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Tuesday, 10 April 2018 11:25 AM BST
Del Potro poised to scale the heights
After hitting some of the best form of his career, looks at how the stars might just be aligning for Juan Martin del Potro. READ MORE

After he beat Roger Federer in the 2009 US Open final, Juan Martin del Potro looked like the future of men’s tennis. He was tall - 6ft 6in - yet quick for his size, and as powerful as anyone in the sport. And then everything went wrong, with injuries in both wrists and real thoughts that he might, despite his best efforts, have to retire.

At age 29, del Potro is officially back - and everyone in tennis is happy about it. In Indian Wells, del Potro beat Roger Federer in three sets in the final. He saved three match points and finished off the match in a tie-break. It was wonderful to watch from the start, with stunning power, passing shots and precision from both men. Federer had won the first 17 matches of the season: That’s how tough he was to beat. Somehow, del Potro found a way to do it.

This was the first Masters 1000 victory for del Potro in his career, a shocking fact when you think about a man with this much talent. Had he been healthy, he likely would have won more, and more Grand Slam titles, too.

But that’s the past. In the present, del Potro has a lot in his favour if he can stay healthy. After Indian Wells, he moved on to Miami, where he extended his winning run to 15 straight matches before running into eventual champion John Isner in the semi-finals.

After playing three tournaments in a row, next on del Potro's agenda is a period of rest. The last thing del Potro would want is another injury, and at present he won't return to a competitive court until May, when he'll begin his clay court season in Madrid, before moving onto Rome and Roland Garros.

The main reason for this? Injuries have been everywhere in men’s tennis of late. Andy Murray isn't scheduled to appear until the early stages of the grass court season. Stan Wawrinka recently skipped tournaments while Novak Djokovic, once world No.1, continues to strive for the stratospheric standards he has set himself.

With the younger generation still shy of a Grand Slam title, del Potro has more experience and chances to win.

Most 6ft 6in players look too big for tennis. Their running and technique can be awkward and their speed too slow. Del Potro is the rare player who looks smaller than he is when he moves for the ball. His footwork is exceptional for a man his size. Now, finally after his most recent surgery, his backhand is becoming more of a weapon again, like it once was.

The most fun thing about del Potro is, he’s never out of a match until it ends. At the US Open last year, he lost the first two sets against Dominic Thiem, winning just three games total. He battled back and won the final three in thrilling fashion, and went on to beat Federer in the quarter-finals.

Del Potro has played in just one Grand Slam final in his career and has a career high rank of world No.4. With the way he’s playing this season - and with all the injuries in the rest of the field - don’t be surprised if he scales those heights once again.

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