The resurrection of Juan Martin del Potro was one of the quiet joys of 2016. He’d been out of the game for two years, he’d sunk lower than the No. 1000 ranking, and his wrists seemed like they’d never again be capable of bashing those flat, unforgiving groundstrokes. Yet somehow he snagged a silver medal in Rio by upsetting Djokovic and Nadal, surged into the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open, picked up his first ATP title since 2014, strung together a seven-match win streak, and sealed the Davis Cup victory for Argentina. If you hoped that comeback would continue cleanly right through 2017, you’ll have to wait a little longer: he might not be healthy enough for the first Grand Slam of the year.
“What I need is to have someone get me physically fit enough to last the whole year,” he said today in a news conference. “There’s a fortnight to the Australia Open and I’m unlikely to make that objective. We’re looking at what the priority is. If tennis waited for me for two years, Australia can wait for me for one more.”
Though del Potro had a heartening run, occasionally it was hard to watch, say, Stan Wawrinka hang back behind the baseline and tee off on his still-weakened backhand. He’s now ranked No. 38 in the world, but a fully intact version will soon ascend much higher, and if the last few months were any indicator, a healthy Delpo is well worth the wait.