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At the age of 20, Juan Martin del Potro had the world at his feet. He won his first Grand Slam title at the 2009 US Open, defeating Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the semi-final and final respectively. As of 2015, he remains the last non-European player to win a Grand Slam. He rounded out 2009 with an appearance at the Barclay’s World Tour Finals, making the final before succumbing Nikolay Davydenko. Then the problem of the left wrist set in. But the tall Argentine refused to budge, soldiering on before opting for surgery in mid-2010.
With the problem seemingly fixed, del Potro made a full-time return to tennis in 2011, winning two titles and finishing just outside the top 10 in the year end rankings. 2012 would prove to be another fruitful year for the now 27 year-old, reaching three Grand Slam quarter-finals, winning four titles and taking bronze at the Olympics. Arguably his semi-final against Federer at the Olympics was the best match of 2012 and one of the biggest of his career. A return to the top 10 was inevitable, finishing at No. 7.
In 2013, the Tandil native once again reminded us why he deserved to be in the conversation when discussing potential Grand Slam winners, pushing Djokovic to five sets at Wimbledon. Apart from his performance at SW19, he also captured four ATP World Tour 500 titles and reached the final in Indian Wells and Shanghai. Fast forward to 2014, the problem of the left wrist flared up again forcing del Potro into rehabilitation. There have been cameos in early 2015, but to little success.
Unsurprisingly, talk as turned as to whether he should switch to a one-handed backhand to restrict the use of his left wrist. In my opinion, that is completely absurd because it was his two-handed backhand that makes him the player he is today. His height and left hand gives him the leverage to return high topspin balls which is why he has had success against players like Nadal. What he should be focusing on is healing his left wrist and getting it as strong as possible.
At 27, he is still relatively young and with the likes of Wawrinka winning Grand Slams in his late 20s and early 30s anything is possible. There is no doubt in my mind if del Potro has the will and courage, he will return to the tennis court successfully and reclaim his spot in the top 10. His presence and game play still instills fear in the big 4 tennis players having recorded multiple victories against them in the past. For now in his words “there doesn’t seem to be much light at the end of the tunnel” as his left wrist threatens to completely derail his successful career.