Juan Martin Del Potro’s (Almost) Perfect Return To Tennis In Argentina - UBITENNIS
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Juan Martin Del Potro’s (Almost) Perfect Return To Tennis In Argentina

As he served to stay in the match tears began to fall from Del Potro’s face. Not only was it nearly the end of his campaign at the 2022 Argentina Open, it may also be the end of his career.

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Foto: Prensa Argentina Open/Sergio Llamera/Ubitennis.es

It is hard to believe that almost 13 years have passed since Juan Martin del Potro sent shockwaves throughout the men’s Tour by winning one of the most prestigious titles.

In 2009 at the age of 20 and seeded sixth in the US Open draw, the Argentine known affectionately as the ‘Tower of Tandil’ became only the second man from his country to reach the final after the great Guillermo Vilas. He went on to win the title by defeating Roger Federer in a five-set epic who himself was on an incredible 40-match winning streak in the tournament.

“I have new opportunities in the other Grand Slams to win, because if I did it here, if I beat Nadal, Federer and many good players, maybe I can do it one more time (elsewhere),” he said following the triumph.

Unfortunately for Del Potro the years which followed was a mixture of both jubilation and despair. While he has managed to rise to as high as third in the world back in 2018 and won 22 ATP titles, he will be remembered as being one of the most unluckiest men in the sport. For months and sometimes years he would be sidelined from the Tour due to injury. Incredibly, he has had a total of eight surgeries since 2010 in order to prolong his career.

There was surgery on his right wrist in 2010, then three additional procedures on his left wrist between 2014 and 2015. Four years later it was his knee which proved to be problematic as he went under the knife in June 2019, January 2020, August 2020 and March 2021. Throughout his career, Del Potro has consistently missed at least nine months of tennis on four separate occasions. This equates to exactly three years.

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Somehow he always managed to stage a comeback against the odds and to the delight of his fans. However, he knew that one day his body would no longer allow him to do so and there is a strong likelihood that his latest return will be his final farewell.

Taking to the courts of the Argentina Open on Monday evening, Del Potro was greeted by a packed crowd who cheered him on. Among those in attendance was his mother, Patricia, who had previously never watched him play an ATP match in person. Playing competitively for the first time since June 2019, del Potro fell 6-1, 6-3, to compatriot Federico Delbonis after 84 minutes.

“Today I left everything until the last point. My last game was on the court and not in (a press) conference. And that’s what I wanted. I feel like I gave everything, until the last point,” La Nacion newspaper quoted Del Potro as saying afterwards.

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The match marked only the second time Del Potro had ever played an ATP tournament in his home country which seems baffling to some. The first was back in 2006 when he was 17 and lost in the first round to Juan Carlos Ferrero in three sets.

“I think tonight (Monday night) exceeded everything I imagined. Do I regret not having played more times in the Buenos Aires tournament? No, because I put together my calendars thinking about Indian Wells and Miami, on the hard court, in the first three or four months of the year and then being good for the rest of the year,” he explains.
“Also, I don’t regret it because if this was my last tournament I was able to live it intensely. Perhaps at another time it would not have lived like this time.”

It can be argued that outside of the sports Big Three, Del Potro has established himself as one of the most popular players within the sport. According to 24Trends, around the same time he was playing against Delbonis the phrase ‘Delpo’ was among the top 10 trending terms worldwide on Twitter with an estimated count of 26,000 references. Even more incredible is that in Argentina he has topped the trending list for eight-consecutive hours.

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The surge of interest is undoubtedly due to the return of one of the sport’s well known figures but it is more than that. It is a chance for fans to watch the Argentine play once again before he stops for good. Del Potro has not yet definitively stated that he will retire from tennis. However, as his body continues to suffer, so do his hopes.

“I wish I could sleep without leg pain. It is very difficult to do this sport with the discomfort I have,” he admits.
“I feel that I want to live in peace and I have my whole life ahead of me. Health leads me to make a decision of which I am not convinced. I think I fulfilled all my objectives in tennis, perhaps I was left with the thorn of not having reached number 1.”

Continuing to talk about his current health, Del Potro states that he wants to have a body ‘which does what he wants, not what he can.’ Prior to the start of the Argentina Open he spoke about one example where conducting a long drive to see friends was troublesome due to his knee. Something as trivial as this would frustrate any elite athlete.

So is it the end for Del Potro? Only time will tell. He has received a wild card to play in Brazil next week at the Rio Open but there are already doubts.

“Right now I am not sure about Rio. At the time he did have the illusion of playing both tournaments. It’s special to me, because of the Olympics. I calculate that in these hours we will make a decision,” he outlined.
“What I make clear to you, with or without Rio, is that later I will make a stand and prioritize living life with less pain.”

Del Potro, who turns 34 this September, has given fans a glimmer of hope by saying in a message that he will try his best to fix his knee issue. Although he admits he is unsure of how possible that may be.

Either way, his return to tennis in Buenos Aires was that of a fairytale.

Sometimes tennis isn’t all about winning matches.

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Roland Garros 2024: Rafael Nadal Faces Alexander Zverev In Blockbuster Opening Round

Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev will meet at Roland Garros in the first round with Andy Murray taking on Stan Wawrinka in the opening round.

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Rafael Nadal has been drawn against Rome champion Alexander Zverev in the opening round of Roland Garros.

The 14-time Roland Garros champion will most likely be making his last appearance at the event where he has such a great history at.

