Form And Fitness
Del Potro: Getting The Wrist Right
by James Buddell|
Juan Martin del Potro, top seed and defending champion at this week’s ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament, has fielded thousands of questions about the state of his right wrist in recent years. But two weeks ago, news filtered through that it was his left wrist that was now bothering him.
The tennis world took a deep breath. Back in 2010 he’d only played three tournaments, due to the right wrist malady.
Del Potro could not have predicted such a problem when he had completed dozens of brutal sessions, involving lengthy cardio sets with 10 kilogram weights, resistance band and kettle ball exercises, during the off season two months ago.
But only when he had won his first tournament of the year — the 18th of his career, at the Apia International Sydney — and landed in Melbourne, for the Australian Open, that a niggle in his left wrist started to develop.
“I had played well in Sydney, but when I got to Melbourne the surface was faster and the balls were different,” del Potro told ATPWorldTour.com, as he walked along the corridors of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam.
“I started to feel something wrong at the beginning of the tournament [against Rhyne Williams]. After my five-set match against [Roberto] Bautista Agut, that is when I sought advice from my doctor.”
The 25-year-old del Potro wasn’t going to take any further chances. On 27 January, he flew into artic-like conditions in Rochester, Minnesota, where temperatures hit -25°C (-13°F), to consult with Doctor Richard Berger, who had helped treat him four years earlier and on occasion in 2013.
Del Potro received a further injection, physio consultancy and advice at the Mayo Clinic. He didn’t play tennis for 20 days. “I did not play tennis or go to the gym,” he explained. “As a result, I have lost muscle and definition in my left arm.
“But my doctor has given me the confidence to play here in Rotterdam and, as the defending champion I feel that it is the right decision.”
Ever since he started to hit tennis balls three days ago, his fitness trainer, Martiniano Orazi, has been working hard. “I am having physio treatment each day and I complete special 10 or 15-minute warm ups prior to each practice session. Every step is being monitored by Dr. Berger, just in case I feel different.
“By using resistance bands and balls of different pressure, I am able to twist and flex my left wrist in order to build up strength and muscle again in my arm.
“If I hit my backhands without confidence, I resort to hitting slices or different strokes. That isn’t good enough to play at this level. The injury has nothing to do with the way I grip the racquet.”
Interestingly, World No. 4 and 2009 US Open champion del Potro admits that his training regimen has not changed drastically despite his wrist woes.
“I try not to change too much. But if my wrist is fine, I try and hit at 100 per cent. I like to go to the gym, but I don’t like to run. Running 10 or 15 kilometres is boring, but sometimes I have to do it. Franco [Davin] doesn’t let me off!”
Del Potro is yet to return to 100 per cent fitness, but he insists that his “wrist is improving day by day. Dr. Berger is hopeful that my wrist will recover very fast. It is improving slowly, but at least it is improving.
“This year, I am trying to find a different treatment to fix the injury, to ensure that I can play the whole season.
“I am positive. I would like to remain in the Top 5 [of the Emirates ATP Rankings] and potentially rise into the Top 3. It will be difficult to pass Rafa [Nadal], [Novak] Djokovic and [Stanislas] Wawrinka, particularly after his recent Australian Open win. But I’m not the only one in the Top 10 who has a lot of points to defend.
“I hope to do well in the Grand Slams and, at the end of the season, be close to the Top 3. Wawrinka took his chance and he got it. I want to again.”
Del Potro has a tough first-round match-up in Rotterdam against newly crowned Montpellier champion Gael Monfils.