As only the second man to beat Roger Federer in a grand slam final, Juan Martin del Potro underlined his credentials as a future world number 1 in New York last night. A big server, he offers a massive challenge to anyone’s return game as he showed against a man with arguably the best return game around. He also possesses a smooth set of ground strokes but it was with neither of these that I was most impressed.
Standing at 1.98m, he is a big guy. This obviously contributes to his serve ability and reach but it is how he is able to move his large frame around the court that was striking. He has great acceleration and fairly solid footwork that when combined with his size makes him a difficult opponent to pass. Although sometimes the position he gets into to hit from the baseline looks a little untidy it is nonetheless effective and is something he has plenty of time to work on. If he betters his movement into his baseline shots he will become more consistent and reduce his unforced errors.
At 20 years old time is on his side and his game will continue to grow and develop as Andy Murray’s has over the last 2 years. If he improves at the same rate it would be a brave person that would bet against him adding to his first grand slam title.
For 13 years now, since Tim Henman broke into the top 30, British tennis fans have had high hopes of being able to celebrate a grand slam winner. In Andy Murray I think we have that winner. He is without doubt a very talented tennis player, a trait he shares with a lot of players within the top 50, but something has set Murray apart these last few years that has led him to rise through the rankings amongst these other players.
The LTA has had a big part to play, they have invested heavily in the last couple of years developing a world class talent identification and long term athlete development pathway. This, I’m sure, will bare fruit in the next few years despite the criticism they received after performances at Wimbledon in the summer. They have a fantastic facility at the national tennis centre in Roehampton and have a very talented sport science support team in place there and it is from this that Andy Murray has been able to benefit.
The one facet many commentators on the game discuss is his fitness, or more specifically his strength and conditioning. He has developed a bigger serve which he is able to hit very consistently throughout the whole match, his ground-strokes are very powerful and his movement around the court is quick and clinical which allows him to execute the rest of his game very effectively. His s&c coach, Jez Green, should take a bow. Not only have these gains come relatively quickly, but they have done without his competition performance suffering, no mean feat with a tour tennis player where you’re not sure what facilities you will have access to week on week. I know the work and effort Murray must’ve put in is huge and I don’t underestimate it for a second. But I also know the work and effort needed to get those gains as a coach is huge, that too shouldn’t be underestimated.