After several false starts, Juan Martin del Potro will finally make his long-awaited comeback to the professional tour on Tuesday afternoon at the Apia Sydney International. The Argentine will begin his campaign against crafty Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky, whom he has never encountered on the ATP World Tour.
After withdrawing from a scheduled return to professional competition at the Brisbane International, the ‘Tower of Tandil’ Juan Martin del Potro has announced that he is prepared to return to the tour this week, even though it appeared as though his wrist was still bothering him.
“[The wrist] hurts a little bit. It bothers me sometimes when I hit backhands but I am trying to hit harder because I need to hit harder if I want to play this tournament. Sometimes the pain is high, sometimes it is low,” del Potro said. “It’s much better than [it was] three or four weeks ago and the doctor says that I can’t make it worse by playing at a high level, so I am very positive for that. I need to do a lot of treatment every day. I do a long warmup before practice and matches, which takes a lot of time. That is my life at the moment.”
Del Potro, who is currently ranked No. 138 but will use a protected ranking of 7 in 2015, prepared his training both on and off the court in Argentina. He has not played a match since February 25. He managed to win the Apia international in Sydney at the start of the season, then struggled from then on and eventually opted for surgery after failed bids in Rotterdam and Dubai.
“It will be a big challenge to play this tournament and see if I can start the season healthy and play for the whole year.”
World No. 69 Sergiy Stakhovsky began his year at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open last week, where he reached the second round of the tournament before losing in straight sets to Novak Djokovic. He will now look to earn an upset victory over a former Grand Slam champion to build momentum heading into the Australian Open.
This marks the first time that these two competitors will meet on the professional tour. Given Del Potro’s current state and long layoff, it is unlikely that he will manage a victory against Stakhovsky. However, if he can make the match slightly competitive, he will be well on his way to making a full recovery.
Prediction: Sergiy Stakhovsky in Straight Sets