Argentina overcame the odds on Sunday to win the Davis Cup for the first time. They were 2-1 down heading into the final day and looked destined to be runners up for the fifth time, after previously coming up short in 1981, 2006, 2008 and 2011. But wins for Juan Martin Del Potro and Federico Delbonis saw them defeat Croatia to claim the title.
Del Potro produces amazing comeback
Del Potro and Leonardo Mayer had been on the receiving end of a four-set loss in the crucial doubles rubber on Saturday. The only silver lining from that defeat was the simple equation Argentina were left with – they had to win the two singles rubbers on Sunday. That seemed unlikely, especially given the fact that Del Potro (who had also played on Friday) would have to overcome world No.6 Marin Cilic before Delbonis faced the big-serving Ivo Karlovic.
Those odds lengthened further when Cilic, inspired by a home crowd in Zagreb, powered into a two-set lead. But Del Potro won the next two sets with late breaks of serve in each to set up a decider. Despite quickly falling a break behind in the final set, the Argentine reeled off six of the next eight games to complete a two-set comeback for the first time in his career. The match finished 6-7 (4-7) 2-6 7-5 6-4 6-3 in favour of Del Potro after a mammoth four hours and 53 minutes.
Argentina’s partisan travelling support, including iconic footballer Diego Maradona, had reason to hope following Del Potro’s win but the odds remained stacked against them. The final match saw Karlovic up against Delbonis, with the Argentine yielding 21 places to the Croatian in the rankings. However, Delbonis played the match of his life to defeat Karlovic comfortably 6-3 6-4 6-2. He read the famous Karlovic serve magnificently, limiting him to just 67% of first serves won (down on an average for 2016 of 82%).
Watch out in 2017
Argentina’s Davis Cup triumph was the first in their history, and it was fitting that Del Potro played such a vital role in the win. He has enjoyed an excellent year in 2016 following his latest comeback from injury. He beat world No.1 Andy Murray in an astonishing five-set match in Glasgow during the Davis Cup semi-final. That came shortly after he had reduced previous No.1 Novak Djokovic to tears by defeating him in the first round of the Olympic Games in Rio. The popular Argentine went on to claim a silver medal, losing out to Great Britain’s Murray in the final.
Del Potro is therefore one of the best male #Tennis players around at the moment. The fact he isn’t ranked in the top ten is purely down to injury. He is only 28 years old but has already missed close to three full seasons (2010, 2014-15) due to wrist injuries. His current ranking of No.38 is testament to his superb season, as he began the year ranked just inside the world’s top 600.
The top players including Murray and Djokovic will have an eye on Del Potro in 2017. He is one of very few men who has a proven ability to challenge at the major events. He won the 2009 US Open at the age of just 20, defeating five-time champion Roger Federer in five sets. That is the highlight of his 19 career titles to date, but he is sure to add to that number providing he stays injury-free.
Del Potro will be a very dangerous player to face at the Australian Open in January. If unseeded, he could be drawn against any of the top-ranked men as early as the first round. Expect him to continue to surprise when the new season starts in the New Year.