July 1, 2016
Juan Martin Del Potro said his hands were still shaking after an unlikely four-set victory over Stan Wawrinka.
Out for nearly three years through injury and thinking for most of that time that he might never play again, Del Potro put his joy into vivid words.
He reflected: ‘If my hands are shaking it’s good because it means I am playing tennis again and I feel alive. I was so happy to be playing on Centre Court again and I felt the crowd were with me.
‘I spent more than two years sat at home and feeling sad and this is like a whole new career for me. If I carry on in this way I will be back to 100 per cent.’
British fans have reason to cheer for Del Potro. The last truly memorable match he had on Centre Court was what many regard as one of the finest ever seen there.
Novak Djokovic was on the other side of the net and the match developed into such a marathon that it seemed miraculous that both men were still standing, let alone playing to such a marvellous level.
Although Djokovic was the winner, that 2013 semi-final took so much out of the Serb that he faced Andy Murray with a shadow of his normal strength and resolve.
The rest, of course, is history. Murray took the Wimbledon title at last, while Del Potro, a former US Open champion, was largely forgotten.
And that was pretty much where his troubles began, a wrist injury restricting his ability to hit an effective backhand.
Del Potro seemed to be suffering from the same deficiency for much of the first set, won 6-3 by Wawrinka.
But Del Potro soon got a feel for Centre Court again and began to unleash his big serve and extraordinary forehand power.
Wawrinka, never truly happy on grass, it seems, surrendered the second set 3-6. Then the match turned on the third-set tie-break, won by Del Potro.
And he closed out the match 6-3 in the fourth, to a joyous reception, met with much fist-pumping.
‘I can’t believe I’m in the third round,’ said Del Potro.
‘l’ve got goose bumps, I’m so happy for him,’ said seasoned commentator and legendary player John McEnroe.
And that said it all.