For the first time in his career, Juan Martin del Potro tasted defeat in a Grand Slam final. Of course, Del Potro was playing in just his second Slam final – his first in nine years – yesterday falling to Novak Djokovic in straight sets at the US Open, but it still was a painful defeat.
After four wrist surgeries, near retirement, other injuries, coaching changes, Del Potro should be proud to return to championship tennis. And the 29-year-old was.
Here’s what he told the press:
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. We saw the tears on the court. You worked so hard to get here. Talk about the thoughts on the match.
JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: Well, it could be the worst part of the day, talk with you at this moment (smiling).
No, no, to be honest, I was crying till now. I’m very sad for being a loser today. But Novak deserved to take the trophy. He played a great match, very smart game. I had my opportunities during second and third set.
But I was playing almost at the limit all the time, looking for winners with my forehands, backhands, and I couldn’t make it because Novak were there every time.
He’s a great champion. So I’m glad for him.
Q. Novak and Rafa and Roger have won more than 50 majors. Talk about the challenge of playing in this era against three of the greatest players of all time for you and everyone else.
JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: Yeah, of course, is a big challenge to take these kind of tournaments to them. But also I think we are proud to be close to these legends. I’ve been during all my career learning with Novak, Roger, Rafa, seeing them winning these events very often. It’s amazing. I don’t feel sad that I couldn’t win Grand Slams because of them. I am just one of the guys that have lucky to be in the same era as them, and it’s great.
Q. Everyone is very happy to see you back. How long can we expect to see you? What is the condition of your wrist? Do you have pain? Do you feel yourself open field for the next year, two, three years to keep playing the way you are now?
JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: Yeah, hopefully yes. I’m feeling good. My wrist is responding good, because I’ve been playing a lot of matches in these two weeks. I feel good with my two-handed backhands, as well. I will keep playing tennis for few more years. I don’t know when will be my last tournament in this career, but I’m exciting to keep surprising myself doing things like this. I’m very motivate to keep trying to win these titles.
Q. No pain?
JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: No, not at the moment.
Q. Will you think about those three breakpoints you had to go up 5-3? You missed a not-so-difficult shot.
JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: That’s what I say, that I have my chances in the second set. I take the risk with my forehands. I’ve been doing that all the match. Sometimes it go in, and sometimes I miss it. But it’s the only way to beat these kind of players. You have to be a perfect game during more than three hours. Sometimes you couldn’t make it.
But my mistakes was because the level of Novak. He plays really well.
Q. The court was a little slow?
JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: A little bit, yeah.
Q. Last night there was great drama here. Do you think there is a double standard in officiating, that the women are treated differently than the men by chair umpires, officials?
JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: Whew (smiling).
Q. I’m sorry.
JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: I don’t know what’s can I say about that. I was sad for Serena because she’s a great champion. She gives to this sport a lot. But Naomi deserved to win. She’s a great champion.
Of course, the final was not the final that everybody expected. But I’m agree that the girls has to be treated as the mens, win the same money. They made big effort to play these kind of tournaments, and they deserve to has the same treatment as we have.
Basically Serena is one of the greatest players of the history. I wish all the best to her because she’s so nice. We want to watch her keep playing the slams.
Q. Some of the shots you hit tonight, did you feel like they would have been winners against other players? How hard is it to hit the ball when it keeps coming back at you?
JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: Yeah, I think so, for sure. Novak is too fast. His defense are pretty good. But I expected the game like we played today. When you have chances against the top guys, and you couldn’t make it, then they take advantage of the game. It’s really difficult to beat a player like Novak.
But I did a big effort also, and I’m proud for that.
Q. What is it like to stand on the floor and have 20,000 people singing “Ole, DelPo”?
JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: What I say on the stage, you can lose or win a trophy, but the love from the crowd, it’s could be even bigger than the tournament. That’s what I got from them. It will be in the heart for the rest of the life.
Q. Despite the disappointment, do you think you will be able to enjoy remembering this final, enjoy the moment during the trophy ceremony, or was disappointment taking over everything?
JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: No, I enjoyed everything. The worst part to me is the chances that I couldn’t make it of the game. But then when you see a friend holding the trophy, it’s good, too. I’m glad that Novak is the champion. He deserve to be.
I will come back next year trying to take my trophy in my favorite tournament once again.
Q. (Question about being one of the greatest athletes in Argentina.)
JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: Well, Argentina has a big idols in soccer, in different sport. I’m just doing my job, trying to be an example for the kids, to teach them that you have to do effort to get your goals in your life.
But that’s what I think for the future. I will try to keeping in trouble these guys, playing in the next tournaments, and we’ll see.
Q. Your first Grand Slam final in a long time. How is this going to help you for the future? Do you think you’re going to take a lot from this going forward?
JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: Well, I think I did a good tournament, but this is a tough lose for me. I’m really sad to lose the final in this tournament because I had too much passion playing the final, trying to win the title again.
But I think it’s time to take a break, to see how my body feels for the future, and then be ready for the next one.
Q. You mentioned Djokovic’s speed. From a player’s perspective, what makes him so good? Do you think he could surpass Roger and Rafa in terms of slams?
JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: Of course he can. He has 14 already. He won two Grand Slam in one year. He’s healthy. He has a great team working with him. Hopefully him, Rafa, Roger is still fighting for Grand Slam, because is so nice to watch them fighting for the history.
I mean, we just do what we can against them. But Novak has everything to make records in this sport.
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