If you ever suffer injury heartbreak on a tennis court, Juan Martin del Potro is the opponent you’d want to have on the other side of the net.
In a moment of peak sportsmanship, the Argentine rushed to the side of a weeping Nicolas Almagro during their second round match on Thursday, where the Spaniard hurt is knee and was forced to retire at 3-6, 6-3, 1-1.
Almagro fell to the ground, audibly crying, as Del Potro crossed over the net and crouched beside him trying to console him. He helped him up and walked him over to his bench then sat next to him, packed his bag for him, before they stepped off court.
“I tried to, I don’t know, tried to find a good words for that moment,” said Del Potro, who knows more than anyone the agony of succumbing to an injury.
“I say to him, ‘Try to be calm. Try to think about his family, his baby’. And sometimes the heart is first than the tennis match or the tennis life. And I think he has everything to fix this problem and come back on tour stronger.”
Del Potro, who had triple wrist surgery before returning to the tour last year following a lengthy absence, was struggling with a groin problem during the match on Thursday and said he felt lucky to make it into the third round, where he faces world No1 Andy Murray.
“I don’t feel good enough after this sadness situation. I wish a good recovery to Nico. Hopefully he can feel better very, very soon, because he’s a great player and we love to have him on tour,” said the No29 seed.
“And of course it’s not easy for me when you have a friend in the other side of the court showing an injury or crying. It was really a bad moment for both, but I wish all the best to him.”
Del Potro, who is playing the French Open for the first time since 2012, faced Murray in two of his biggest matches last season – at the Rio Olympics and in the Davis Cup semi-finals.
Murray won gold in Rio but Del Potro avenged that defeat in Davis Cup and went on to win the trophy for Argentina.
“We play great battles last year, one each,” said Del Potro. “After tomorrow could be another great battle if I feel good. Andy is one of the favourites to win this tournament. And now I know his game a lot, but I need to be in good shape and physically be stronger to hold a long match if we play a long match, long rallies.
“I’m happy with my level at this moment, so my forehands and serves are working good. But anyways, I need all my body in good shape.”
Almagro went to the hospital after his match and there are yet to be any updates released regarding the state of his knee.