Delray Beach has been a safe haven for Juan Martin del Potro. A winner of the event back in 2011, the Argentine has always enjoyed the enormous amount of fan support that he receives in Florida. He used this tournament to mark his long-awaited return to the tour last season and has used it again to help send a message to the tennis world that he is truly here to stay. Coming into a tournament that featured a player like Milos Raonic, Del Potro knew that he had to play well from the first match. Going into his quarterfinal encounter against the touch American, Sam Querrey, the Argentine knew that he had to step it up.

The Del Potro backhand held up

Due to his multiple wrist surgeries, the one shot that has been affected the most is the backhand. Unable to hit the ball with as much pace or direction as he used to, the Argentine now relies more on precision and depth. Sam Querrey plays a very standard American style of tennis in that he has a huge serve and loves to hit the forehand inside out. As the match went along, Querrey took every opportunity to direct his forehands into the Del Potro backhand, thinking that eventually, it would break down. Del Potro was forced to fight against his natural aggressive inclinations and instead chose to extend the points until he could run around his backhand to hit a powerful forehand.

As a viewer, you could see that Del Potro was using his head to think of ways to construct and win points. Playing and succeeding against a player like Querrey will give Del Potro unbelievable amounts of confidence because it shows him that he can still compete at the high level without needing to have his powerful backhand.

A major test awaits in the next round

Del Potro’s prize for reaching the semi-final is a date against top-seeded Milos Raonic. One of the hardest working players on tour, Raonic came from a set down (in his last round) to advance to the final four. These two currently have a tied head to head record against one another. Each man won a match against the other in 2013, but due to Del Potro’s injuries, their potential rivalry was cut short.

That head to head can almost be thrown out of the window because neither man is necessarily in the same place that they were during that period.

Del Potro was healthy and was only beginning to experience the wrist problems that would lead to extended absences from the game. Raonic had yet to reach a major semi-final (at that point) and had much less confidence than he does now. A match that will feature huge amounts of serving, Del Potro knows that he will have to bring his best brand of tennis if he is to advance to yet another final in Delray Beach. He also knows that a win against Raonic would send a signal to everyone in the locker room.