Del Potro: "I'm Excited To Keep Surprising Myself"
Records are more often than not about which names are etched into the trophy at the end of the day. In that regard, Juan Martin Del Potro knows his title run at Flushing Meadows in 2009 stands tall at this point in his career.
Tears flowed upon losing his shot at adding his name to a Grand Slam trophy nine years after his first on Sunday. But this was not a 29-year-old bitter he had fallen short to a friend, Novak Djokovic.
The pain of defeat stung, sure, but the emotions were as much a culmination of a tough stint since that maiden US Open title all those years ago. Many times, Del Potro did not think he would ever play again, let alone reach another Grand Slam final.
His 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-3 defeat to the Serbian was not the fairytale outcome he had imagined. It was a contest not without its chances.
One game alone in the second set lasted 20 minutes. Djokovic survived that one, fending off break points in the process to steel himself for a two-set lead.
“To be honest, I was crying till now,” Del Potro said as he began his post-match press conference. “I'm very sad for being a loser today. But Novak deserved to take the trophy. He played a great match, a very smart game. I had my opportunities during the second and third set.
“But I was playing almost at the limit all the time, looking for winners with my forehands, backhands, and I couldn't make it because Novak was there every time. He's a great champion. So I'm glad for him.”
The “what-ifs” will always swirl around talk of Del Potro’s place in the sport. When he defeated Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer back-to-back to claim the 2009 US Open he was just 20 years old. He was earmarked as the next big force, the man alongside Djokovic to rattle the two great champions he had just felled to break through.
Wrist injuries robbed the Argentine of years when he should have been entering the prime of his career. If it was not time spent out of the sport rehabilitating his problematic wrists, it was the constant breaks in momentum these sideline stints created upon each comeback to the ATP World Tour.
This is the healthiest and fittest Del Potro has felt in years. And able to build momentum once more, the results have showed in 2018. The Argentine is now next in line to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals after Nadal, Djokovic and Federer.
“I'm feeling good. My wrist is responding good, because I've been playing a lot of matches in these two weeks,” Del Potro said. “I feel good with my two-handed backhands, as well. I will keep playing tennis for a few more years.
“I don't know when will be my last tournament in this career, but I'm excited to keep surprising myself doing things like this. I'm very motivated to keep trying to win these titles.”
Djokovic’s fourth US Open trophy means that he, Nadal and Federer have now won 50 of the past 60 majors. Del Potro would not rue how many of those could have been his had he been injury-free all those years.
It was futile now. The Argentine looked at it more as an honour to have shared a court with three of the greatest players of all time.
“Of course, it is a big challenge to take these kind of tournaments to them,” he said. “But also I think we are proud to be close to these legends. I've been during all my career learning with Novak, Roger, Rafa, seeing them winning these events very often.
“It's amazing. I don't feel sad that I couldn't win Grand Slams because of them. I am just one of the guys that have been lucky to be in the same era as them, and it's great.”
Did You Know?
Juan Martin Del Potro played just four matches in 2015 and after another round of wrist surgery, was ranked No. 1042 in the ATP Rankings when he returned in February 2016.