It’s easy to root for a Juan Martin del Potro. After four surgeries and countless hours of rehab, he finally seems to be the guy who won the US Open back in 2009.
But here’s the catch. Believe it or not, he’s better.
You see, del Potro isn’t just healthy, he also has enhanced his game. According to John Isner, whom he beat today, 6-7, 6-3, 7-6, 6-2, the Argentine giant has added a weapon to his game.
“We all know his weapons,” Isner said. “From his left wrist injury, he’s got a slice backhand that’s really good now. That’s from him working on that all the time. We all know about his serve. Of course, we all know about his forehand. But he’s added a really, really good slice backhand to his game. That’s one of the reasons he’s back to top five at No. 3 in the world.”
Put it to you this way, it’s like a pitcher developing a Mariano Rivera-type cutter because of the Tommy John Surgery he had.
And that’s the del Potro who is sitting two wins away from his second US Open. However, one thing hasn’t changed, he’s still the same humble guy that we saw none years ago take down Roger Federer in five sets.
Even today, he just seemed to be happy being back to the same level he was playing at in 2009. “I’m very happy for my level, for what all has been through to get in this position now,” he said. “I think it doesn’t matter the final result in the tournament. I just enjoying playing tennis again. I’m enjoying a lot the crowds like this. I like to play big battles with other guys. That’s makes me feels alive again.
“After all my problems, I think it’s time to celebrate these kind of things. I love this sport. I love the competition. I’m very proud to be here again.”
That’s what makes this story really special. Most players are looking ahead and tasting the payday they will get in making and winning, the final. Not del Potro.
This isn’t a state secret either, as the Arthur Ashe crowd, appreciated the former champion today, just as much as they did the homegrown Isner.
And although he gets the winner of the Rafael Nadal vs. Dominic Thiem match, with the way he’s playing it’s very possible to think we will be seeing him on Sunday and possibly holding the trophy.
“I played a good match,” del Potro said. “I don’t know if I’m playing my best tennis ever, but I’m feeling good. I reach another semifinals in this Grand Slam, which means something big to me. I’m very happy for that.”
And if he does happen to win, maybe he will have a better reaction than nine years ago, when he said he almost couldn’t “hold the trophy.”
“I like to see that trophy every single day in my home,” he said. “I don’t know if I can get a new one, but I’m doing all my best to try to get again.”
Here’s hoping you do Juan. Here’s hoping.