Del Potro Back in the Top 10—and Poised to Climb Higher

Rafael Nadal’s post-Davis Cup prophecy appears to be on its way to becoming a reality.

After defeating Juan Martin del Potro in the first reverse rubber, Nadal predicted the Argentine would be back in the top four at some point in 2012.

Del Potro has taken a huge step in that direction by hitting the top 10 in this week’s rankings, his first appearance back among the game’s elite in nearly a year and a half. This comes on the heels of the just-concluded Australian Open where he made the quarterfinals—the farthest he’s advanced at a Slam since his title-winning effort at the 2009 U.S. Open.

Since that time, it’s been a series of lows and highs for the 23-year-old: His ranking plummeted to the 400s after a serious wrist injury. That was then followed by a triumphant 2011, when he won two titles and worked his way back to the top 15.

Now, del Potro has made another huge step, and there’s a strong possibility that he can go even higher.

For one, there are a few players ranked above him that you would have to like his chances against. He has a winning head-to-head record against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tomas Berdych and Janko Tipsarevic. Plus, based on current form, del Potro more than likely would be favored if he had to play Mardy Fish—whom he actually has a losing record against.

While potential wins against those players could give del Potro a ranking boost, facing members of the top five would be a different story. Against Novak Djokovic, Nadal, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and David Ferrer, del Potro has a combined 9-27 record.

Still, though, he has beaten all of the top five at least once—and he’s well-equipped to do so again. Del Potro possesses one of the biggest forehands in the game, as well as a punishing serve. He’s had success on all surfaces, ranging from reaching the semis at the French Open to the round of 16 at Wimbledon. And, of course, there is that U.S. Open win.

Winning another Grand Slam title might not happen this year, given the way Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Murray have made a habit of locking down the spots in the final four in the Majors. But there’s still plenty of ways del Potro can make his move back into the top four: mainly by posting consistent results at the game’s biggest events, such as the ATP Masters Series 1000 tournaments.

If he does that, del Potro will have made a true fortune teller of Nadal after all.