Another major win in Del Potro's sights
Tennis giants believe Juan Martin del Potro is a perennial threat, a permanent candidate to rise closer to the top of the sport, and the Argentine himself appears determined to make the leap.
"There are changes, it was time to make decisions," he told dpa in an interview in Melbourne.
The winner of the 2009 US Open, now aged 24 and ranked seventh, wants to win another Grand Slam tournament, after the recent string of trophies claimed by Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
Del Potro has decided not to play the Davis Cup with Argentina in 2013. His disagreements with captain Martin Jaite had long been apparent, and he stressed that he would like to focus on his singles career.
Now, Del Potro is out to reduce the gap that separates him from the top of the ATP pack.
"I want to be one of the players who fight to win the major tournaments. It is crucial to be consistent. There are players who are a lot better than me, but my main goal is to get closer to them, as I already did in 2012," he said.
Federer and Djokovic regularly mention Del Potro when asked about players likely to attain success. And veteran Australian Lleyton Hewitt, a good friend of the Argentine, put him on a list of four candidates to win in Melbourne, along with Djokovic, Murray and Tomas Berdych.
"It is very important that players with whom I compete on a daily basis are saying that. They know a lot about tennis and I have played them many, many times," Del Potro noted.
"However, no one will give me anything for free. They're not going to do anything for me to get into that group of the top four, win Grand Slams or keep writing history in tennis: I have to earn that with sacrifice and a lot of training," he said.
This year, he hopes to be able to win another Grand Slam tournament, but he does not think the year will be a failure just because he fails to achieve that.
"In 2012 I did not win a Grand Slam tournament, but I ended the year seventh (in the rankings) and I won an Olympic medal, which not many people have. No one will take that away from me."
"I'd like to have Federer's play at the net, which is very good, he has a good volley and he knows how to cover the net. I'd also like to be as solid as Djokovic, who is admirable, and Murray's drop shot and effects, which I am practising and would be very good for my game," Del Potro says.
As he awaits Rafael Nadal's return from injury, Del Potro shows that he still vividly remembers that night in September 2009 when he won the US Open: he continues to carry everywhere in his bag the racket with which he beat Federer in that final.
"I played the fifth set with it, and it still travels with me," he says.
Does he turn to it, or at least touch it, at crucial times?
"No, no, I don't really think about it. But just like I have the trophy at home, I also have the racket," he said.
"It goes everywhere with me, and I haven't used it again."