Juan Martin Del Potro has delivered the news tennis fans have been dreading for some time; the popular Argentine is set to call time on his injury-ravaged career.
The former US Open champion announced that next week's comeback after two and a half years of injury hell is "more a farewell than a return" to tennis.
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Del Potro is set to announce his retirement after he plays at the Argentina Open in Buenos Aires, his first tournament since fracturing his kneecap in June 2019 at Queen's in London.
The former World No.3 has undergone four surgeries on his knee for that injury while slipping to 757 in the world rankings.
The 33-year-old, who beat Roger Federer in the 2009 US Open final, said his knee troubles had him "living a nightmare".
"It's more a farewell than a return. I've tried different treatments and seen doctors for many years, and I never imagined retiring from tennis without playing," he said while choking back tears at a press conference.
"I couldn't find a better tournament than Buenos Aires to be able to do it. After this week, I'll think about the future."
The injury-prone Argentine also broke his knee at the Shanghai Masters in October 2018 and before that suffered multiple wrist injuries that also required four surgeries.
Del Potro won the last of his 22 tour titles at the Indian Wells Masters in 2018.
He took silver and bronze at the Olympics and helped his country win the Davis Cup in 2016.
Del Potro last played the Argentina Open as a 17-year-old in 2006, losing in the first round to former world number one Juan Carlos Ferrero.
Tennis fans were understandably devastated at the news, with many left heartbroken for Del Potro and the injuries that have plagued what could have been an even more incredible career.
Tributes to the popular Argentine have been pouring in on social media as the tennis world pays its respects to the star.
Del Potro’s retirement feels very personal and extremely sad. So much potential and such a painful career and ending it this way feels like losing a young life on this earth. Not to be dramatic but that’s how SAD this is.
Oh my god!!
— A-Rafa (VamosSiempre) 💋 (@Rafaism20) February 5, 2022
Absolutely gutted about Del Potro retiring. I’ve often tuned in to tennis tournaments just to watch him play.
His match against Andy Murray during the Rio Olympics was probably the best match I’ve watched on tv. 😢https://t.co/fihSfcbXPo
— Sophie Williams (@sophierose233) February 5, 2022
News that no tennis fan wants to hear... 😔
“It’s possible that this is more of a goodbye than a comeback.” @DelPotroJuan reveals he is considering retiring from the sport after injury struggles.
— TENNIS (@Tennis) February 5, 2022
Juan Martin del Potro has announced his retirement. He won the US open in 2009 by defeating Federer and Nadal in the same tournament. It was he who ended Federer's streak of five consecutive titles. He was a true inspiration. I remember my first dp on twitter was his picture. pic.twitter.com/uKc91ifcpW
— Fidato (@tequieremos) February 5, 2022
Every tennis fan at the news of Juan Martin Del Potro retirement announcement pic.twitter.com/BRkeTwvnkF
— Chris Goldsmith (@TheTennisTalker) February 5, 2022
Juan Martin Del Potro's retirement news is just shrinking my heart man. What a guy on & off the court. Such a pity we never got to see him at his peak constantly without injuries. Novak-Rafa-Roger would not reach the numbers with a fit DelPo on the circuit, i still believe pic.twitter.com/MtdY7VF7ip
— Sayan (@Tweets_by_Sayan) February 5, 2022
Del Potro just announced his retirement. 😭
He should get endless praise for his career and how he was roundly admired, loved, and respected by fans and fellow players.
There has hardly ever been a career more marred by injuries than his. Oh, what could have been ... https://t.co/SLWyOmDgWP
— Florian Ederer (@florianederer) February 5, 2022
One of the best sportsman in the history of my country just anounced his retirement being only 33yo after fighting with injuries so many years.
Argentina is pretty sad today, but we will never forget all the happy moments you brought to all of us Juan Martín Del Potro ❤️🇦🇷 https://t.co/dqjTJf8IK1
— Juan Pedro Nardin 🇦🇷 (@Juan_Pedro_007) February 5, 2022
Del Potro's injury record is an argument against the existence of justice.
What a great player and a decent human. I hope he gets to enjoy good health in retirement, and soak up the love he receives from all right-thinking people. https://t.co/mY9d2kznM6
— James McNaney (@JamesMcNaney1) February 5, 2022
Juan Martin del Potro's career blighted by injuries
Del Potro is loved by fans and fellow players alike, with World No.1 Novak Djokovic among those to hail his game and character.
"He treats others the way he wants others to treat him," Djokovic said of the respect Del Potro commands in the locker room after defeating him in the 2018 US Open final.
"I think that's why people love him.
"He respects everyone. He fights every match from the first to the last point. I think people can relate to that and appreciate what he brings to the tennis."
However, the big Argentine was never to conquer his physical demons.
Unable to defend his US Open title in 2010, Del Potro reached a low point in 2015, playing just four ATP matches.
"I was close to quitting this sport because I couldn't find a way to fix my wrist problems," he said. "I got depressed for couple of months also. That was the bad moment for me."
There was plenty to appreciate in his game which also took him to the semi-finals at Wimbledon (2013) and the French Open (2009 and 2018).
The massive forehand and punishing serve of his early years remained constant, the two-handed backhand became a dangerous weapon along with the slice backhand he introduced to reduce the stress on his troublesome wrists.
His extended time away from the game may have denied Del Potro the chance to elbow his way in among the space monopolised by Nadal, now a 21-time major winner, and 20-time Slam champions Federer and Djokovic.
But his 10 career wins over number one-ranked players are the most by any player never to hold the number one ranking - and further proof, Djokovic said, that Del Potro belonged among the elite.
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