As the world comes to grips with a grand slam without Roger Federer in it, Juan Martin del Potro has made a heartbreaking confession about his own regrettable departure from the sport.
Del Potro, 34, says he feels like he’s had nothing to do with an injury that will bring down his phenomenal career.
Climbing to the No. 3 of his career in mid-2018, nearly a decade after moving to fourth in the rankings to start 2010 after winning the US Open, del Potro draped his headband over the net as he arch in Buenos Aires. Aires earlier this year to compatriot Federico Delbonis in February.
It came after four knee surgeries, in which he fractured his kneecap for the second time in eight months.
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Now del Potro has revealed the extent of his injuries and says he can’t run and walk without pain.
I recently went to Switzerland to see another doctor, del Potro recently told reporters in Argentina. I started another treatment, it was recommended by many tennis players and so far I have not even had a positive result.
Imagine what it’s like after every treatment attempt or surgery, the frustration I can feel when things don’t work out. As usual, I’m kidding myself I hope, I have faith in every new treatment I try and if it doesn’t work, the blow is hard.
And for three and a half years, despite several surgeries and treatments, it always happened. Today I can walk alone, I can’t run on the treadmill, I can’t climb the stairs without pain. I can’t drive for a long time without stopping to stretch my legs.
This is my reality, which is difficult, it is sad, but I always try to improve my situation and my new challenge is also to live in the best possible way, even psychologically, despite my problem.
Del Potro said he struggled to think about life without tennis, saying his sudden departure from the sport was hard to handle.
Psychologically, I cannot accept a life without tennis, he said.
I have not had a gradual transition to the afterlife, I have not prepared, I have no idea what the other athletes have done to live this process peacefully.
I was number three in the world, then suddenly I broke my knees and here I am, with nothing.
And all the while I was trying to recover, like I’ve done with any other injury, until I said in Buenos Aires: That’s enough. And from Buenos Aires I found myself, and I’m still there, in that process of reflection, I wonder what I would like, I don’t know.
When I talk to other athletes who are no longer active, they say to me: Well, it took me the last two years of my career, the last year I prepared in this or that way. I’m doing it now.
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The Argentine Davis Cup winner, who also won medals in the 2012 (bronze) and 2016 (silver) Olympics, became a household name in 2009 when he made a massive killing spree to the US Open final.
He defeated Marin Cilic in the quarter-finals, before beating Rafael Nadal in straight sets (6-2, 6-2, 6-2) to qualify for his first – and only – final.
In five incredible sets, Del Potro became one of only three players (you know the other two) to beat Federer in a grand slam final when he won the US Open.
His breakthrough win capped off a great season, reaching the quarterfinals at the Australian Open before reaching the semifinals at both the French Open and Wimbledon.
The Argentine would reach another final in 2018, where Novak Djokovic defeated him in straight sets.
The times correspondent James Gheerbrant said he would miss Del Potro more than Federer.
For this unwavering generosity of spirit, despite serious adversity, I found Del Potro to be just as compelling and admirable, perhaps even a little more than his legendary peers, Gheerbrant wrote in The times.
Perhaps no athlete of the past 15 years has better embodied the brutal bargain of professional sport in the 21st century: going to war against your body so that your body can go to war on your behalf.
Physical decay eventually comes to most players, but Del Potro battled the sedition in his joints and ligaments almost from the start.
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