder Nikolay Davydenko at the '09 ATP World Tour Finals. Del Potro beat Tipsarevic in straight sets and did not drop a set all week in Delray Beach, where he upset American Mardy Fish in the semifinals and topped recent Johannesburg champion, 6-foot-8 South African Kevin Anderson, in the quarters.

Juan Martin del Potro captured his first title since winning the U.S. Open in 2009.
"Three months ago I was thinking I'll be trying to play tournaments," del Potro said. "Now I won a tournament. It's great to win a tournament after a year."

It's been a relatively long road back for del Potro, who suffered a right wrist injury during a fourth-round loss against Croat Marin Cilic at last year's Aussie Open. The injury wound up requiring surgery which kept the towering Argentine from returning to ATP action until September, a layoff of eight months which is an eternity on the pro tour.

Note: The big-hitting del Potro was riding a 10-match Grand Slam winning when he fell at the hands of the capable Cilic 13 months ago.

Upon his return late last season, Delpo proceeded to drop back-to-back opening-round matches in Bangkok and Tokyo, respectively, before deciding to shut it down for the rest of the year.

And the comeback kid's been getting it together ever since.

Sure, he was a disappointing second-round loser against former Australian Open runner-up Marcos Baghdatis at the most-recent Aussie Open. The menacing Argentine has gone 11-2 since then, however, including the title in sunny Florida. He reached back-to-back semifinals in San Jose and Memphis, losing to Fernando Verdasco and Andy Roddick, respectively, before going all the way in Delray.

Del Potro, he of that trademark crushing forehand and big serve, now owns eight ATP titles in 11 finals and a 4-0 record in finals on American soil during a career that featured his big breakthrough in 2008, a year in which he piled up an eye-popping four straight tournament wins at one point.

Did You Know? Del Potro put together the second-longest winning streak in '08, and the second longest by a teenager in the Open Era (behind only Rafael Nadal) when he rattled off 23 straight match wins over a five-tournament span three years ago.

Del Potro ended Roger Federer's five-year reign in New York two years ago.
Most thought that the Tandil native probably wouldn't find his game again until sometime in the spring. But nobody told Delpo.

Who would have thought that he'd be titling once again less than two months into this 2011 campaign?

His success in Delray now places del Potro at No. 89 in the world, as he has risen nearly 400 spots in the rankings -- from No. 484 to No. 89 -- in a torrid three-week span.

The 22-year-old Delpo reached a career high No. 4 in the world in January of last year.

Delpo's return could be bad news for people like Federer, who lost his reign in the sport to his great rival Nadal last year and has since seemingly been surpassed by Novak Djokovic, the reigning Aussie Open champ who flattened the Swiss master in a final in Dubai last week. This after straight-setting the once-mighty Fed in the semis in Melbourne in January.

And Oz Open runner-up Andy Murray has been a more-recent Grand Slam finalist than Federer, whose best tennis may be in the rear-view mirror.

"I don't know if I'm ready to fight with top-10 players, but I'm working very hard and hope to do it soon," del Potro said. "I need 20-to-25 matches before I'll really be ready to play with them, but it's coming soon."

Look out Fed...and everyone else in the top 10.

Delpo's back!

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