He had one of the strongest finishes of anyone in 2017, and he’ll have a big milestone in his sights right out of the gates in 2018 - Juan Martin del Potro is on the verge of returning to the Top 10.
Del Potro put together solid results throughout the 2017 season, but it was in the last three months where he really brought out his vintage form, winning 20 of his last 25 matches of the year - a stretch that included a title in Stockholm, a final in Basel and semifinals at the US Open and Shanghai.
Having gone into the US Open ranked No.28 in the world, he broke back into the Top 20 in the fall - his first time in the Top 20 in more than three years - and finished the year all the way up at No.11.
Here are highlights from his biggest win of that stretch - Roger Federer in the US Open quarterfinals:
So where does del Potro go from here? Odds are the Top 10, and there’s more than one reason:
First of all, he’s only 20 points behind the World No.10 (Pablo Carreno Busta is currently ranked No.10 with 2,615 ranking points and del Potro is right behind him at No.11 with 2,595 ranking points).
Second of all, del Potro didn’t even play in Australia this past year due to fitness concerns - in fact he didn’t even start his season until late February - so he’ll only be adding points for almost two months.
Finally, hardcourts are his best surface. He’s won 16 of his 20 career titles on it, including his career-best moment, the US Open title in 2009. He’s also a two-time quarterfinalist at the Australian Open, reaching the final eight Down Under in both 2009 and 2012 (losing to Federer on both occasions).
With all of that, chances are del Potro will break back into the Top 10 in Australia - or shortly after - in 2018. If he does, it’ll be his first time to be ranked in the Top 10 since the week of August 4, 2014.
He’ll kick off his 2018 campaign in a few weeks at the ASB Classic in Auckland, where he won the title in 2009 - and where he could make up that gap between No.11 and No.10 with just one win…