Juan Martin Del Potro will look to continue a solid run this week as he battles Gilles Simon for the 7th time, when the two meet at the Mercedes Cup. Del Potro and Simon have split six career meetings, but the Argentine has won twice on grass versus the Frenchman.
(4) Gilles Simon vs Juan Martin Del Potro
The fourth seed was able to wiggle past Jan-Lennard Struff in his opener 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 on Thursday. Simon was solid overall. He faced just three break points with all of those coming in the second set. He won over 80 percent of his first serve points and nearly two-thirds of his second serve points. Simon improves to 37-25 in his career on grass with that win. He comes into this grass swing off the most success grass court season of his career in 2015. Simon made the semifinals at Queens Club, the quarterfinals at Nottingham and then the cherry on top with a quarterfinal run at Wimbledon.
Del Potro’s decision to skip Roland Garros to prepare for the grass court swing is paying off with solid returns to this point. Del Potro dusted aside Grigor Dimitrov in round one 6-4, 6-2 and followed that up with a neat 6-4, 6-4 win over John Millman on Thursday. The Argentine’s serve is noticeably crisp on grass this week. Del Potro has not faced a break point and is winning a sizzling 89 percent of his first serve points this week. His second serve has been tidy along with a good ground game to get him through to the quarterfinals.
Both grass court meetings between these two took place ages ago. Del Potro topped Simon in three tight sets at Wimbledon in 2001 and then saw him off in three sets at the 2012 London Olympics 6-1, 4-6, 6-3. Both those matches featured a similarly crisp Delpo as Simon had a difficult time breaking his serve down. The Argentine was broken just once in each match. Simon won their last meeting in Marseille in 2013. That came indoors via a 6-4, 6-3 score line.
This figures to be the best test for Del Potro this week as he’ll face the best defender he has seen in Simon. Simon will force him to play those extra shots, which should challenge Del Potro to show a bit more in his ground game. Del Potro will hope that he can control the match with his wicked first serve that seems to be firing on all cylinders this week. The more cheap points he can craft with that weapon, the better for his chances of advancing.
Simon would of course prefer to get Del Potro into some more prolonged rallies. That’s his game. Make your opponent have to make an extra shot or an uncomfortable shot. This is a challenge that Del Potro has not had to face this week and not much in his comeback this season. These are the sort of matches that should make him more “match tough” as the season wears on.
it will be interesting to see if Simon can get into Del Potro’s serve enough to get rallies going. If he can, I would expect him to test Del Potro’s backhand whenever possible. That’s the stroke that Del Potro seemed most concerned about with the wrist and the one that might still be more prone to errors right now. For Del Potro, it should be about his serve in determining the outcome. If it’s at the level we’ve seen most of this week, he’s got a great shot to get to the semifinals.
Del Potro wins in three sets