Tennis is a grueling, individual sport, where the smallest margins of error can lead to defeat, as the body strains to keep up with all the running, stopping, and collapsing. With that in mind, it was heartwarming to see a great display of sportsmanship at the French Open on Thursday, as Juan Martín del Potro, who has suffered a string of injuries in his career, crossed the net to console a teary-eyed Nicolas Almagro after the Spaniard was forced to retire from their round of 64 match.
Almagro, who was also forced to withdraw from a match in Rome last month because of a knee injury, was unable to make a return attempt on one of del Potro’s serves, immediately breaking down afterwards.
The 29th-ranked Argentine put his arm around his Spanish counterpart, giving Almagro him some heartfelt words. “I tried to find good words for that moment,” said del Potro. “I said 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.”
The empathetic del Potro even packed up Almagro’s bag before he left the court, earning a standing ovation from the crowd. Considering he suffered his own slew of injuries in recent years, the 2009 US Open champion showed great empathy in discussing the incident afterwards. “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.”
Del Potro missed nearly two seasons with wrist injuries, and is playing his first French Open since 2012. It is also only his third Grand Slam event since the 2014 Australian Open.
After the match, del Potro revealed that he suffered from some pain of his own during the Almagro match: “I felt something in my groin in middle of the first set. I won that set and then tried to take time for the anti-inflammatories (to) go into effect on my body.”
Del Potro will now face one of his longtime rivals, Andy Murray, in the round of 32 on Saturday.