BUENOS AIRES (AFP) – Argentine great Juan Martin del Potro made a losing return to tennis after a two-and-a-half-year injury absence on Tuesday, beaten in straight sets by compatriot Federico Delbonis in the Argentina Open.
In what was expected to be one of Del Potro’s final appearances before retiring, the 33-year-old former United States (US) Open champion was overcome with emotion towards the end of Delbonis’s 6-1, 6-3 victory in one hour 23 minutes.
The former world number three wiped away tears as he prepared to serve what would turn out to be the final game of the match.
After Delbonis sealed victory, Del Potro embraced his opponent before waving to the crowd on the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club’s Guillermo Vilas court.
“Possibly we may not meet again,” Del Potro told fans afterwards. “Today I gave everything I had, until the last point. I’m happy because my last game was probably on a tennis court in front of all of you, and not in a press conference. I’ll always remember you,” he added.
Del Potro signalled at the weekend he plans to retire soon after this week’s tournament, describing his comeback as “more a farewell than a return”.
He was given a loud ovation as he walked on court by a packed crowd on Tuesday but was unable to deliver what would have been a fairytale win.