Can Del Potro emulate Ivanisevic in being a wildcard Grand Slam winner?
Sam Barnard, Assistant Sports Editor | August 21, 2016
Del Potro raring to go ahead of US Open
Juan Martin del Potro announced his return as one of the top ATP tennis players again, after his superb showing at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, where he claimed a Silver medal to improve on Bronze in London.
Despite playing in front of a hostile Brazilian crowd throughout, the Argentine defeated the likes of all-time greats Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal along the way to the final, where he lost out to an inspired Andy Murray.
Del Potro has suffered heavily with wrist injuries ever since winning the 2009 US Open aged just 20, as he missed most of 2010 and again from 2014 until earlier this year.
Argentine back to his best after injury issues
As a result, he was cruelly denied fulfilling his potential after breaking into the top four in the world rankings and matching the abilities of the ‘big four’ of Djokovic, Nadal, Murray and Roger Federer – until now.
While Del Potro is still way down at 141 in the world, he has rapidly risen from a lowly 1045 back in February, and therefore has to rely on a second wildcard to feature at a Grand Slam this year.
He managed to reach the third round at Wimbledon, and showed glimpses of his former self by knocking out world number four and two-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka.
But now, Coral rate Del Potro as the 14/1 tournament fourth-favourite for the upcoming US Open, meaning he is a genuine title contender. That is especially with Djokovic seemingly going through a slump, Federer out through injury, Nadal past his best and Murray risking burning himself out after a busy summer.
Del Potro hoping to emulate Ivanisevic
If Del Potro were to claim the final Grand Slam of 2016 in Flushing Meadows, New York, he would be just the second man in the singles section to do so after fellow tall big-server Goran Ivanisevic famously won Wimbledon in 2001.
However, while the Croat was slightly higher in the rankings at 125 before the tournament, Del Potro has the advantage of having lifted the US Open title before.
Ivanisevic’s victory also propelled him right up to number 16 in the world, even though he was coming towards the end of his career.
But again in contrast, Del Potro could use any win or success to further help his aspirations, as he is only 27 and can take advantage of when Djokovic and Murray (who are both two years older) decline.
Murray knows first hand of Del Potro’s resurgence
Talking of Murray, the Scot, who has had his run-ins with the Argentine in the past, clearly has respect for him after all he’s been through and believes he is far from done.
“He obviously played, at times tonight, extremely well,” Murray said. “He’s done amazing, really, to get back to playing and competing at this level after all the issues he’s had with his wrists.
“Mentally, I can only imagine how frustrating that must have been, to keep going through the same program and to try and come back.
“It’s amazing he’s come back from it, but also back to the level he’s playing at just now,” the current Wimbledon champion added. “He deserves a lot of credit for that, and he should be very proud. It’s not an easy thing to do.”
So, make sure to watch closely this US Open, which may be the most competitive in years with the likes of Milos Raonic, Marin Cilic and Kei Nishikori raising their games in recent months too!