Juan Martin del Potro news: Argentine described as ‘the Gentle Giant that never gave up’

Shahida Jacobs
Joy for Juan Martin del Potro at the Rio Games
The Argentine finally returned to action in 2016 and there were emotional scenes as he beat Rafael Nadal en route to the gold medal match

Passionate, an unbelievable competitor, a big brother and someone who has deeper connection to the game are just some ways that Juan Martin del Potro will be remembered as when he retires, according to Mats Wilander.

Following more than two years on the sidelines due to a serious knee injury, Del Potro made an emotional return on Tuesday, going down 6-1, 6-3 to Federico Delbonis at the Argentina Open.

The 2009 US Open champion hinted before the match that it could well be his final competitive act in tennis as his injuries have started to take its toll.

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After the match he told reporters: “I don’t know if it’s going to happen, because the pain in my knee is very high.

“But I will keep doing a big effort to fix the knee, and if I get that, maybe I will have another chance to play.”

Seven-time Grand Slam winner Wilander was asked about Del Potro’s legacy during a Eurosport interview and replied: “To me, Del Potro’s legacy is, and I think I’ve heard this nickname before, the Gentle Giant.

“He was an unbelievable competitor and he was as big a fighter as the other top players, Roger [Federer], Rafa [Nadal], Novak [Djokovic] and Andy [Murray], for sure. At the net, there was always this very heartfelt handshake or often even a hug.

“And, of course, he’s much taller than the other four in the Big Four. So it always looked like he was kind of the big brother, although he was the youngest.

“So, to me, [he was] the Gentle Giant that never gave up, that always had the belief in the power in his game, his serve and his forehand and then his South American, I would call it, passion.

“To me, it’s more along the lines of Rafa Nadal. There’s a deeper connection to the game of tennis where he shows the people: ‘Of course I care, so does everybody else. But this means more to me as a human being, as a person, to actually give my best and be 100 per cent prepared.’

“So that’s what I remember from him, that he could have won so many matches against the Big Four, could have won more majors. But there was always this unbelievable respect between him and the other Big Four.”