Del Potro: 'I Will Never Forget This'
Argentine's comeback on the up despite US Open defeat
His US Open journey is over for 2016, but Juan Martin del Potro leaves with a sense of belief that he belongs back among the ATP World Tour elite after a confidence-boosting run to the quarter-finals. The 2009 champion had to rely on a wild card just to make the main draw and it took a two-time Grand Slam champion, Stan Wawrinka, to end his hot streak.
Having spent much of the past seven years sidelined with wrist operations, including the past two US Opens, the 27-year-old Argentine arrived in New York City at No. 142 in the ATP Emirates Rankings. His run to the last eight included upsets of three seeded players, without the loss of a set.
Third seed Wawrinka would gain revenge for a Centre Court loss at Wimbledon. The 31-year-old Swiss stepped up to seal a 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory on Arthur Ashes Stadium in the early hours of Thursday morning, but the result was enough to convince del Potro he was well on the comeback trail.
With Wawrinka closing on victory a boisterous New York crowd broke into chorus, urging the Argentine on. “I can lose the match, but I will never forget this,” del Potro said. “It’s bigger than winning any match.
“I'm so proud to get that from the crowd, because I have been putting in a big effort to play tennis again. They made me so happy tonight, and I don’t mind the score.”
It was del Potro’s first Grand Slam quarter-final since Wimbledon 2013 and his run catapults him back into the Top 65 in the ATP Emirates Rankings. Timing his thunderous forehand to full effect once more, del Potro admits match fitness after such extended breaks from the game is still a work in progress.
“I think my tennis is starting to respond as I want, but physically I'm still down,” he said. “I'm not in the same level as these guys. I need to just stay healthy and wait for the pre-season to get 100 per cent for next year.
“I'm already Top 100, so that's good. Never will I ask for wild cards anymore. And everything here is positive for me. I'm so glad for that.”