Juan Martin del Potro opened up on his career as he spoke to Kevin Palmer in the player’s lounge at Queen’s Club ahead of the Fever-Tree Championships, with the Argentine happy to give an insight into his life on an off the court in an honest discussion.
You show more emotion on court than some of your rivals. Is that why the fans around the world love watching you play?
Sometimes, the people think that we are robots and we cannot express how we feel on court. I like to be just me, on court and off it as well. Sometimes I like to talk with the fans, sometimes I scream. I’ve never broken a racket. Never. Not in my career and now I get so much love from the fans.
That love comes from my history and also for my level of tennis. The people know everything about my injuries, about my efforts to be here. It’s amazing to get that love.
You have played through a golden age of tennis and competed with some of the biggest stars the game has ever known. Can the sport ever replace Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and the great champions?
Tennis will recover when they retire because the next big stars will come up. Tennis recycles all the time. Might not be the same as before but we thought like this before with Sampras/Agassi but the sport always comes back.
You are now of the few players who has enjoyed success against Roger, Rafa and Novak Djokovic. How hard is it to believe you can beat these champions?
I am not scared of the big four. I know how good they are and I know if 100 per-cent I can beat them. I have beaten them all in the past. I was close to beating Novak in Rome – I had two match points.
I know the tennis will be even when I am best – but not at moment because I am coming back from injury, but I love to play against them. It is a special opportunity and opponent – and that’s what I want to remember after retiring.
Boris Becker suggested the young players coming through are not mentally strong enough to beat the ‘big three’. Do you agree?
I love having the big four around. You can learn so much from them in the locker room. If I had to choose one time to play tennis it would be now. It’s not to easy break through them at the big events.
You can win a tournament like here or a Masters 1000, but at the big ones to beat two or three of them to win a Grand Slam, nobody does this. Okay so, Marin Cilic or Stan Wawrinka have done it, but it has only happened occasionally.
I did it when I beat Roger in the US Open final, but that was ten years ago when I was a kid.
Is it frustrating for the chasing pack that the enduring champions continue to win the big tournaments?
They have the experience, the talent, the game and the physical conditioning. As you saw in the French Open final, Dominic Thiem played great tennis for two sets but against Rafa that is never enough.
This is what happens when you share the same era as these guys, but the youngsters are smart enough to know they will not be here forever.
You appear to love spending time on your farm in Argentina. Can you tell us a bit about that life away from the court?
My farm is the best place for me because I have family and friends there. I like to play soccer, I like to go to the farms. It’s a different life to being on the tennis tour. That is what I want to do in the future. I don’t know when.
You have to be smart. Now is the time to play tennis, the time to be here. I am trying to do 100 per cent, but when I go home, I enjoy it a lot. Now I’m starting to see different shots of my life after tennis. The farm is one of them and I have a couple of different businesses. I’m thinking about this more than tennis now.
How much do you enjoy the grass court season and what are your expectations for Wimbledon?
After my knee injury and now I am trying to come back again. I did well in Paris at the French Open now I am switching to a different surface. It will be a challenge to see how my knee is.
The movements on grass are different than clay, but my doctor says I have to be confident with my body and just play free from pain. I will see in the next few days how my body is on this surface. On clay I felt good, but now the movement is faster than clay. My doctor says my knee is going to respond well.
The Fever-Tree Championships gets underway on Monday and tickets are available here – https://www.lta.org.uk/major-tennis-events/british-major-events/fever-tree-championships/tickets/
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