I beat Roger Federer in the US Open final and have made $25million in career earnings… but now I'm struggling to walk | The Sun
JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO deserves to leave tennis on his own terms.
The Argentine stunned the world in 2009, when he beat Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer back to back to win the US Open aged 20.
Affectionately dubbed the "Tower of Tandil" – Del Potro was expected to take a perch at the top of the game alongside the two greats he had beaten.
But a series of wrist and knee injuries robbed him of so many opportunities to shine.
He still had his moments though, reaching world No3 in 2018 and earning $25million in prize money.
Disaster struck once again at Queen's in 2019, however, when an unfortunate slip on the slick grass saw him fracture his kneecap.
Del Potro wouldn't be seen again on court until February 2022, when he launched what was supposed to be a comeback at an ATP 250 in Buenos Aires.
He would play just one match, losing 6-1, 6-3 to compatriot Federico Delbonis – leaving the court in tears and withdrawing from subsequent tournaments.
The Tower of Tandil has refused to retire in the 18 months since, and aged 34 is desperate to have one final swansong at his favorite venue – Flushing Meadows.
Earlier this year, he said: "The physical problem and my knee are things I work on every day. I will leave this window open, at least until the US Open as I said.
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"This is the most special tournament for me. I still have time, I will start training, see how my leg and knee react and if I can do it or not."
Devastatingly, training did not go as he would have liked – with Del Potro experiencing pain not just on the court, but in everyday life.
In a recent update, he said: "As you know, my desire to return to a court as special as the US Open made me very excited.
"I tried by all means to reach term, but my body does not accompany me 100 per cent to be able to feel comfortable and happy to share, once again with you, a unique moment.
"They also know that the pain I feel does not allow me to still focus on a return.
"I will continue to look for the best alternatives to recover my quality of life.
"I thank you for the company, the understanding and the messages of encouragement you leave me. I send you a very big hug. I hope to see you soon."
Del Potro's update was a bleak one, almost entirely ruling out the on-court farewell he so deserves.
But with still no official retirement, hope can linger just a little.
After all, the Tower of Tandil is no stranger to US Open miracles.
In addition to his 2009 run to the title, his performances at Flushing Meadows in 2017 and 2018 were pretty special.
Trailing 1-6, 2-6 to Dominic Thiem in the fourth round in 2017, a visibly under the weather Del Potro looked down and out.
But spurred on by the raucous, frenzied crowd, he somehow turned it around, taking the final three sets 6-1, 7-6, 6-4 to dramatically prevail, before celebrating with his arms wide and his gaze pointed towards the sky in what instantly became an iconic photograph.
Del Potro backed up the Thiem comeback with another Flushing Meadows victory over Federer – before crashing out in the semis to eventual champion Nadal.
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If Del Potro is to be unable to return, his final appearance at the US Open would have been his finals loss to Novak Djokovic in 2018.
But with the Tower of Tandil, you just never know…
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