Johannesburg - After ending Roger Federer’s 17-match winning streak, Juan Martín del Potro seems ready to challenge for the next grand slam title.
With the French Open around the corner in May, the Argentinian will be one of the favourites to cause an upset on the clay court and add to the US Open crown he won in 2009.
Last weekend, Del Potro beat Federer at the BNP Paribas Open final at Indian Wells, California.
Last time the 1.98m giant played this kind of scintillating tennis was back in 2009.
The then 21-year-old prompted tennis experts to believe he was the next big thing, but a series of injuries and surgeries put paid to his blossoming, which led to his almost quitting.
However, this year seems to be like no other. He began the year on a high note by reaching the final of the Auckland Open, where he lost to Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut.
That achievement saw him breaking into the top 10 in the world rankings again for the first time in four years.
Last weekend’s title at Indian Wells followed the ATP World Tour 500 trophy he won earlier this month after beating South African Kevin Anderson.
Some of the world’s top players are still recovering from an assortment of injuries, and Del Porto took advantage and claimed his second major title.
The UK’s Andy Murray is only expected back in action in June as he is still recovering from hip surgery. Serbian Novak Djokovic and Swiss Stan Wawrinka are recovering from elbow and knee surgeries, respectively. Ten-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal is recovering from a hip injury.
An injury-free Del Porto will, without a doubt, be a serious contender for any grand slam crown, particulary after his game against Federer.
But he has downplayed his success.
“I don’t know, I’m just going my way and I’m very pleased with my level of tennis.
“I’m excited to keep surprising myself, the tour and seeing what I can do,” he told CNN website.
It was his seventh victory over Federer in 25 career clashes – one of those wins coming during his only US Open final.
“I always play well against him [Federer]. I won a couple of finals and lost a couple. In the end, I was lucky to win. We played great tennis,” Del Potro said.
With Grigor Dimitrov, Alexander Zverev Jr, Nick Kyrgios and Dominic Thiem not really featuring at grand slams, this could be Del Potro’s time to shine.