DELRAY BEACH, FL, USA - Juan Martin del Potro missed the Australian season due to fitness concerns but started hitting again in Argentina a few weeks ago, and he’s currently making his final preparations for his 2017 season debut at the Delray Beach Open, which kicks off on Monday.
Del Potro is a fan favorite and always one of the biggest threats for the title wherever he plays, but given it’s been a few months since he’s played, here are just a few reminders of his greatness:
1. He’s a Grand Slam champion, and he won that Grand Slam title the hard way. Del Potro’s triumph at the 2009 US Open as a 20-year-old was a breakthrough for a number of reasons, but the most impressive reason might be that he had to go through Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer to do it. He stunned Nadal in straight sets in the semifinals then outslugged Federer in five sets in the final, snapping Federer’s 40-match US Open winning streak that dated all the way back to the 2004 event.
Not only had Federer and Nadal won 17 of the previous 18 majors, the only other one in that stretch going to Novak Djokovic, but nobody had beaten both Federer and Nadal at the same major before.
2. He’s climbed as high as No.4 in the world - twice. Del Potro first reached his career-high ranking of No.4 in 2010. Later that year his career was completely derailed by a wrist injury, and he bottomed out at No.485 in 2011 - but he clawed his way all the way back up to No.4 in early 2014.
He fell as low as No.1045 in 2016 after more wrist injury struggles - he’s currently back up to No.36…
3. He’s a two-time Olympic medalist. Del Potro doesn’t just bring out his best tennis at the Grand Slams, he can bring it out on any big stage. And in his two Olympic appearances he’s always come away with a medal, earning a bronze at the London Olympics in 2012 (falling to Federer in a marathon semifinal before beating Djokovic in the bronze medal match) and then a silver at the Rio Olympics in 2016 (edging Nadal in the semifinals before falling to Murray in the gold medal match).
4. His injuries keep knocking him down, but he doesn’t stay down. He’s had a total of four wrist surgeries: right wrist surgery on May 4, 2010; left wrist joint surgery on March 24, 2014; left wrist ligament surgery on January 20, 2015; and left wrist tendon surgery on June 18, 2015. No wonder he’s won the ATP World Tour Comeback Player Of The Year award twice (2011 and 2016) and was a Comeback Of The Year nominee at the Laureus World Sports Awards this year (Michael Phelps won).
He even broke his left pinky against Marin Cilic in the Davis Cup final last year - and won the match.
5. His ranking has no effect on how dangerous he is. Anyone who’s almost even against World No.1s - del Potro is 8-9 - can never be overlooked, but even more incredible is how low del Potro was ranked when he got his most recent win over a World No.1 last summer at the Olympics. He beat Djokovic in the first round in Rio when he was No.141 in the world (and went all the way to the final).
A few weeks later he reached the US Open quarterfinals at No.142 in the world, which made him the lowest US Open quarterfinalist in 25 years (since a No.174-ranked Jimmy Connors back in 1991).
The World No.36 will go for his 20th career ATP World Tour title in Delray Beach.
Keep an eye on Tennis Channel’s TV Schedule page next week to find out where you can watch all the action from Delray Beach!