There are very few players in a modern era dominated by the top four players that have won a Grand Slam. In fact, in the last ten years, there have only been three other men to do it–Marin Cilic, Stan Wawrinka, and Juan Martin Del Potro. The first two are still at the top of their game in the top 10 players in the world. However, the latter has fallen from grace in the peak of his career.
The Argentine hit the spotlights when he beat Roger Federer in 2009 in the US Open final. A five set thriller gave Del Potro the foundations to build his career on, but it did not quite work out.
As mentioned, the biggest high of Del Potro’s career was the US Open Grand Slam victory. However, he has impressed on the big stage several times before. He made it to the French Open semifinals that same year, that time losing to Federer in five sets, after being 2-1 up.
That highlight year ended with the then-World #4 making into the ATP World tour finals. He progressed to the final before losing to Nikolay Davydenko.
His breakthrough year in 2008 saw him win four ATP tour titles in a row, showing the rest of the players that big things were to come for the 6’6″ giant.
In 2013, he made the last four of Wimbledon, as he made his way back from injury, eventually losing to Novak Djokovic.
A recent triumph and a sign of positivity of late was the 2016 Davis Cup victory. Del Potro beat Andy Murray and Marin Cilic–both in five sets–on the way to helping his country to the trophy.
Unfortunately, for the one-time Grand Slam winner, there have been more low points than highs. Injuries have damaged his chances of a consistent top five place.
In early 2010, a wrist injury hampered his season after the Australian Open. His next tournament that year was the Thailand Open, after a nine-month break.
This was just the start of the downfall, though, as 2011 saw his ranking hit a low of #485. He made his way back up to the Top 20 before a shoulder injury after the US Open resulted in him missing out on the ATP World Tour Finals.
2013 looked like it would the start of something new, with only one injury during the season slightly hampering him. The Argentine ended the year with four titles and over $4M in prize money.
However, the following years were disastrous for the big hitter. He needed wrist surgery twice in two years, meaning he missed most of the 2014 and 2015 seasons. The result meant that Del Potro’s once-formidable backhand has turned into a weakness. A tactical change of having a one-handed slice backhand and a slow double-hander has made him vulnerable on the tour.
2016 saw the 28-year-old win the Stockholm Open and give signs he may return to his best again. Yet his 2017 season so far has suggested otherwise. Not playing at the Australian Open showed he was not at top fitness and losing in the third round at Roland Garros only emphasized that. He followed this with a poor second-round exit to World #589 Ernest Gulbis in straight sets at Wimbledon.
There is no doubt Del Potro has the game to reach the top. A devastating forehand and powerful serve are a match for any opponent. Yet injuries have affected his career maybe once too many, as his backhand has become weaponless. There seems little hope that the World #32 will be returning to his peak any time soon.