Delpo Hoists Biggest Trophy In Years
Kevin Anderson was playing some of the best tennis of his life. In only his fourth tournament of the year, the South African had already reached his third final of the season at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC in Acapulco.
But none of that mattered to Juan Martin del Potro in Mexico on Saturday night. The 6'6” Argentine outplayed Anderson for the seventh time in a row in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series (7-0), beating Anderson 6-4, 6-4 to win the ATP World Tour 500 title, his biggest trophy since 2013 Swiss Indoors Basel (d. Federer).
It's Del Potro's first title of 2018, and he had to fight through a wicked draw, including three Top 10 players, for the crown. The Argentine beat serve-and-volley throwback Mischa Zverev, four-time Acapulco champion David Ferrer, No. 6 Dominic Thiem and No. 5 Alexander Zverev before toppling No. 8 Anderson in the final.
The Argentine now has 21 tour-level titles and, what might be especially encouraging for Del Potro, this title on 3 March is the earliest in a season he's hoisted a trophy since 2014, when he won the Sydney International (d. Tomic) on 11 January.
“It's a very special tournament to me. I beat three Top 10 guys in the same tournament, which is very important for myself. I'm so glad to win my 21st title playing in Acapulco,” Del Potro said.
The 29-year-old Argentine is projected to rise to No. 8 in the ATP Rankings, switching spots with Anderson. Their seventh FedEx ATP Head2Head matchup, their first meeting in a final, was a heavy-hitting contest, as predicted. Del Potro and Anderson were exchanging powerful strokes from both wings before the Argentine seized his opening, coming back from 15/40 in the seventh game to break Anderson on his first break-point opportunity.
Anderson would push Del Potro to deuce but no further as the Argentine served out the set. In the second, a scary fall at 1-1 pushed Anderson off his game. The South African approached the net at 15/0 but tweaked his left leg when Del Potro lifted a surprise lob.
Two points later, at 15/40, Anderson received treatment from the trainer but he couldn't recover in time. Del Potro smashed a forehand crosscourt winner for the break. He'd finish with 26 winners. After the final, however, Anderson downplayed the effect his fall had on the match.
“It was a little bit uncomfortable at first... I think in the bigger picture of things it didn't really affect things too much,” Anderson said. “I think he played really well. He's obviously a tough competitor and a great player. I just needed to do a little bit more today.”
Del Potro later served out the final before raising his arms and screaming in celebration. “[Anderson is] a very dangerous guy. His serves are so strong but I got lucky in the important moments of my return games, and I broke just twice and that was the key of the match,” Del Potro said.
He now heads to the BNP Paribas Open as one of the top contenders to bring home his maiden ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title. Del Potro will receive 500 ATP Rankings points for winning the Acapulco title and $354,130 in prize money.
Anderson, who finished as a runner-up for the second time this year (Pune, l. to Simon), will receive 300 ATP Rankings points and $173,610 in prize money.
“I can take a lot of confidence going into Indian Wells and Miami, two tournaments I really enjoy playing. I feel like I'm playing really good tennis,” Anderson said. “As always, I'll pick myself up. I'll try to learn as much as I can from tonight's match.”