Del Potro's Forecast: 'Cloudy Days' Give Way to Sunshine
Juan Martin del Potro has been through it all in his career, coming back from four wrist surgeries to reach a career-high No. 3 in the ATP Rankings last year. But instead of focusing on the negatives of his latest setback — a patella fracture he suffered last October that has limited him to just one tournament since then (Delray Beach) — the Argentine just wants to move on, starting with this week’s Mutua Madrid Open.
“I think that right now I'm in a good situation and emotionally I'm feeling pretty well and I think that the negative things, you have to leave them aside and right now, I'm trying to focus on the positive things,” Del Potro said. “It's a good thing to be here and I'm thinking just to move forward and with all the experience that I have, try to do the things properly, try to do it once again, try to face the problems and just be back and do my best.”
This isn't the lowest Del Potro has fallen, currently sitting eighth in the ATP Rankings. In February 2016 he fell to 1,045th as he recovered from the third of his three left wrist surgeries.
“Emotionally, I've found some similarities to what I experienced a couple of years ago, especially in the past month, when I had a couple of cloudy days,” Del Potro said. “As soon as I injured myself, emotionally it was very frustrating because I was fighting at a very high level for important things.
“In those moments, where you maybe are not so positive, or where you are not so strong, of course I started to remember the memories of the past and I started feeling what I might have felt a couple of years ago.”
The ‘Tower of Tandil’ says that he nor his team believed this knee injury would take a long time to recover from. He still feels some pain at the moment, but is doing everything he can to return to full health.
“I'm feeling good progress. I'm progressing day after day. For me to be here in this tournament is another step in order of my build-up towards my final recovery, in order to be at full strength and really fit,” Del Potro said. “Day after day, I'm feeling better. I'm starting to train with better players, which gives me a lot of rhythm. And that's why I'm starting to be fitter and it's true that I need time to be able to adapt myself to this rhythm. I think that now is the right moment to do it and that is why I'm playing here this week.”
Del Potro is trying to work his way back into match shape, competing in doubles with Japanese star Kei Nishikori. It’s his third time playing doubles in Madrid, making the semi-finals with Mardy Fish in 2009 and losing in the first round with Dominic Thiem last year. But it’s not necessarily about the result for the Argentine, but getting out on the court.
“For me to play a doubles is quite important, to test myself, to move myself around the court, to start feeling my body inside the court,” Del Potro said. “In an official match, not only in the training, the feelings after playing the doubles are what you are expecting and what I'm looking forward to and there are no strange things happening in that match, I will probably play the singles match with a lot of joy and I will face it better.”
The 30-year-old is a two-time semi-finalist on the Madrid clay. He also made the quarter-finals in 2008, the tournament’s last year played on indoor hard courts.
“I always like to play in Madrid. I always feel comfortable. I have had good results in the past. Conditions here are quite good for me. The tournament is incredible, I feel the support of the people. It's amazing here,” Del Potro said. “I love it in this city. And overall, this tournament is one of the best ones in the world. All the players will feel really comfortable here with the city, the food, everything. It is an overall experience that makes it a really high level tournament.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Del Potro does not expect to be one of the players considered to have the best chance to win this ATP Masters 1000 tournament. The seventh seed will begin his campaign against one of two Serbians: Rio de Janeiro champion Laslo Djere or Monte-Carlo finalist Dusan Lajovic.
“For sure I'm not the favourite player in this tournament right now. Of course, Rafa is one of the favourite players because Rafa dominates, and on clay I think that Dominic is one of the players that can beat Rafa,” Del Potro said. “Roger is playing here too and the conditions, I think they suit him.
“We have also seen surprises in the past, of powerful players, that they serve well and there are a lot of players like that on the circuit. Of course, the favourite players are always the same ones, and while Novak is the No. 1 and all that he represents, he will be on that list. He will be a favourite player to win this tournament.”