Former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro made it a memorable week at the Stockholm Open by winning his first ATP title since his comeback. The Argentine, who was a wildcard at this event, put up a solid performance to beat the sixth seed Jack Sock, 7-5, 6-1 in the final on Sunday that lasted 1 hour 16 minutes.
This is the 19th career title for Del Potro who has been as high as World No. 4 in 2010.
With this triumph, he also ends a long 33-month title drought with the intervening period being ravaged by two wrist surgeries. Since winning the ATP Sydney in January, 2014, Del Potro’s activity was limited on the Tour and he could only play just three more tournaments for the rest of the year, having to undergo a left wrist surgery.
His comeback the next year was cut short with his left wrist flaring up again and a second surgery was required. That put him out of action once more and whether he would be able to play became more and more doubtful so much so that at one point of time, the Argentine self-admittedly even contemplated retirement.
He finally pushed back all his setbacks and made a proper return to the Tour this February and reached the semi-finals in his very first ATP Tour event at the Delray Beach. The very popular Argentine’s comeback gathered steam at the Rio Olympics in August where he beat both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal and stretched Andy Murray to four tight sets before losing in the final.
He backed it up by making it to the quarter-finals of the US Open and also by upsetting the Wimbledon champion Murray at the Argentina vs Great Britain World Group semi-finals right after that.
It was at this week’s Stockholm Open where his game alive and he did not even drop a set. He had wins over the second seed Grigor Dimitrov, third seed Ivo Karlovic, seventh seed John Isner, besides Nicolas Almagro at this tournament.
The title will also give a huge boost to Del Potro’s ranking and the current World No. 63 is all set to break back inside the top 45. In just eight months, his ranking has shot up more than 1000 spots from 1045 in February to 42 in October.
For Del Potro, this is an unexpected achievement so early into his comeback. And he only can be more motivated by it.
“I’ve been trying to fix my problems for the past two years and I didn’t expect to win a title at this moment in my career,” del Potro said. “I am so happy to get the trophy here. It’s motivation for looking forward to the future.
Without a doubt, this is one of the best feel-good stories in the tennis world in recent times. A powerhouse of talent, the Argentine has unfortunately fallen victim to injuries time and again and has hardly ever got an opportunity to perform to his potential for a long stretch. When he is healthy, he is not intimidated by anybody on the Tour and can use his deadly forehand to beat the very best. And Del Potro knows that very well.
“I don’t really mind the rankings or the numbers. I just want to play better. When I’m 100 per cent I know I can be dangerous.”
Let us hope the worst is over for Del Potro and he can build on this big win to play uninterrupted as long as possible.