Juan Martin del Potro is experiencing a great inner conflict: on the one hand, the strenuous desire to return to compete as a professional player, on the other hand a reality in which the knee always hurts so much.
That was why, in Buenos Aires in February, Del Potro appeared to surrender to the inevitable and bid farewell to tennis.
Because the truth, as explained in a recent interview with La Nacion, is that he cannot even climb the stairs without pain.
"The last time I picked up the racket was in Buenos Aires - declared the 2009 US Open champion. “Later I did a couple of tests, but no: the truth is that the decision to play in Buenos Aires cost me a lot. And once I did that, and everyone saw the state of things, you know, that was a relief, a turning point in my life."
"In these three years, before Buenos Aires, I never thought about what it would be like to be back on court. I always faced surgeries and made attempts to return, until I began to understand that the comeback was less and less possible.
"I was out of treatments, I couldn’t try anything new. I came to Buenos Aires, I trained hard practically on one leg, taking anti-inflammatories, and I said, 'What do I do? I throw away all this effort or I go play with the possibility that it’s my last game?'.
“That led me to decide to come in and play. And when I finished, my feeling was, 'If this was the last game, It was super exciting, at home, with my mother on the field, with my sister, with all my people, in Argentina, in a tournament that I had played only once'.
"I think it was all spectacular. Today I’m looking for a quality-of-life treatment, I’m not looking for a treatment to play Paris-Bercy or the Australian Open. Health is my priority.
“I’m living another life today, I have other goals, I’m looking for doctors and care, but in order to be able to climb the stairs and not cling to the railing, which is my reality at the moment. So, there is a reality and a very simple equation: with one leg you cannot play tennis, you cannot.”
What is his current situation? "I recently went to Switzerland to see another doctor,” the Argentinian star said. “I started another treatment, it was recommended by many tennis players and so far I have not even had a positive result.
“Imagine what it’s like after every treatment attempt or surgery, the frustration I can feel when things don’t work out. As usual I delude myself, I hope, I have faith in every new treatment I try and, when this fails, the blow is hard.”
“And for three and a half years, despite several surgeries and treatments, it always happened. Today I can only walk, I do not run on the treadmill, I cannot climb the stairs without pain. I can’t drive for a long time without stopping to stretch my legs.
Much of the attention in tennis right now is on Roger Federer and his transition away from tennis, but Del Potro feels he has been denied a farewell and closure on his career. He also asserts that is making it all so much harder.
“This is my reality, which is hard, it is sad, but I always try to improve my situation and my new challenge is also to live in the best possible way, even psychologically, despite my problem.
"I can’t psychologically accept a life without tennis. I did not have a gradual transition to the after, I did not prepare, I have no idea what the other athletes did to live this process peacefully. I was number three in the world, then suddenly I broke on my knees and here I am, with nothing.
“And all this time I was trying to recover, as I have with any other injury, until in Buenos Aires I said: 'That’s enough'. And from Buenos Aires I found myself, and I am still there, in that process of reflection, I wonder what things I might like, I don’t know.
“When I talk to other athletes who are no longer active, they say to me, 'Well, it took me the last two years of my career, the last year, I prepared myself this way or that way. I’m doing it now,” Del Potro concluded.
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