DELRAY BEACH (Florida) • The Tower of Tandil became one of the wonders of world tennis when he upset Roger Federer to win the 2009 US Open title.
Now, 11 months after Juan Martin del Potro has made another comeback from wrist surgery, the Tandil native believes he may become a force again.
The injury-plagued Argentinian defeated Australian qualifier John-Patrick Smith 6-4, 6-4 in only the second match of his return to advance to the quarter-finals of the Delray Beach Open.
"Physically I felt good," the wildcard entrant said after just his sixth win since April 2014.
"But I was playing too many slices. It's not my game. If I improve my backhand, I will once again be the Tower of Tandil."
The former world No. 4 is now ranked 1,042nd after missing most of the 2014 and 2015 seasons with an injury to his left wrist.
After all that he has been through, even his opponent this morning (Singapore time) - French fifth seed Jeremy Chardy - has been rooting for del Potro.
"We've known each other since we were kids. He's a good friend of mine," said Chardy.
"I was really happy for him. For a tennis player, the worst is to be injured."
Over at the Rio de Janeiro Open, another Major champion is dealing with struggles of his own.
Rafael Nadal needed 100 minutes for a 6-3, 7-5 win over compatriot Nicolas Almagro and will next face Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov in the quarter-finals of the clay-court event.