HomeSportsTennisRafael Nadal pays tribute to ‘one of the best’ Juan Martin del...

Rafael Nadal pays tribute to ‘one of the best’ Juan Martin del Potro

Rafael Nadal has hailed Juan Martin del Potro as “one of the best” with the Argentine widely expected to confirm his retirement.

Del Potro made an emotional return to court on home soil at the Argentina Open earlier in February, losing his first match in more than two-and-a-half years to Federico Delbonis.

The 33-year-old has since withdrawn from the Brazilian Open, and hinted after the encounter with Delbonis that it may be his last professional tennis match.

Despite a career blighted by injuries, del Potro established himself as one of the ATP Tour’s most popular and talented players.

He was the only man other than Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer to win a Grand Slam singles title between the 2005 French Open and Wimbledon in 2012.

He became the first player to beat both Nadal (in the semi-finals) and Federer (in the final) in a single Grand Slam as he secured his lone major triumph at the 2009 US Open.

The Spaniard has paid tribute to del Potro’s career, expressing regret that injuries hampered the two-time Olympic medallist as they did.

“What I feel is a real shame for everything that someone like Juan Martin has had to go through throughout his sports career,” Nadal said.

“In the end, he is one of the best tennis players we have seen on the circuit in recent years and too many physical problems have not allowed him to develop the career he deserved and that we would all have liked to see.”

Del Potro beat Nadal six times in 17 career meetings between the pair.

The 21-time Grand Slam winner wished his old foe a happy and pain-free retirement if, as is likely, it is confirmed.

Nadal said: “Now, then, that [del Potro’s] retirement seems to be a reality, I wish you to be happy, that all these pains disappear, that you can develop your personal life in a pleasant way and that you do not have to suffer daily the physical problems or pain that you must be suffering to this day.”

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