Between the Emperor and the Gladiator, one would think there isn’t room for another warrior on the world stage. And yet out of the ashes of a difficult injury prone career, the dark horse has scripted a comeback! Perhaps it wasn’t as popular a comeback as Federer and Nadal but it is no less a story of perseverance and hard work.He was hailed as the tennis’ upset specialist in the US Open 2009 beating both Nadal and Federer at the top of their respective game. What followed, however, was a wrist injury in 2010 followed by 4 surgeries and murmurs of an early retirement.
The 2016 Wimbledon was the rise of the phoenix and while the world was still looking at the indomitable rise of Djokovic, Wawrinka (even in his loss) acknowledged how happy the world of tennis was to see the dark horse rise again. Perhaps it was the love of the Latino community in the US Open or the love of the millions in Argentina praying for one man, the quarter final loss at the tournament against Wawrinka was a historic moment the sport would cherish for a long time. The crowd celebrated his return to the echelons with chants of “Delpo, Delpo” as a teary eyed Del Potro served for his last game of the match. He missed this, who wouldn’t?
The story of his return is the end of a long love story in which the fans of the game have played the most important part. Unlike the greats like Federer and Rafa who have managed to for a large part motivate themselves to script a fairy tale comeback, Del Potro’s story of comeback all centers on the love of the crowd and the love of the game. We were all in tears in that US Open quarters, because we had willed our Dark Horse back to life and here he was for another fight.
While 2017 was fraught with back injuries and personal losses, here he is scripting a similar 2009 story. Just as the two giants of the game have scripted a comeback meant for the history books, I would spare a thought for the heart of a man whose career was stolen from him and yet he stands on a court strewn with his tears and those of his beloved fans with a quiet smile on his face.
For all my love for Rafa, I wouldn’t be entirely heartbroken if this Dark Horse wins. I eagerly await a semifinal between the raging bull and the hungry heart.