The 198cm-tall Argentine went from No.12 in late April to finish the year at No.7, his first top 10 finish since 2009. His rise was helped by going 65-17 and winning four titles in 2012, claiming Olympic singles bronze and scoring significant wins over Federer and Djokovic.
Strengths: Del Potro’s forehand, when struck cleanly, is possibly the most devastating shot in the game. The racquet head speed he generates and the flat trajectory with which he hits makes the ball shoot through any court on any surface. His backhand, although less potent, is a safe and reliable shot while his booming serve puts him immediately on the offensive in many points. He moves exceptionally well for someone of his size, and his stature unquestionably makes him an intimidating on-court presence.
Weaknesses: Though his flat shots make for an appealing point of difference on the topspin-mad men’s tour, this style of play provides little margin for error. And while he’s been a top player for many years, the question remains as to whether he truly believes he deserves his place in the game’s upper echelons. He has a near-reverential respect for the Big Four, which might explain his combined 10-32 career record against this famous quartet.
Opportunities: Healthy again and playing regularly after a wrist injury wiped an entire year from his playing career, “Delpo” appears to be steadily regaining his form of 2009, which saw him win his one and only Grand Slam title at the US Open and later peak at world No.4. Unlike most players on tour, the Argentine knows what it takes to win a major, and at Melbourne Park he’ll have no trouble adapting his big-hitting game to the Plexicushion – hardcourts are his most productive surface.
Threats: While del Potro will be confident against almost any opponent, one frequently spells trouble for him – Roger Federer. What’s more, the Swiss great has a habit of getting in the Argentine’s way at Grand Slam events, especially at the Australian Open, where he demolished Del Potro in both the 2009 and 2012 quarterfinals. Del Potro has won just four of 17 career meetings with Federer, but somewhat encouragingly, won the last two of their eight battles in 2012 after six straight losses.
Craig Tiley, Australian Open tournament director
“Del Potro is the big killer because he has a big game. He’s won a Grand Slam title before at the US Open. If del Potro can put two (solid) weeks together he’ll be tough to beat. He reminds me a bit of Marat Safin – if he can put seven solid matches together, two good weeks together, and stay healthy, then he can have a run.”