Exactly one year ago, Juan Martin Del Potro and his future as a top player was very much jeopardy as he stepped foot on in Delray Beach. Known for explosive serve and groundstrokes, the Argentine was able to make it to the semi-finals with virtually no backhand. Sidelined by multiple wrist surgeries, Del Potro has not played a competitive match since the Davis Cup final in Croatia. As he embarks on his latest comeback, a plethora of questions will arise. The most prevalent being about his inability to stay healthy. Del Potro’s injury has affected his mindset and game style and it seems as though he might be need to change something.

A sliced backhand is not a winning formula

As Del Potro progressed through the 2016 season, one of the major questions was whether he could ever rediscover the destructive two handed backhand which helped propel him to the 2009 US Open championship. At his best, the Argentine could flatten the ball out and hit his backhand with tremendous amounts of power and direction. He spent most (if not all of the year) slicing his backhand and relying on the consistency and power of his forehand to win matches. Shockingly, he was able to record victories of Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal without any backhand to speak of. When he did hit over his backhand, the ball was flat but did not penetrate through the court.

His wins over the top players shows that the quality is still there but the body just won’t cooperate. Though Steffi Graf managed to go an entire career without hitting over her backhand, in the men’s game, not having a topspin backhand could be the kiss of death. The left wrist is incredibly important when producing spin and direction with the double handed backhand.

If Del Potro cannot rediscover the flexibility in his wrist, his opponents eventually will be able to pinpoint his backhand side.

A tailored schedule seems like the only option for Del Potro

To the dismay of many Tennis fans, Del Potro decided to skip the #Australian Open; opting instead to focus on recovery. Del Potro has made it clear that he wants to play tennis for many years to come and unfortunately, wrist injuries are amongst one of the most serious for a tennis player.

Last season, he only played 12 tournaments and managed to break into the top 40. For the first half of this season, he has chosen to play a very limited schedule and will adopt the Serena Williams philosophy of quality over quantity. Historically a quick starter, Delray Beach is an important tournament for the Argentine as it could set the tone for the rest of his season. Though he has not stated it, becoming a seeded player at a major should be his next goal. With better draws at major tournaments, the Argentine could make deeper runs at the majors and accumulate some much needed ranking points. Though he has not been blessed with the durability of Roger Federer, Del Potro still has time to turn around his misfortunes.