Juan Martín del Potro: "I dream more about football than with tennis.”

Por Emilse Pizarro | canchallena.com

He still believes his destiny is to be a footballer; but lives travelling the world, always chooses to return to Tandil, to the house of his parents, where they have kept intact his bedroom he had as a child, at age 24, the best argentine tennis player of today remains a big boy.
11.08.2013 | 10:24

At 24 years old, it happened a long time ago. As a child, when he played football in Tandil, the parents of the other team gave him a contract, to him and his friend. Because they were strong kickers (?), scored many goals and drew many heads. And they won lots.

“Hey, what you waiting for, for me to hit the shower?” said the 1.98m Juan Martin Del Potro.

The boys were adults and kids. Some reached only his elbow, none reached his shoulder.

As a kid, Juan was good at soccer. He played for Independiente de Tandil, nine, eleven, sometimes eight, or five, but always up in the attack. He made an offensive duo with his partner who was more tiny, skilful and faster. Like Guillermo-Palermo in his prime, he remembered him, reminisced, fantasised. Since he had been coming to the club for while before practising with his team and whilst he waited, he would grab a racket. Tennis was, then, to kill time before what he wanted to do: football.
When he was 12 he was playing in a south American tournament and national football team at the same time.
“However it was in Cordoba. The tennis court was in Brazil and I had never flown on an aeroplane. I took the plane and went to play tennis,” He said.

What do you remember about your first trip?

I took the last seat. There were three of four of us travelling. I asked for the window because I had wanted to see outside. It was my first time on an aeroplane, I didn’t have any idea. For me, being able to fly and see how everything looked from above was most impressive. The noise of the turbines, see the wing., That moment was spectacular.

He won the tournament. They gave him an award for the best player in South America. He really liked tennis, but in his head he still liked football. He continued playing tennis and winning. His coaches were going crazy and chatted with his parents, because they saw his chances. He had to choose because Juan went to school until 2, after he did football and after that tennis.

And he made his choice.

In 2008, Del Potro was 19 and won four tournaments in a row. He helped Argentina get to the final in the Davis Cup, won the fifth point in the semifinals against Russia, after Nalbandian surprisingly lost the fourth. He was a little kid touching the sky. However the final caused a rift between Nalbandian and Del Potro. There was a strange tension because he had gone to play the Shanghai Masters a week before the final against Spain and had got hurt.

And they lost. In Mar del Plata. Del Potro tried, lost the match and could not play another due to injury.

The pain in the wrist, you said changed everything. Did it affect whether you wanted to play tennis anymore?

The truth is yes. I was beaten, very sad and spent many months without being diagnosed, from doctor to doctor. He added, that some things were not true (that he was tested positive for doping). Up to three months before, I didn’t know. I had come and won US Open, was number 4 in the world, was ready to fight for world number 1, it was a situation I could not imagine. But the good, I had a bump in the road, in my career, but it helped me in my life, in my tennis. I realised it was worth it and what wasn’t worth. My friends gave me their heart, my family and my team worked very hard, and that’s what’s important to me. In what was a very difficult time to keep my feet on the ground.

Franco (my coach) Marti (my physical coach) and my doctor were working with me for almost a year. And are still there. Today we are much more united as a team and as professionals.

- Although there were days I wake up and say: Look what if i cannot pick up the racket anymore? I was also grateful to my mum, having finish school, to always have the door open for more study, to do other things.
If I chose anything else it would have been Architecture. Mom Patricia, Professor of Literature, and dad is Daniel, veterinarian. Juan was born in Tandil, and sometimes accompanied his dad to work.

When you look up, do you reference to your sister? [She died in an accident.]
Yes, she, and God. My sister is very important to me. I make a gift in each game, the signal. I have beautiful memories. My family and I do not like talking about it, but it's very special. I know she cares for me and guide me, and that always gives me strength.

In addition to being 1.98 m there are other difficult-to-understand things. At 24 years old and is a fan of Bruce Springsteen. Franco Davin, his trainer, is 20 meters standing against a fence. Davin is a fanatic of Springsteen and shows the DVD of a concert every night of a tournament. Dinner, DVD, win the match. Same thing: win a match. Same thing: win a tournament. Juan buys the DVD. And sometimes they go to Wembley to see him.

I eat a lot chocolate. And cakes. And ice cream. Less bitter, too. My favourite dessert is chocolate mousse. My mum makes it very rich. My grandmother does as well. Now I can eat it, but only a little.

What is it like as an Argentine? Can you explain Davis Cup (situation)?

I understand the people here. It is very difficult to make everyone happy with what I decide. I played Davis Cup for 17 years and I love it. Well this year was a very complicated decision. I felt it was time to try, pursuing other things knowing there would be people would not agree with my decision and some that will. There are many who want to see someone trying to be number one, that Argentina never had, as there are those who want to win the Cup was a hard decision to make, but well aware, and I'm confident. You can go right or wrong. The truth is that I can only thank people. On the street, in the club and in Tandil are spectacular to me.

We are well. And I love being an Argentine, I like the way of life the things we have, the passion. When I go to a tournament outside I have to not know if the word is envy, but they are all like saying I wish I had your pride. But I know that I'll come back and play.

From the top ten, Del Potro is Argentinian and lives here in the end of the world.

-They travel from one tournament to another in an hour and I have fourteen or twenty hour flight.

Why not live outside of Argentina?
It happens that I like it here. I spend much time being with my friends and family. Go to Tandil, enjoy my home and my city. Well, they are my choices. That way when I go to the United States spent a little more time there and avoid the occasional trip. But yes, they have a big advantage of rest and preparation.

In close matches in wins or losses, Del Potro thinks of the Boca Jrs. To think of Boca, to play of Boca and to dream of Boca.

I dream more about football than tennis. Dreaming players scoring goals in the Bombonera. Anything. It also happens to be all night talking about something and. We spent a couple of days ago, talking about Disney. All night talking about it, some friends who had gone. The next day I dreamed I was Pluto, all dressed up. (laughs)

Not thinking about retirement. Yes someday to not to play more tennis and play more soccer But that will be a long.
Today, when in Buenos Aires he lives alone in his apartment. When he is Tandil things are different.

Its my mom who says to me Juan, to eat, and I have my moments alone to reflect. Again I feel like a kid, when I lived with them.

You sleep in your room??

Is everything the same?

Same. My teddy Boca, which I have since age 4, is next to my bed.

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