Happy 30th Birthday Delpo!
What comes to mind when we think of Juan Martin del Potro? Is it his fearsome forehand, his unique relationship with tennis fans or perhaps his perseverance in the face of adversity? No matter which attribute appears first in our thoughts, there are an endless list of ways to describe the Tower of Tandil, who recently reached his second Grand Slam final at the US Open.
Today, as the Argentine celebrates his 30th birthday, ATPWorldTour.com shares its list of Del Potro's 30 standout characteristics and lesser known facts that make the 30-year-old one of the most beloved players in the sport. Does your favourite feature appear in the list?
1. Brave like no other: Juan Martin del Potro has made a career of adjusting on the fly, challenging the established order and facing down all comers. His track record against top-flight competition is stellar: The Argentine has defeated 10 World No. 1 players, the most for a player to not hold the No. 1 ranking.
2. A passion for architecture: Del Potro is an avid admirer of architecture and has stated on several occasions his affinity for the practice is nearly equal to that of his current career as a professional athlete. He’s even gone as far as to suggest a pursuit of his passion for the art in retirement.
3. A man of multiple languages: Spanish is Del Potro's first language, and he's shown his ability to conduct interviews in English as well. But did you know Delpo is also proficient in Italian? The next question: Will he be able to show off his Italian-speaking skills in an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 victory speech at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia one day?
4. A major Boca Juniors fan: A die-hard soccer enthusiast, Delpo never misses a chance to watch his favorite team, Buenos Aires club Boca Juniors in action. He's been known to frequent "La Bombonera," Boca Junior's home stadium, and interact with the "Xeneizes," a major fan club of the team. During this year's US Open, Del Potro watched footage of his beloved team in the dressing room before matches for concentration and motivational purposes.
5. Professes great reverence for Pope Francis: In 2013, Del Potro had the honour of meeting the 266th and current Pope in the Vatican City ahead of the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Rome. Del Potro, a devout Catholic, presented the Pope, who is also from Argentina, with a racquet he used during his 2009 US Open final victory over Roger Federer. Some years later, Del Potro brought a picture of Pope Francis with him to the operating room before undergoing wrist surgery.
6. An animal lover: After triumphing at the BNP Paribas Open in March and earning his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title, Del Potro scribbled the name "Cesar" on a television camera lens with a blue marker. The message was in dedication to his beloved dog, a Newfoundland breed that passed away a month earlier. Cesar had been a loyal companion and often accompanied Delpo on tour for nearly 10 years.
7. Bursting on to the scene: Delpo holds a distinction none of his fellow veterans can claim: During the 2008 season and at the tender age of 19, the Argentine became the first rookie to win four consecutive tournaments (Stuttgart, Kitzbühel, Los Angeles and Washington).
8. Standing tall (literally): At 6'6", ‘The Tower of Tandil’ is the tallest player to lift a Grand Slam title in the 50 years of the Open Era.
9. Sense of 'entitlement': With 22 titles to his name, Del Potro is third in terms of individual crowns hoisted by an Argentine player. Guillermo Vilas leads the list with 62, while Jose Luis Clerc earned 25.
10. Fishing for fun: One of Del Potro's favourite pastimes is fishing. When time allows, he sets out on a boat with a bunch of friends for a day on the water in hopes of a catch -- and to catch up on some relaxation. For Delpo, fishing is the best way to free his mind from the grind of life on the tour.
11. Doubly impressive: One of the most exciting and unexpected moments of the past decade in tennis came in 2009, when Del Potro lifted the US Open trophy by defeating Federer. The Argentine managed to do more than just claim his first major title: He snapped the five-time defending champion's 40-match win streak at Flushing Meadows in the process.
12. Hometown a hotbed of talent: Despite its relatively small population (just over 100,000) Del Potro's birthplace of Tandil has produced numerous ATP World Tour standouts, including the likes of former World Top 10 Juan Monaco and the former Top 20 player Mariano Zabaleta.
13. South American dream: Currently ranked No. 4 in the World, Del Potro aspires to become the first Argentine player to climb to No. 1 in the ATP Rankings since the system was established in 1973. It would be a milestone for both Argentina and for South America in general. Only two players from the continent, Brazil's Gustavo Kuerten and Chile's Marcelo Rios, have achieved that feat.
14. Always listens to 'The Boss': Del Potro's passion for Bruce Springsteen's music is well-known on the tour. Before competing at the US Open this year, the Argentine had the opportunity to meet one of his favorite musicians in person after a "Springsteen on Broadway" concert at the Walter Kerr Theatre in New York City.
15. Try for you, Argentina: Despite a career plagued by injuries, Del Potro is the only Argentine tennis player to win two Olympic medals. He claimed a bronze medal at the London 2012 Summer Olympics and a silver medal four years later in Rio de Janeiro.
