'This is farewell' – Juan Martin del Potro says he's likely to retire after Argentina Open
Tennis player Juan Martin del Potro has said he is likely to retire due to a knee injury.
Tennis player Juan Martin del Potro has said he is likely to retire due to a knee injury.
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.”
Indian pair Rohan Bopanna and Ramkumar Ramanathan kept their title hopes alive by the slimmest of margins Saturday at the Tata Open Maharashtra, saving three match points to reach the final in Pune.
The second seeds trailed 6/9 in the Match Tie-break, before they turned the tables to defeat Frenchmen Sadio Doumbia and Fabien Reboul 6-4, 4-6, 12-10.
With their 88-minute win, Bopanna and Ramanathan have maintained their perfect start to the season as a team, setting a championship match clash against top seeds Luke Saville and John-Patrick Smith at the ATP 250 event.
Bopanna and Ramanathan fired seven aces and won 80 per cent (32/40) of their first-serve points to book their spot in their second tour-level final of the season together. The pair triumphed at the Adelaide International 1 in January and are now 8-0 on the year.
Herbert/Mahut Reach Montpellier Final
At the Open Sud de France on Saturday, top seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut moved to within one victory of their 21st tour-level trophy as a team.
The Frenchmen clawed past Jonathan Erlich and Edouard Roger-Vasselin 5-7, 7-5, 10-8 after two hours to advance on home soil in Montpellier. The pair, which has won five Grand Slam crowns and two Nitto ATP Finals titles together, are teaming for the first time this season this week and will play Lloyd Glasspool and Harri Heliovaara in the final.
Glasspool and Heliovaara have tasted success in France together before, clinching the trophy in Marseille last season.
Gonzalez/Molteni Maintain Cordoba Title Bid
Santiago Gonzalez and Andres Molteni secured their place in the championship match at the Cordoba Open, overcoming Guillermo Duran and Maximo Gonzalez 6-4, 6-4 in 76 minutes.
The top seeds are aiming to capture their third tour-level title as a team this week in Cordoba, having lifted trophies in Nur-Sultan and Stockholm last season. The Mexican-Argentine tandem will play Andrej Martin and Tristan-Samuel Weissborn in the final.
Alexander Bublik will get another shot at winning his maiden tour-level title at the Open Sud de France after he downed Filip Krajinovic 6-4, 6-2 on Saturday to reach the final in Montpellier.
The sixth seed upset World No. 19 Roberto Bautista Agut in the quarter-finals and backed up this win against Krajinvoic with a strong serving display to advance after 64 minutes. Bublik fired 13 aces and won 94 per cent (29/31) of his first-serve points in their first ATP Head2Head meeting.[FOLLOW ACTION]
Bublik, who was competing in his eighth ATP Tour semi-final, will face either top seed Alexander Zverev or Swede Mikael Ymer in his fifth tour-level championship match on Sunday. In a standout 2021 season, the 24-year-old earned a personal-best 35 wins, advancing to finals in Antalya and Singapore.
The World No. 35 is making his second appearance in Montpellier and will rise to a career-high on Monday following his run to the final at the ATP 250 event. Bublik is now 5-2 on the season.
Krajinovic was competing in his second semi-final in Montpellier, having advanced to the last four in 2020. The fifth-seeded Serbian was also seeking his first tour-level trophy this week.
Sixth seed Emil Ruusuvuori broke new ground Saturday at the Tata Open Maharashtra, soaring into his first tour-level final in Pune.
The Finn fired 10 aces and rallied back from a break down in the second set to overcome Kamil Majchrzak 6-4, 7-6(0) in one hour and 47 minutes, improving his ATP Head2Head record to 2-0 against the Pole.
“I really like this place,” Ruusuvuori said in his on-court interview. “I still haven’t lost a set. The whole match was very good today and I am very happy to be in the final. Every point in the tie-break is very important. I started well and 7/0 is good.”[FOLLOW ACTION]
Ruusuvuori, who is making his debut at the ATP 250 event, was competing in his second semi-final of the season, having advanced to the last four at the Melbourne Summer Set in January, where he lost to Rafael Nadal. The World No. 87 is now 7-2 on the year.
