Del Potro Strikes Back In GQ Feature
The 6'6" Argentine, who beat Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer en route to his maiden Grand Slam title nine years ago, shared his memories of his run in 2009, the injuries that followed and his unique bond with tennis fans:
The stands are packed with fans dressed in blue and white, waving the Argentinian flag. Del Potro waves to the crowd, which morphs into a wall of cell phones, ready to record his every move on court. He’s only a few minutes into his warm-up before the fans start singing the familiar refrain heard at all his matches. “Ole, ole ole ole, Delpo, Delpo!”
At an earlier practice, a young girl started weeping at the mere sight of him. She held her arms out to him until he came over to comfort her. It’s not pity for his injuries that inspires so much devotion from his fans; it’s how he’s recovered from them.
“I take the really sad moments with me to the court,” del Potro says. “I’m able to transform all that energy, and from it create strength, faith, and a will to honor everything I’ve gone through. I use the memory of those painful moments as a weapon to keep fighting.”
Soon he’ll leave Miami and return to his hometown of Tandil for a well-earned rest. Tandil was founded around a mysterious boulder that teetered precariously on the edge of a mountain, defying gravity. The rock eventually fell, splitting into two at the bottom of a canyon. A replica of the rock was built and put back in the same spot, this time engineered not to fall again from the mountain. The rock is cemented there, no longer by luck but by science and technology.
In Argentina, del Potro is often referred to as the Tower of Tandil. He has fallen, been put back together, reconstructed, and now stands stronger than ever. He’s not an underdog anymore. He’s not fragile. A kid in the stands holds up a sign that says “Delpo the Gentle Giant,” and I think, Sure, kid. This is the kind giant who grinds opponents’ bones for his bread.