Delpo: Return of The King of Cool
Before turning 21, Juan Martin del Potro beat Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer to win the 2009 US Open. If healthy, he might have expanded the Big Four into the Big Five, challenging Federer, Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray for multiple Grand Slam titles.
Between 2005 and 2013 — an incredible string of 35 tournaments — he was the only slam winner outside the Big Four.
Instead of battling for championships, del Potro had to battle injuries. Wrist injuries and surgeries sidelined him for most of 2010, 2014 and 2015.
Still, he returned to the top 10 and beat Djokovic to win bronze at Wimbledon in the 2012 London Olympics.
In 2013, he beat Murray and Djokovic at Indian Wells before losing the final to Nadal. He won Rotterdam, Washington and Tokyo, and also beat Federer to win the Swiss Indoors. He reached number 5 in the world, thrilling fans who love his warmth, smile and thunderous forehand.
But his wrist problems and surgeries stole that thunder. Many thought he’d never return to top levels of tennis.
When he returned, often gaining wild card entries into tournaments, he had little power on his backhand, opting to slice it until he could go for winners on his forehand side. His victory over Dominic Thiem in Madrid (see photos) rekindled hopes of his return to dominance. He pulled out of Roland Garros, but beat Stan Wawrinka at Wimbledon before losing to Lucas Pouille in the 3rd round.
Bad luck seemed to follow him to the Rio Olympics. He was stuck in an elevator for 40 minutes, just hours before his first round match versus Djokovic. But he stunned the tennis world by toppling Djokovic 7-6, 7-6 in one of the best matches of the year. Scenes of del Potro and Djokovic hugging at the net and leaving the court in tears will long live in Olympic lore.
(words and images copyright Christopher Johnson, all rights reserved)
The heavenly light of Aranxta Sanchez shines on Juan Martin del Potro and Dominic Thiem at the Mutua Madrid Open.
(all images copyright Christopher Johnson, Globalite Media, all rights reserved)