Prior to his win against Majchrzak, the 22-year-old had lost all four of his previous semi-finals at this level. The World No. 87 held his nerve in Pune in the second-set tie-break to ensure he would not fall at the same stage again, setting up a championship match clash against either Swedish qualifier Elias Ymer or three-time tour-level titlist Joao Sousa.
Energised by passionate Argentine fans, top seed Diego Schwartzman survived a rollercoaster battle against Daniel Elahi Galan to advance to the semi-finals of the Cordoba Open Friday night.
After dropping the first set and bagelling his Colombian opponent in the second, Schwartzman dropped serve in the opening game of the third and again when he served for the match at 5-3, but fought back to break in the final game of the match to secure a 3-6, 6-0, 7-5 win in two hours and 19 minutes.
Chasing his second title on home soil [Buenos Aires, 2021], the 5′ 7″ World No. 14 will next play the winner of countryman Sebastian Baez and Chilean qualifier Alejandro Tabilo.
After winning 89 per cent of first-serve points in his opening win over Juan Pablo Ficovich, the 29-year-old was again strong on serve, winning 70 per cent of first-serve points against Galan.
Argentine wild card Juan Ignacio Londero, the 2019 Cordoba champion, improved his tournament record to 10-2 with a 6-4, 7-5 win over Serbian lucky loser Nikola Milojevic. The 28-year-old World No. 139 is making his first appearance of the 2022 season. Last year he went 0-11 at tour level and he had not won a match at that level since reaching the second round of Roland Garros in September 2020.
“This is a very important tournament for me, having won the title here in 2019,” Londero said. “It’s an amazing atmosphere and I like to be playing in front of my family and friends.”
Spanish sixth seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas set a semi-final showdown with Londero with a 7-6(5), 7-5 win over fourth-seeded Italian Lorenzo Sonego. The World No. 44 lefty is making his second appearance of the year, having fallen to Baez in five sets in the first round of the Australian Open. The 34-year-old has won three ATP Tour titles (all on clay).
There will be celebrations in the Ymer household this weekend after Swedish brothers Elias Ymer and Mikael Ymer reached tour-level semi-finals on Friday.
The pair is currently 7,000 km apart, with older brother Elias competing at the Tata Open Maharashtra in Pune, while Mikael is in action at the Open Sud de France in Montpellier. In competitive fields at the ATP 250 events, they have both produced high-quality tennis to taste much-welcomed success this week.
At the start of the day, qualifier Elias continued his impressive run in India, defeating eighth-seeded Italian Stefano Travaglia 6-4, 7-6(4) to advance into his maiden tour-level semi-final. Inspired by his brother, Mikael then overcame Richard Gasquet 7-5, 6-7(6), 6-1 in Montpellier eight hours later to complete a dream Friday for the brothers.[FOLLOW ACTION]
Elias had not reached the quarter-finals at a tour-level event since Gstaad in 2016 prior to this week, but he has demonstrated an abundance of athleticism and grit to break new ground in Pune. The 25-year-old, currently No. 163 in the ATP Rankings, captured his first Top 20 win against World No. 15 Aslan Karatsev in the second round, while Mikael upset World No. 16 Gael Monfils in Montpellier.
Speaking about his brother’s run after his quarter-final win, Mikael said: “I am proud of him. I was watching his match earlier today. I am really happy for him. He fights a lot. He is my older brother and I am really proud of him. He provides big motivation for me.”
Mikael, who is into his second tour-level semi-final, will face World No. 3 Alexander Zverev on Saturday. The 23-year-old reached the final in Winston-Salem last season, losing to Ilya Ivashka. Elias meanwhile will face Portugal’s Joao Sousa.
The duo has won 10 ATP Challenger Tour titles between them, but both will be aiming to capture their first tour-level title this weekend and spark further celebrations in Sweden.