(January 13, 2015) For Juan Martin Del Potro, this was the successful return to competition after almost a year that everyone – except, perhaps, his first-round opponent at the Apia International, Sergiy Stakhovsky – was hoping for.
The shot most affected by his injury is Del Potro’s double-handed backhand, but the Argentinian 26-year-old possesses other weapons, namely one of the most powerful serves and deadly forehands on tour. Those were both on full display on Tuesday afternoon, when he denied Stakhovsky any break points on the way to a straight-sets 6-3, 7-6 victory that took 81 minutes.
“It was a great moment for me,” said an emotional Del Potro after the match, “I think I play well to be in my first match after ten months. I serve well. My forehand is still working out. So that’s mean good signal for the future. I need to work very hard to my backhands and my movements, but I think now is time to think about my comeback and enjoying this moment a lot. I been at home for a long time really sad. To be honest, I didn’t expect this moment to be early in the season. I’m so happy, so glad.”
After the match Del Potro, who raised the Apia International winner’s trophy in 2014, raised both arms in a warmly-received celebration before collapsing to his chair and putting his towel over his head, apparently overwhelmed by the emotion.
“I enjoy the match, enjoying the atmosphere on there,” said Del Potro, “They are still Argentinian fans coming to watch me, which is very good for me. Obviously be the defending champion here means a lot. But I don’t have to think about that. Just try to be calm and go step by step, trying to go slowly. I know many people expect me playing like a top 10 very soon, but I will say to them that it takes a bit of time.”
Del Potro indicated his wrist felt better than he had expected, saying, “I will be ready to play tomorrow for sure. I will do treatment after here that take me like an hour every day. It’s supposed to be worse after intensive match like today, but I’m feeling well at the moment. I will see tonight and maybe tomorrow morning, but my doctor is behind me. He give me big confidence every day, so I’m still positive and I still want to play tennis.”
Hi opponent on Wednesday, top seed Fabio Fognini, has also struggled with his health recently in Perth, where he was sidelined from the Hopman Cup for at least one rubber with a heat-related illness. “Fabio is a great player,” said Del Potro, “He’s the No.1 seed. He is a friend of mine as well. So just try to play as I did today will be great for me. Obviously focus is on my wrist, trying to don’t get worse after tonight and after the match of tomorrow. If everything happens in the good way, I will be happy for this week.”
Clearly focussed on the long road back to full health, Del Potro assures, “I will be an aggressive player again very soon, but now it’s time to work on my physically and the treatment and the recoveries every day.”
Reflecting on his time away from the game, he said, “It’s been horrible for me. I spend a lot of time at home. I was watching tennis on TV. I think for all the players watching the big tournaments on TV is really, really bad. Supposed to be there playing with these guys, looking on trying to win a grand slam again. But I also have a big support of my family, of my friends. Because of them, I’m here now. They want me to still watching playing tennis. And I feel young, so I will try to play tennis as long as I can. Could be another start of my career after this match.”