It’s been a mixed clay court season for Nadal who built gradual momentum in Madrid but suffered an early exit in Rome to Hubert Hurkacz.

Now the Spaniard has been drawn to take on the champion of Rome, Alexander Zverev, in the opening round.

The match is a repeat of the 2022 semi-final where Zverev broke his ankle losing almost a year of his career.

This contest headlines the second quarter of the draw which also features Karen Khachanov, Holger Rune and Daniil Medvedev.

In the other quarter of the top half of the draw, defending champion Novak Djokovic will begin his Roland Garros campaign against Pierre-Hughes Herbert.

There is also a potential third round clash with either Gael Monfils or Lorenzo Musetti for Djokovic, who is currently in Geneva gaining extra match practice ahead of the second Grand Slam of the season.

The Serb could have a repeat of last year’s final in the quarter-finals with Casper Ruud as the Norwegian begins his campaign against Jakub Mensik.

In the bottom half of the draw Jannik Sinner plays his first tournament since suffering a hip injury in Rome as he takes on Christopher Eubanks in the opening round.

Sinner could face Cameron Norrie in the third round with the Brit taking on Pavel Kotov in his opening round before playing the winner of the battle of the Grand Slam champions between Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka.

Murray and Wawrinka will clash for the fourth time at Roland Garros with Wawrinka leading their head-to-head 2-1 in Paris.

This section also includes in-form players such as Hubert Hurkacz, Alejandro Tabilo and Rome finalist Nicolas Jarry.

Finally Carlos Alcaraz will begin his Roland Garros campaign against a qualifier before potentially playing Jack Draper in the second round.

Another exciting clash awaits Alcaraz in the third round in the form of Sebastian Korda with Andrey Rublev or Stefanos Tsitsipas being potential quarter-final opponents.

This is the full draw with Roland Garros beginning on Sunday.

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Alexander Zverev Secures Return To Top Four After Winning Italian Open

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Alexander Zverev has clinched his first Masters title since 2021 after downing Nicolas Jarry in straight sets at the Italian Open.

The world No.5 surged to a 6-4,7-5, victory at the Faro Italico to become the 10th player in the Open Era to win the Rome trophy on multiple occasions. He also won the tournament in 2017. Zverev’s latest win was aided by an impressive service display from the 27-year-old who also hit 15 winners against eight unforced errors. He is now 22-1 against players ranked outside the top five at the tournament with his only loss being to Matteo Berrettini five years ago.

“It means a lot. Winning my first (Masters) title and winning my first after my injury in Rome. Rome is a very special place for me,” the new champion said afterwards. 
“I said at the beginning of the week if Rome is the place of firsts for me I’m extremely happy about it. It’s a very special week.” 

Playing in his first Masters 1000 final since 2022, Zverev produced a serving masterclass throughout the opening set with the German winning 20 out of 21 points. In contrast, Jarry experienced more difficult but valiantly fought back with the Chilean saving two straight break points at 4-4. Eventually, the third seed sealed the opener two games later with the help of some costly shots coming from across the court. A deep shot towards the baseline was unsuccessfully returned by Jarry, handing Zverev a set point which he converted.

Continuing to pile the pressure on in the second set, Zverev had a double chance to break for a 3-1 lead but failed to capitalise on that opportunity. The opportunities continued to come and go. Back-to-back double faults from Jarry at 4-5 handed Zverev two championship points but once again he failed to take advantage. Eventually, he sealed victory two games later with the help of a forehand shot that Jarry returned out. Prompting Zverev to raise his hands in delight before later paying tribute to his rival. 

“He’s playing huge. You can see that by the opponents he beat and how he beat them,” he said of Jarry. 
“I told him if he continues playing like that he is going to have many more chances. I’m happy to be the winner.”

As a result of his Rome triumph, Zverev has secured a top-four seeding for the French Open. On Monday he will rise in the PIF ATP rankings to No.4 which will be his highest position since August 2022. During that same year, he sustained a serious ankle injury which sidelined him for months. 

“The focus is on Paris, that’s for sure. but let me enjoy this one for a day or so and then I will have my full focus on Paris,” said Zverev.

Zverev has now won six Masters 1000 titles which places him in joint-ninth on the all-time list along with Daniil Medvedev. 

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Novak Djokovic Accepts Geneva Wildcard Ahead Of Roland Garros

Novak Djokovic has accepted a wildcard into next week’s ATP 250 event in Geneva as he looks to improve his form ahead of Roland Garros.

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Novak Djokovic has shockingly accepted a wildcard into next week’s ATP 250 event in Geneva.

The world number one hasn’t had the best season so far having yet to reach a final at any of his events this season.

There was hope for Djokovic that his fortunes would change on clay and the Serb started his clay court season by reaching the semi-finals in Monte-Carlo before losing to Casper Ruud.

However Djokovic’s clay court hopes were dashed in Rome as he lost in the third round to in-form Chilean Alejandro Tabilo.

This has meant that Djokovic risks being undercooked for the second Grand Slam of the season at Roland Garros.

Therefore the Serb has had no option but to take a wildcard into next week’s ATP 250 in Geneva.

Djokovic will join Casper Ruud, Andy Murray, Denis Shapovalov and Taylor Fritz in next week’s event.

Next week’s appearance will be the first appearance in Geneva in Djokovic who will be the top seed in Switzerland.

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