Juan Martin del Potro used to bust his rackets with the best of them. In a bind and needing to release some pressure, the racket was usually the first to go.
But nowadays, you may have noticed that he feigns a downward swing but hesitates…
This is because Delpo has a funny quirk: He refuses to give up his outdated Wilson KFactor Pro Staff.
A year and a half ago, at the US Open, he was down to four frames. Now as we approach the first Slam of 2014, he’s down to two. And he’s been forced to enact some conservation measures.
“I was close to change, but I’m not feeling 100 percent at the moment,” said del Potro. “Hopefully me and Wilson, we want to change, [we are] really close and really soon. I need to change racquets because I use [the same racquet] a lot. I think the other guys, they have advantage to me when they play with six or eight racquets in one match.”
By professional standards, these frames are ancient: carbon fiber, a matte silver showing through the paint’s chips and scrapes, while the grommets, beaten and splayed, are shot through with a patchwork of reinforcing plastic tubing.
“We are working really hard to find a good racquet for me. I mean, if I change the racquet during the off-season, then I came here to play a Grand Slam and I don’t feel 100 percent. Your mind start to working in the negative position. It’s not easy for the players change the racquet. But I’m proud to have Wilson behind me, because I know they are working really hard.”
His two remaining sticks are both roughly five years old, but think about the trophies they’ve helped him win: They were by his side during that magical run through the 2009 US Open Series, leading up to his win over Federer at the US Open in a match lasting over four hours.
While there’s a lot to be said about superstition, this is putting Del Potro at a serious disadvantage.
Then again, if Fed continues his eye-catching form, Delpo won’t be needing the extra sticks…