Tennis is preparing to bid farewell to one of the star players of this era. He may not be on the level of the immortal trinity of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, but he’s a player who was certainly able to lay a glove on them in terms of Grand Slam success.
Juan Martin del Potro recently made a comeback to the court after a lengthy three-year spell out of action. Fittingly, it came in his homeland at the Argentina Open in Buenos Aires after accepting a wildcard.
His return was sadly cut short as he was defeated in straight sets 6-1 6-3 by compatriot Federico Delbonis. The crowd were able to see glimpses of brilliance from Del Potro that seemingly rolled back the years all the way to his US Open triumph in 2009 and while it was poetic to witness, it was unfortunately not enough to give him the last hurrah this competition was expected to be.
Even when he was up against it in the match, he would have been comforted by the packed out crowd chanting “Delpo”, showing all the love and appreciation for only their fourth ever major Grand Slam winner of the Open Era.
He may be joined by three other of his compatriots with that prestigious honour, but the 33-year-old may have edged his predecessors by claiming his exceptional Grand Slam title in the era of brilliance with Nadal, Federer and Djokovic. He is just one of nine players since 2009 to claim one of the coveted Grand Slams. The Argentine also won the 2016 Davis Cup and in 2018 he reached his highest ATP world ranking at No3.
The South American was always regarded as one of the best players just outside of the ‘big three’ and his performances on court have been quite impressive, albeit overshadowed by that triumvirate of all-time greats.
The 2016 Olympic silver medallist’s three years away from action have drawn similarities with three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray who has had the later years of his career hindered with injury setbacks. The Briton also had his problems with adjusting back to the sport after time away and while there is no indication of an imminent retirement for him, it doesn’t look too far away.
After the emotional end to Del Potro’s defeat in Buenos Aires, it felt as though that we may have just seen the last of the Argentine great on court and while his potential send off ended prematurely, it was nice for it to be in front of a home crowd.
After embracing his opponent, Del Potro decided to hang his bandana on the net, highlighting a sign of farewell to the sport he loves. He then went to go and hug his mother who was in attendance for one of his matches for the very first time before he addressed the crowd.
He said: “Possibly we may not meet again. I will speak to doctors again. I have to take care of my knee and then we will see.
“If today was the last time, I will leave happy.”
Should this turn out to be the last time we get to see Del Potro grace the court, he can leave behind a lasting legacy in terms of what he achieved considering the pedigree of players he has had to contend with in such a ferociously competitive era.
He will be an inspiration to young aspiring tennis stars from across the world and has proven that anything is possible.