The pain of tennis: Nadal out, Del Potro in once more
6:45 PM
Art Spander in U.S. Open, articles, dJuan Martin Del Potro, tennis

  NEW YORK—There’s no backup quarterback, no pitcher to come in from bullpen. There’s no disabled list, no injured reserve list. In tennis you keep going, from court to court, country to country, wearing down, wearing out.

  A few months ago it was elbow trouble for Novak Djokovic. And now again, it’s knee pain for Rafael Nadal, who Friday, two sets into the U.S. Open, semifinal had to withdraw—in tennis you “retire—which was both sad and because he was facing Juan Martin del Potro, who had to fight his way back from  numerous wrist surgeries, ironic.

  Yes. Del Potro, whose career was derailed for months, indeed years, after he won the 2009 U.S. Open, is finally back in the final because Nadal, the defending champ, once more has been derailed by an injury.

   Don’t try to tell these guys tennis isn’t a tough sport.

   Del Potro, from Argentina, with a blue-clad cheering section—“Del-po, Del-po,” they chant at change-overs—was ahead, 7-6 (3), 6-2, when the top-seeded, top-ranked Nadal was unable to continue.

  “I waited as much as I can,” said Nadal. “You can imagine very difficult for me to say good-bye before the match finish.”

No less difficult for the 23,000-plus fans at Arthur Ashe Stadium, the majority of whom were backing Rafa—excluding, of course, the Del-po guys who pay their way from Argentina, Del Potro’s homeland.

  “But at some point you have to take a decision. It was so difficult for me to keep playing at the same time that way. Having too much pain.”

 Nadal, from Majorca, a part of Spain, can be forgiven for his awkward English, even at age 32. Until a few years he needed a translator.”

   “This was not a tennis match at the end, no?” said Nadal. “It was just one player playing, the other one staying on the other side of the court. I hate to retire. But stay one more set out there playing like this is too much for me.”

  Del Potro, 29, offered condolences. “I saw him suffering a lot during the second set. I was just trying to do my game.”

 A game that after a third operation on his left wrist and one on his right—he uses both on a two-handed backhand— Del Potro was prepared to leave.

  “The worst moment,” Del Potro said reviewing a down period, “was in 2015. I was close to quitting this sport because I couldn’t find a way to fix my wrist problems. I (had) been suffering a lot. “I got depressed for a couple of months also. I didn’t feel better with myself to do this again.”

  His friends, among them the travelers from Tandil, Argentina, persuaded him to stay the course. He did. But only after the fourth wrist surgery.

 “I said I am not available to keep going to surgery again, put my body at risk because you never know what will happen after surgeries. I got lucky, because it did well. And now it’s working again. My wrist is OK. Not 100 percent, but I can play tennis in this condition.”

  And, obviously, play well. He beat Nadal in the semifinal of the 201`6 Olympics, lost to Nadal in a semifinal of the 2017 U.S. Open, lost to Nadal in a semifinal of the French Open, beat Roger Federer in the final at Indian Wells in March and now beat Nadal again. 

  Yes, Rafa was injured. But for months Del Potro had been injured.

Nadal’s game is rough-and tumble. He crashes from sideline to sideline and then not so much strokes a ball as batters. That style has gained him17 majors, second to Federer’s 20, but it also has created havoc with his knees. shoulders and wrists.

  “I know what I have,” Nadal insisted.  “Similar thing than always Just about to do treatment. It is not an injury that tells you three weeks off.  It is tendinitis, an injury that in one week you feel better.”

  It’s also an injury that ended his try for the championship, an injury that kept alive Juan Del Potro’s try, or does that make it seem like Del Potro wouldn’t have gone on it Nadal didn’t stop going?

  “I cannot believe that I will have a chance to play another Grand Slam in here, which it my favorite tournament,” said Del Potro.”I’ve been fighting with (against) many problems to get to this moment.”

  Problems that are a part of big-time tennis

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