Juan Martín del Potro has returned to tennis. He played a match in Madrid, in the doubles alongside Kei Nishikori, beating the duo of Fabio Fognini and Robert Lindstedt 5-7, 6-4, 10-4 in a little over an hour and a half of play.
The ATP world number 8 has fulfilled the goals he stated in a press conference yesterday; to play tennis, unrestricted and with realistic goals. And he has chosen to do so on the courts of the Mutua Madrid Open, a tournament that he likes because of its conditions, the city that hosts it and the affection he always receives from the Madrid public.
Away from the tour since last February, the player from Tandil is still recovering from an injury to his right knee and was looking for somewhere that suits his powerful game and is physically demanding so that he can test himself against the biggest names on tour, conditions perfectly met by the Spanish capital.
However, his experience with injuries, a dark corner of the sport, has allowed him to better understand the steps that must be taken and the caution necessary to return to the highest level possible. Therefore, Del Potro signed up for the doubles together with a rival with whom he competes for the same ATP titles: Kei Nishikori. He does not want to take unnecessary risks and knows that the doubles is the perfect stage to see if he feels fit enough to reach his goal; the singles competition.
Appearances would suggest that he is feeling good. Just seeing the Argentine and Japanese players on court, side by side, sent the levels of expectation through the roof of the Caja Mágica’s Stadium 3 on Monday morning. On the other side of the net stood the newly crowned champion of Monte Carlo, Fabio Fognini, and the ex-world number 3 in doubles, Robert Lindstedt. In other words, the spectators were guaranteed a show to remember. The atmosphere in the stands was provided by the ever-animated and noisy Argentinian fans, who spurred their compatriot and his new teammate on to victory.
Del Potro’s game grew throughout the match, and he capped it off with four consecutive points in the super tiebreak to seal what was undoubtedly the most attractive match of the day. It is surprising to see the Argentinian sharing his side of the court, as it is not a discipline he often graces, with 82 matches won in doubles compared to 603 in singles.
Having come through his first test for some time with flying colours, all that remains is to wait and see if the Argentine decides to play in the singles.