Davis Cup Win Further Bolsters Juan Martin del Potro’s Legacy
Back against the wall, trailing two sets to love in an elimination match on hostile soil, Juan Martin del Potro showed his indomitable spirit.
Fighting for Argentina’s Davis Cup survival, he erased that deficit and knocked off sixth-ranked Marin Cilic to keep the team’s hopes alive. The match went nearly five hours, with Del Potro willing himself to a 6-7 (4), 2-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-3victory.
“My finger is broken but I wont mind one bit if we win the Davis Cup,” Del Potro told reporters, via ATPWorldTour.com. “This was an emotionally exhausting match and one of the biggest wins of my career. Thanks to all those who prevented me from retiring. I was very close to never playing again and, well, here I am.”
Referring to the countless wrist injuries and entertainment news and gossip surgeries he’s enduredones that wiped away his 2010, 2014 and 2015 seasonsDel Potro scored the biggest win yet in his comeback. After teammate Federico Delbonis defeated Ivo Karlovic in the fifth and decisive rubber, Argentina clinched its first Davis Cup title.
Another massive accomplishment for Del Potro to add to a potentially Hall of Fame-caliber resume.
Even with the extensive time he’s missed during his career, Del Potro’s compiled an impressive list of achievements. His 2009 U.S. Open title, which he won at age 20 after defeating Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in succession, remains at the top and to date is his only Grand Slam triumph.He may soon build on that tally if what we’ve seen the past few months is any indication.
Where Del Potro’s truly excelled is representing Argentina, a country without the most checkered tennis history. In 2012, he took home a bronze medal at the Olympics. He bested that feat this summer, capturing the silver thanks to a riveting run to the final that saw him beat Novak Djokovic and Nadal.
“Now I have a silver medal, which means a gold for me,” Del Potro said, perSports Illustrated’s Michael Rosenberg. “I cannot believe I bring another medal for my country.”LUIS ACOSTA/Getty Images Del Potro beams as he holds his silver medal in Rio de Janeiro.
Returning to Davis Cup action following his quarterfinal showing at the U.S. Open, Del Potro had the opportunity to avenge his Olympics loss to Andy Murray. In one of the most scintillating matches of the year, Del Potro battled for a6-4, 5-7, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4 win in an epic five hours and seven minutes.
Spurring Argentina past Great Britain, Del Potro set up the clash with Croatia, which his team won this past weekend. On the heels of that emotional victory, he should be brimming with confidence and enthusiasm as the 2017 season approaches.
In recent years, we’ve seen how Davis Cup wins preceded extraordinary campaigns from Djokovic, Federer and Murray. Del Potro could find himself in a similar situation, provided he stays healthy and avoids any more setbacks in his wrists.
Look at what he’s done since his return in February. Then ranked No. 1,045, he’s now all the way up to 38th in the world. And he could be even higher.
had ranking points not been erased from Olympics and Davis Cup, Juan Martin Del Potro would be No. 22 in the world instead of No. 38.
Ricky Dimon (@Dimonator) November 28, 2016
It’s not a stretch to imagine him cracking back into the top 10 in the near future. He belongs there. After all, he’s defeated six top-10 players in just the last five months.
On the court, he’s the same force of nature he’s always been. Injuries haven’t robbed him of his earth-rattling power, though he’s had to make adjustments with his backhand to compensate. But Del Potro is more than a brute force of nature: He’s one of the most resilient and inspirational fighters.
He could’ve (and almost did) put away his racket for good last year as he struggled to recover from another wrist surgery.
“My biggest opponent is just myself,” he told Tennis.com’s Kamakshi Tandon in March. “They said before this is a long road to get better. Not to play well or to win matches, just to get better and to play tennis again.”-/Getty Images
Now that he’s aced those tests, Del Potro can set his sights higher. Considering how well he’s played recently, he should be marked as a Grand Slam contender heading into the new season.
Whatever happens, it’s great to see him have another opportunity to chase his dreams.
In a year marked by tragedy inside and outside of the world of sports, Del Potro offers one of the true feel-good stories. He’s the walking embodiment of never giving up, even in the face of adversity.
A champion in more ways than one, Del Potro revived his career and is in the midst of a renaissance that’s created a new dynamic within the game he loves.
All statistics are courtesy ofATPWorldTour.comunless otherwise noted.
JoeKennardis a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.