Juan Martin Del Potro: A Team World Force
With his thunderous forehand and big stage credentials, Juan Martin del Potro is committed to helping Team World win the Laver Cup in Chicago in September.
Making his debut as Team World’s top-ranked player, Juan Martin del Potro has recovered from injury to re-establish his place among the world’s elite. Back in the top 10 after a four-year absence, the Argentine looms as a deadly threat to Team Europe’s 2018 Laver Cup campaign.
Three titles in the past 12 months have helped the 29-year-old soar to No.4, his highest ranking since February 2014. Highlights of del Potro’s rise include an impressive 15-match winning streak during February-March, which saw him save three championship points against world No.1 Roger Federer in the Indian Wells final to claim a career-first ATP Masters 1000 title, and a semifinal run at Roland Garros, his best result in Paris since 2009. Few are as feared on the men’s tour as the popular ‘Tower of Tandil’.
JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO STEPS UP FOR TEAM WORLD
A STELLAR CAREER
Del Potro was a promising junior, with his ranking peaking at No.3. But it was an ATP breakthrough at 19 that affirmed his star potential in 2008. The 198-centimeter Argentine won his first ATP singles title on Stuttgart clay, then continued his winning run to claim his next three events (another on clay and two on hard courts). Del Potro became the first player in ATP history to win his first four career titles in as many tournaments. His headline-grabbing 23-match winning streak ended in his first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the US Open.
It was in New York the following year where del Potro confirmed his superstar status. The then 20-year-old became the first player to defeat both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in a Grand Slam tournament, beating them in back-to-back matches to win the biggest title of his career. Nadal and Federer had shared 17 of the past 18 Grand Slam titles, making del Potro’s triumph even more significant. Anointed the player most likely to challenge their dominance, del Potro’s momentum was soon stalled by a right wrist injury that restricted him to three tournaments in 2010.
A RESILIENT CHAMPION
If the Argentine’s jaw-dropping power captivated fans early in his career, his resilience has proved even more inspiring. Four wrist surgeries have tested del Potro’s patience and threatened to prematurely end his career. “I want to play tennis, and I don’t care if I have to survive with these kind of pains or these backhands or slices. (I’m) just trying to do the most what I can, and that’s it,” del Potro said when he returned to the tour ranked No.1062 in February 2016.
By season end, del Potro had returned to the top 50. His sensational comeback included upsets of world No.1 Novak Djokovic and Nadal in a silver medal-winning run at the Rio Olympics after which he led Argentina to a first Davis Cup title. He shed tears of joy during both of those events, and once more laid bare the raw and unfiltered emotion that has set him apart and deepened his connection with fans.
Voted by his peers as the ATP Comeback Player of the Year in 2011 and 2016, it is no secret that the Argentine is one of the most popular players on tour. This was evident when many of his rivals reached out to support him during his injury battles. “If the others care about you it means you are a good person. For me that’s more important than playing good tennis,” an appreciative del Potro said.
His good-guy reputation was boosted further when he dedicated his Indian Wells triumph earlier this season to his dog, Cesar, who had recently passed away.
A TEAM WORLD PLAYER TO WATCH
Del Potro’s commitment to Team World is sure to delight fans – but there are many reasons Team Europe might be concerned:
- Del Potro thrives when competing in America, winning his two biggest career titles on US hard courts.
- He boasts nine wins over No.1-ranked opponents. This is a record for a player never to top the ATP rankings.
- Del Potro has dominant winning records against many of Europe’s top-ranked players, including fellow top 10 stars Alexander Zverev (2-0), Marin Cilic (10-2) and Dominic Thiem (4-0).
- His career-record against Roger Federer is 7-18. However, on American soil it is locked at three-all, with del Potro having won their two most recent matches.