The large, hard-charging Argentine is winning things again. Juan Martin del Potro just captured his first ATP title in two years at the Stockholm Open, an event he’d only qualified for by way of wild card. Most of those two years he spent addressing chronic wrist injuries and free-falling through the rankings. But 2016 has been kinder: In January he was as low as No. 1041 in the world, but this Monday, fresh off the 250 points from this title, he leapt another 21 spots up to No. 42.
In between, the 28-year-old notched wins over Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray, plus an Olympic silver medal earned the hard way—by going through Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. In Stockholm he dropped zero sets and only two games on his deathly serve. He had little trouble in the final against Jack Sock, the great American hope whose chief weapon is a homebrewed forehand so rubber-wristed and arm-tangling it hurts to look at, one of the fastest and most heavily spun on tour. Both parties are basically on court to run around backhands and slug forehands, and Del Potro won out, steamrolling the second set after a tired Sock took an injury timeout.
Fans might also take solace because Del Potro’s two-handed backhand, which was hobbled by wrist issues earlier this year and usually hidden under a safer slice, seems to be slowly creeping back to form. It’s a relief to see those brutally flat, deep groundstrokes back on court again, struck by the guy who spiked as high as No. 4 in the world in 2014, and who most memorably stole the 2009 U.S. Open out of Roger Federer’s hands. For most of his career Del Potro has played an entertaining foil to the Big Four, and it’s a pleasure to see, even as half of those guys have begun their slow descents, that the tall one might still have a renaissance ahead.