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Countdown To 2012 - What's In Store For delPo?

Juan Martin del Potro

del Potro© Getty ImagesJuan Martin del Potro looked to be back to his best form in the Davis Cup final.

As part of our 'Countdown to 2012' series, looks at the impact Juan Martin del Potro could have in the upcoming season.

Del Potro was voted 2011 ATP World Tour Comeback Player of the Year after rising from a low of No. 485 in January to finish World No. 11 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings. The Argentine closed the season with an impressive showing in the Davis Cup final, pushing David Ferrer to five sets and Rafael Nadal to four sets in two exhilarating clay-court contests, and the tennis world will be looking on to see if the 'Tower of Tandil' can re-establish himself as a Top 5 player and Grand Slam contender in the upcoming season.

Two years ago it was a very different story for del Potro, who had returned home to great fanfare after becoming the first Argentine player to win the US Open title since 1977, beating Roger Federer in a gripping five-set final, and finishing runner-up at the year-end Barclays ATP World Tour Finals (l. to Davydenko). But 2010 was a year to forget for the 23 year old, who was restricted to just six matches as he underwent right wrist surgery in May.

The right hander made a strong return to action this past season, winning two ATP World Tour titles at the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships (d. Tipsarevic) and the Estoril Open (d. Verdasco), reaching the final at the Erste Bank Open in Vienna (l. to Tsonga), and nearly earning one of the coveted eight berths at the year-end Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.

Del Potro is the only player outside the trio of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to have tasted Grand Slam glory in the past seven years, since Marat Safin defeated Lleyton Hewitt in the 2005 Australian Open final. The Top 3 players have accounted for every Roland Garros crown since 2004 (Gaston Gaudio) and every Wimbledon trophy since 2002 (Hewitt).

The Argentine’s booming ground strokes, including the blistering forehand that ultimately battered Federer into submission in the 2009 final at Flushing Meadows, earned him a place among the elite Top 4 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings in January 2010. The Argentine goes into 2012 as one of the most likely contenders to dislodge the ‘Big Four’ of Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Andy Murray, and could make early inroads with an impactful showing at the Australian Open, where he was a quarter-finalist in 2009 (l. to Federer).

Del Potro will start the 2012 season at the Apia International Sydney, hoping for a strong performance ahead of the first major championship of the year in Melbourne. Having already proven his Grand Slam credentials at the 2009 US Open, now fully fit and close to his best form, del Potro is set to be one of the leading contenders at Melbourne Park.

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