Former world number three Juan Martin del Potro’s long-awaited ATP tour return ended in heartache in Buenos Aires after the Argentine lost to his friend and countryman Federico Delbonis.
In Del Potro’s first match since March 2019, he broke serve in the opening set of the Argentina Open match before ultimately falling 6-1 6-3 in one hour and 23 minutes.
The 2009 US Open champion needed to pause play while preparing to step to the line in the second set as he became overcome with emotion, prompting the crowd to chant sympathetically for the Olympic silver medallist.
According to the ATP Tour website, the crowd included around 80 of his friends and family, including his mother who was seeing him play for the first time in his professional career.
Also present in the stands was his sister – Argentina Davis Cup captain Guillermo Coria – and many of the players competing at the tournament.
After match-point, Delbonis and Del Potro hugged while the crowd continued to chant and applaud the latter.
Earlier Del Potro revealed he may retire after the event, prompting an outpouring of support from fellow players – including former world number one Andy Murray.
The three-time grand slam champion told Tennis Head: “I hope he’s doing OK. I feel for him. I know it’s an incredibly difficult situation.
“But yeah, like I said, I hope he manages to finish on a positive note with you know, all his fans behind him and a great atmosphere and yeah, and that he’s as pain free as can be.
“I guess the tough times and everything that you go through, it’s not on camera. It must have been unbelievably difficult for him.
“And yeah, I don’t really know what to say. I know having been in that position myself. You feel like you’re sort of suffering a lot of the time like, alone.”