Former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro hinted strongly during a tearful press conference that his appearances in Bueno Aires and Rio de Janeiro in the next two weeks may mark his final ATP Tour tournaments, although he stopped short of definitively announcing his retirement.
“I always overcame everything. I don’t want to close the door. I’m very excited because I love tennis,” del Potro said Saturday. “Today I have to be honest so as not to give the wrong message, although in two and a half years I gave messages that were not in line with my reality.
“If I’m honest I have to say that I’m not here for a miraculous comeback like on other occasions. I know the limitations I have physically, and we’ll see later.”
He later added: “With this injury I always said I wouldn’t give up. The farewell had to be on a court and not in a conference.”
The 33-year-old Argentine accepted wild cards into the Argentina Open and Rio Open presented by Claro for what will be his first competitive action since 2019, following four right knee surgeries.
Del Potro later explained how his health struggles extend beyond the court and into his daily personal life: “I’ve been sleeping with pain for two-and-a-half years. I used to drive three-and-a-half hours to Tandil and now I have to stop to stretch my leg. I don’t like it, but it’s what I have to do. My fight is about health and winning quality of life.”
Del Potro’s decorated career is highlighted by a US Open triumph in 2009 and 22 tour-level titles, most recently at the 2018 BNP Paribas Open. Known as the ‘Tower of Tandil,’ after his hometown, del Potro reached a career-high ATP Ranking of World No. 3 in 2018. He’s also a two-time Olympic medalist, winning singles bronze in 2012 (London) and silver in 2016 (Rio de Janeiro).
The Argentine turned professional in 2005 and played his first ATP Tour events in 2006. He won his first ATP Tour title in Stuttgart in 2008, the first of four that season.
Seeded sixth at the 2009 US Open, del Potro defeated Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals and Roger Federer in the final to win his first and only Grand Slam title. By beating Federer in a five-set final, del Potro ended a five-year New York reign for the Swiss.
He later returned to the US Open final in 2018, where he lost to Novak Djokovic. In total, del Potro reached the semi-finals or better at six Grand Slams and the quarter-finals on 13 occasions, including at least twice at each major.
Injuries plagued the 6-foot-6 del Potro throughout his career. He missed extended time in 2010 and 2014-16 with a wrist injury, and more recently has struggled with knee problems that have kept him sidelined since mid-2019.
“Unfortunately I had to deal with many injuries, but I achieved most of the things I wanted to achieve,” del Potro reflected. “Maybe I won’t have a miraculous return to tennis like I always had. It’s very difficult for me to play, especially on a day-to-day basis, beyond sport.”
He added: “Today, if I’m honest, I have to give this message. I can’t say I’m going for a miracle because it’s not true. I know the ability I have with tennis, but I also know the limitations with my physique. We’ll see later.”
Del Potro will face countryman Federico Delbonis in the first round in Buenos Aires.
“I’m going to play and I can’t wait to get on the court on Tuesday. These is why I had surgery last time (…) I couldn’t ask for another rival other than Fede, together we share the happiest days.
“Beyond the anguish and sadness, I want Tuesday to be an unforgettable day. Having the tournament in Buenos Aires made me feel like it was now or never again.”