Tribute: Delpo Returns To The Top 10
ATPWorldTour.com pays tribute to del Potro on his return to the Top 10.
If you want to be inspired and witness unbreakable faith; a steadfast resilience that awakens when your very livelihood is under threat, listen to, and watch, Juan Martin del Potro today.
The splintered career of the Argentine star evokes, unlike almost any other tennis player over the past decade, not only great admiration, but also genuine and universal sympathy for what has happened; what might have been and for how, in spite of repeated setbacks and long periods of doubt, his charm and personality remain unaltered.
Almost nine years after he first broke into the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings, del Potro has overcome all manner of hardships and is deservedly back among the sport’s elite competitors.
The tennis-playing life of del Potro, who is one of the greatest talents of the past 15 years, can be categorised with an asterisk as: before (multiple) wrist surgery, and after. The common dominator, through four operations over five years (2010-2015), is del Potro’s ability to crush the ball off every shot. All except one stroke is now hit flat, ever since 4 May 2010, the day Dr Richard Berger, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minneapolis, conducted right wrist surgery.
Mark I (2005-2010). For five years as a pro, del Potro dipped into every backhand, hyperextended his wrist and made contact with tennis balls that soon fizzed back flat. He soared into the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings for the first time on 6 October 2008, the following year aged 20 he captured the US Open title (d. Federer), finished as the runner-up at the Nitto ATP Finals (l. to Davydenko) and soon rose to a career-high No. 4 (11 January 2010). With an 8-3 record in tour-level finals, thoughts of a ‘Big Five’ arose, yet, privately, pain in his right wrist began to surface.
Mark II (2011-2014). Upon his return from surgery, Del Potro set himself early, catching his racquet on the backswing and accelerated down, striking a low, slow one-handed slice backhand to out-manoeuvre, rather than overpower his opponent. Having fallen as low as No. 485 in the ATP Rankings on 31 January 2011, within 12 months he’d been restored to the Top 10 (30 January 2012) and two years later he’d got back to a career-high No. 4 (27 January 2014). There remained a lot of apprehension that mis-hitting or over-hitting could trigger the pain to return.
Mark III (2015 to present). Over the past three years, Del Potro’s forehand and serve still give his opponents sleepless nights, but they are now executed with perhaps even greater power and accuracy as compensation for three further wrist surgeries on 24 March 2014 (joint), 20 January 2015 (ligament) and 18 June 2015 (tendon) that have rendered his double-handed backhand the weakest part of his game.
Del Potro could have easily thrown in the towel when, at No. 1,045 in the ATP Rankings on 8 February 2016 and after only two tournaments in the previous 24 months, he began yet another comeback. In eight of his past 14 years as a professional, the “Tower of Tandil” has undergone two or three hours of treatment every day. The gentle giant does it to keep playing the sport he loves at the very highest level.
Today, the star known universally as “Delpo”, has returned to the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings for the first time since 4 August 2014 (No. 10). It is a product of consistency in training and on the match court, of determination and application, and of emotional upheaval and sacrifice. Every athlete has one career. Del Potro is making the most of his.