Juan Martin del Potro Beats Novak Djokovic in Rio Olympics

Both Juan Martin del Potro and Novak Djokovic walked off the court Sunday night with tears in their eyes, the emotions of the Olympics overwhelming them.

Del Potro covered his face with both hands and struggled to summon the right words for how he felt when asked during an on-court interview.

“It’s really difficult to talk,” he said, his voice cracking. “It’s amazing for me.”

For del Potro, his 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-2) victory over the top-seeded Djokovic, the No. 1 player in the world, was a symbol of the progress he has made after a series of potentially career-ending wrist injuries. Del Potro’s win also meant Djokovic would once again leave the Olympics without the gold medal he cherishes — an elusive prize that he said would be “one of the highest if not the highest achievement” of his illustrious career.

“Amazing, amazing match for me,” del Potro said (via the Associated Press.) “I didn’t expect to beat Novak tonight, because I know my situation.”

The day could have hardly started more inauspiciously for del Potro. Nearly 12 hours before the match, the 6-foot-6 Argentine was trapped in an elevator at the Olympic Village in Rio de Janeiro for 40 minutes before being rescued by members of his country’s handball team.

By the time he arrived on court for his match, Serena Williams and Venus Williams had already suffered a stunning loss in the first round of women’s doubles. What happened next might have been even more surprising.

Armed with one of the best forehands in the game, del Potro regularly blasted winners past Djokovic to set up a shocking upset of his own. It was points like these that propelled del Potro to the 2009 U.S. Open title and made him one of the top players who could contend with the “Big Four” of men’s tennis.

But injuries and surgeries derailed those plans. Now ranked No. 141 in the world, del Potro has played sparingly as he continues to rehab his troublesome wrist. He had not competed since his third-round loss at Wimbledon last month, his first Grand Slam in 2 1/2 years, and had not claimed a win over Djokovic since early 2013.

Djokovic, 29, gave credit to del Potro after the match.

“In decisive moments, he just came up with some extraordinary tennis,” Djokovic said (via the Associated Press) of the player he described as “a good friend of mine.”

On the final point, del Potro’s forehand shot clipped the net and dropped in. The two walked toward each other and shared a long, emotional embrace at the net.

Just from watching the emotions that came pouring out of each champion, it’s safe to assume that this was a moment neither player will ever forget.

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Source: Washington Post , Kelyn Soong

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