16. Legions of fans: A report published in 2016 by The Wall Street Journal placed Del Potro as the most beloved tennis player on tour. A year later, the United States Tennis Federation (USTA) presented him with the US Open Sportsmanship Award in recognition of his fair play values and admirable attitude on and off the tennis court.
17. Roadside assistant: Of all the anecdotes detailing his acts of kindness, one that stands out is the time Del Potro encountered a man in Mar del Plata, Argentina, who was walking on the side of the road on his way home after a long day of work. Del Potro gave the man a lift and the story went viral on social media soon after.
18. Home stays home: A creature of habit, the 29-year-old Del Potro always enjoys returning to his family home in Tandil. His bedroom remains intact and houses relics of his childhood. For example, a teddy bear outfitted with Boca Juniors attire that he's had since the age of 4 still sits next to his bed.
19. Mass media: With more than 3.3 million fans on Twitter, the Argentine is the fifth most followed male tennis player. He posts regularly, and his activities can be followed through his @delpotrojuan account.
20. Family guy: Delpo has expressed his desire to be a father one day and have one big, happy family. His priority, should he enter fatherhood? "To help my family fulfill their dreams and ensure they are good people."
21. Good food, good company: For Delpo, a proper Argentine-style barbecue is one surrounded by friends and delicious meat. The secret to the perfect Argentine barbeque isn't even a secret: "Know how to work the grill, and work with exactly the right type of meat."
22. Grateful for his upbringing: Del Potro never forgets where he came from, or the solid education provided by his parents during his childhood. He often speaks with his mother, Patricia, about life in general and what he values in it. Talk with his father, Daniel, however, generally revolves around sports and his own career trajectory.
23. Close relationship with Maradona: Del Potro maintains a close friendship with 'El Pelusa' (Mop Top): He attended the funerals of both of Maradona's parents and has called the soccer legend before surgical interventions. Two of the greatest Argentine athletes of all time share a strong bond that extends beyond their respective sporting prowess.
24. A grass wall: For all his success and accolades, the Argentine has yet to figure out how to break through and triumph on grass. The Argentine has played a total of 17 tournaments on the surface without hoisting a trophy. He holds a record of 21-9 at Wimbledon with his best result being a semi-final appearance in 2013.
25. Toast of Argentine Davis Cup: The year 2016 proved to be a banner year for Del Potro and his country when Argentina claimed its first Davis Cup title by defeating Croatia in the final. The clash had a little bit of everything: drama, momentum shifts and an epic conclusion. Argentina was forced to rally from 1-2 down and, at one point, was one set from defeat, with Marin Cilic leading Del Potro two sets to love in the fourth rubber match. Del Potro rallied and ultimately prevailed, 6-7(4), 2-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-3. In the final match, Federico Delbonis downed Ivo Karlovic 6-7(4), 2-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-3, sealing the victory and making Argentina the only South American team to lift the Davis Cup trophy.
26. A silver lining: Del Potro's road to a silver medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio hit a snag even before he stepped on court for his first-round match. As if facing Novak Djokovic, the No. 1-ranked player at the time, wasn't stressful enough, Delpo was trapped in an elevator in the Olympic Village for 40 minutes prior to the match with no way of alerting anyone of the mechanical malfunction. Eventually he was discovered and rescued by two members of Argentina's handball team. Upon his "release," Delpo went on to upset Djokovic 7–6(4), 7–6(2).
27. The power ball: Delpo's forehand is considered by his peers as one of the most potent on tour and a weapon to be reckoned with. Studies have estimated the top speed of his missile-like forehand to clock in at nearly 180 kilometers per hour (approx. 112 mph). That equates to about 50 meters in barely a second -- or, from his opponents' point of view, blink and you miss it.
28. Consider Federer a fan: So revered is Delpo's vaunted forehand that even Roger Federer, one of the Argentine's main rivals over the years, nicknamed him Juan Martin del ‘Thor-tro,’ a reference to the Marvel character and Norse god Thor. In comics and mythology, Thor's hammer, Mjolnir, grants him super-human powers.
29. Friends he can count on: If friends are the family one gets to choose, Del Potro's family grows exponentially. At this year's US Open, nearly 14 of his friends, an entourage affectionately known as "La Banda del Salamin" regularly crammed into the player's box to cheer their friend throughout the tournament.
30. London calling: Now that his return to elite form is official, Del Potro is turning his attention to the Nitto ATP Finals in London. The Argentine has made the year-end event four times before and knows what it takes to reach the final, as he came within a match of claiming the title in 2009 (l. to Davydenko 3-6, 4-6). With his comeback complete and his indoor court game as dangerous as anyone on tour, could a win in London be in the stars for Del Potro?