Del Potro, the player who never gives up

 - Sebastián Fest

Six operations, the last one this Monday: Juan Martin del Potro gives an update.

Juan Martin Del Potro fist puming during Roland-Garros 2019©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Juan Martín del Potro is a clear case of a "what if". What would have happened if the Argentine had not operated four times on his wrist and twice on his knee? What if?

Six operations, the last one this Monday in Miami on the right knee, to stop again and again a brilliant career that includes the US Open title, the Davis Cup title and silver and bronze medals in the Olympic Games.

Juan Martin Del Potro injured during Roland-Garros 2019©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Extreme secrecy

What would have become of De Potro's career if he had not had so many physical problems? He would surely be well on top, fighting with the best and for great titles, as he did every time he was able to play regularly.

"He is one of the most important players in our sport," said Rafael Nadal in Melbourne when he heard the news, which he did not know.

"It's bad news, I had no idea. The truth is that it is sad. He was in a sweet moment when the year ended, three or four of the world two seasons ago. It saddens me, I can only encourage it and hopefully with the new operation he will solve the problem and we can have him back", added the 12-time champion of Roland-Garros.

Del Potro, who will turn 32 in September, handles the news about his health with extreme secrecy. That's why this week all the Argentinians were surprised to learn that he was going back into surgery. The news came through a press release.

Juan Martin Del Potro frustrated during Roland-Garros 2019©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

“Difficult for him to perform common daily activities"

"After long weeks of consultations in Argentina, Europe and the United States, most doctors concluded that a new operation on Juan Martin Del Potro's right knee is necessary. After analyzing the options, Delpo trusted Dr. Lee Kaplan, who will perform a surgery (...) We hope, like you, that it will be the definitive solution for a pain that not only prevents him from playing tennis, but also makes it difficult for him to perform common daily activities".

"After the operation performed in June by Dr. Angel Ruiz Cotorro in Barcelona, the recovery was progressive, although there was still a pain that prevented Delpo from running and jumping, and bothered him for usual activities such as climbing stairs. He remained active, regaining muscle and strength in his leg, with hopes of returning to the tour soon. In addition to rehabilitation, he trained at the gym and on the tennis court, with reduced mobility".

"According to the times set by his doctor, Delpo was aiming to return to the tournaments in Stockholm and Vienna, and hoped to play the exhibition with Roger Federer in Buenos Aires. The pain never went away, so he had to cancel his tennis commitments and have new medical consultations. What followed was more travel, different treatments, diets and training, until the medical recommendation of a new surgery".

Del Potro is a true national idol in his country, where any news referring to him is consumed with voracity and becomes one of the most read in the local press. Absent from the circuit since the Queens tournament in June 2019, the lack of news about him generated anxiety among his fans.

"I want him to come back strong"

Number three in the world in his best moments, Del Potro has 17 triumphs in the sum of his matches with the three best: he won seven of the 25 he played with Roger Federer, six of the 17 with Nadal and four of the 20 with Novak Djokovic. When he won the 2009 US Open he defeated Nadal in the semi-finals and Federer in the final.

Today he ranks 121 in the world, and his priority is to recover well enough to enjoy life and tennis without pain. Will he be back in time to play in May in Paris? It's hard to say today, because rushing back is a mistake that the Argentine can no longer make.

Guido Pella, number 25 in the world ranking and second best Argentine racket, has admiration and affection in equal measure for the 198-centimeter giant.

"When Juan Martin beat (Marin) Cilic and (Andy) Murray in the Davis Cup he was ready to be president of the country, had he wanted it. But with Juan Martin, I never changed my mind: neither when he won the Davis Cup nor when he lost the matches for which some people accuse him of being a loser. For me, he's one of the best sportsmen in the history of Argentina, like (Guillermo) Vilas, like (Lionel) Messi, like (Diego) Maradona or like (Emanuel) Ginóbili".

"The truth is that he is missed a lot, because he is one of the best players in the world. And when a tournament starts and there is no Juan Martin, who is a reference that always leaves us well standing, everyone asks about him. I want him to come back strong and I know that if he comes back it's because he feels he's there to make an impact like every time he came back. But we know that tennis is a very demanding sport, and if he is not one hundred percent it will be difficult".

Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin Del Potro at the end of their epic quartefinal match in Wimbledon 2018.©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

"He can do it"

Modesto Vazquez, twice captain of the Argentine Davis Cup team and a good connoisseur of Del Potro, believes that his is "a very strange case and similar in some ways to what has happened to Nadal with his injuries".

"In the case of Juan Martin even a little more. The wrist operation, compared to the knee, is complicated, is a sector through which many nerves pass. He had four and recovered well. If his intention is to return, he is definitely able to do so. He has probably the best forehand in the world, and an excellent serve that can even be improved upon. Mentally he is very tough, every time he was up there fighting with the best he had physical problems, again and again. But you have to give him credit.

He can do it".