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Big four still there: Del Potro
Robert Grant
15:36 AEST Wed Jan 9 2013

Of tennis' elite quartet, Roger Federer is a year older, Rafael Nadal has knee issues and Andy Murray is a grand slam rookie.

Nevertheless, along with world No.1 Novak Djokovic, these four, who have won 32 of the past 33 majors, will continue their lockout.

That's the view of Argentinian Juan Martin del Potro, the only player from outside this virtually impenetrable group to have loosened their grip in recent years.

The towering world No.7 broke the pattern when he beat Nadal and then outlasted Federer to win the 2009 US Open.

And he might have elbowed his way past Murray into the club had he not been slowed dramatically by a wrist injury in 2010.

For del Potro, a seat at the top four table remains as elusive as ever in the immediate future.

"It's not strange because they are so good and they make the difference every tournament from the rest of the players," del Potro said after defeating Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-4 3-6 7-6 (7-3) in his first match of the Kooyong Classic on Wednesday.

"Maybe this year another name can win a grand slam. All the top tens are good players and they have (the ability) to win a grand slam."

Del Potro said Federer at 31 was not slowing and dismissed Nadal's on-going battle with knee injuries which have kept him out of action for the past six months and contributed to his absence from next week's Australian Open.

"They are the favourites and Rafa is coming soon. He is still working on his knees and he will be back very, very soon," said del Potro.

"That group is the best in the world and we are trying to get close to them day by day but it's not easy," he said.

Del Potro made a big comeback from his injury in 2011, jumping 246 spots on the world rankings and winning two titles.

Last year he returned to the top 10 and he said he was now in peak shape, with his eyes set on another major.

The most likely one of the four, he said, would be another US Open, where conditions suit him - even if a few of the players don't.