The stage was set. September 14 was the date. 6th seed Juan Martin Del Potro knew from the minute he stepped on the court at Flushing Meadows that he had to replicate his performance of trumping Rafael Nadal in the semifinals. Federer, the outright favourite, was vying for a sixth consecutive US Open title, and was on a 41 match winning streak. But history changed its course, for that day, Federer suffered his first loss at the event in six years.
Del Potro is back.
Just a few days earlier, Del Potro stood on the podium at the Olympics. With a bronze medal at London and now silver at Rio, ‘Delpo’ sure knows how to win hearts, despite his losses.
A two year layoff due to wrist injury nearly ended his career. And yet, to perform so incredibly on his comeback speaks volumes of his potential. We have seen his best, and the expectations are higher now, and rightly so. It’s always a pleasure watching Del Potro play. With the biggest forehand the game has ever seen, and a booming serve thanks to his stature, Del Potro can just demolish any opponent. The cannon like shots he produces are insane and his performance at the Olympics are a testimony to them.
His Rio 2016 performance has been rather remarkable. Del Potro faced World No.1 Novak Djokovic, who was chasing an elusive gold medal and better his bronze medal performance in 2008, in the first round. The buildup to the match was exciting, and it quite lived up to its hype. BOOM BOOM BOOM, as Del Potro found his rhythm and blasted aces past the Serb. Even the most dominating player on the tour couldn’t break the 6’6″ Argentine, who announced his return with the upset of the tournament. And yet, Del Potro, in all his might, did not leave his humbleness behind. He was the first to console a teary eyed Djokovic, who couldn’t hold back his emotions, as his quest for a Career Golden Slam remained.
Del Potro battled through his next few matches. But in the semifinals, Del Potro showcased the most amazing performance of the Olympics, in what can arguably be called the ‘Match of the Year’. Del Potro faced 2008 Gold Medallist Rafael Nadal, and despite losing the first set, hung on with all his grit and might to clinch the tie in 3 sets. And so did tears roll sown as Del Potro realized that he’d settle for at least a medal, even if he lost the final. An incredible result, given his state a few months back.
In a hard fought loss to Murray in the final, Delpo won our hearts. He may have defeated your favourite player but he still remains loved by everyone. We missed those booming forehands, those scorching serves, and more so, the respect that he gives, regardless of the opponent. Del Potro epitomises modesty and that is what tennis needs. It’s good to have him back, and we look forward to seeing more of him soon.
Rahul is a tennis enthusiast and loves to write about sports in general. His inspirations are Rafael Nadal, Michael Phelps and Roger Federer.