It looked very much as though there was no coming back for the 6ft 6in gentle giant from Argentina after being ravaged by injuries – seven years since the defining moment of his career.
It’s great testament to Juan Martin del Potro for his remarkable determination to turnaround his fortunes and make a stunning return to the game.
He now has the chance to turn full circle and become a two-time US Open champion this September, so can ‘Delpo’ complete a fairytale ending at Flushing Meadows after being handed a wild card?
His comeback to form is one that has reached out to tennis fanatics wanting to see someone other than Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray making the headlines.
At the age of 20, Argentina welcomed their man back to Buenos Aires with a ticker tape parade to celebrate their latest tennis legend.
The potential many saw in him as a teenager finally came to fruition at the US Open in 2009 as the sixth-ranked Del Potro unleashed his trademark bone-crunching forehands to wow spectators.
Juan Monaco, Jurgen Melzer, Daniel Kollerer and former French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero were all vanquished. Marin Cilic was next in line to taste the venom of Del Potro’s arsenal in the quarter-finals.
He reached the first Grand Slam final of his career after humbling Rafa Nadal in straight sets by out-muscling the normally aggressive Spaniard.
In the showpiece Del Potro ended the five-year unbeaten US Open reign of Roger Federer in a pulsating final, twice fighting back from a set down to win 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-2.
He not only downed the world No 1 with a performance that was both brilliant and courageous, but he wrote his name in the history books by becoming only the second Argentinian to win the US title after Guillermo Vilas.
“I had two dreams this week,” said Del Potro. “One was to win the US Open and the other one is to be like Roger. “One is done, but I need to improve a lot to be like you,” he said, looking at the Swiss great.
But after reaching a career high world No 4 in January he was struck down by a wrist injury that plagued his 2010. By the following year his ranking had dropped to as low as 485 but ended the year ranked No 11 after a successful comeback.
In 2012, Del Potro was involved in a three-set Olympic semi-final marathon with Federer at Wimbledon. Despite losing 19-17 in an epic deciding set, he finished the year ranked No 7, with four ATP titles to his name – things were looking up.
He was named Argentina’s Sportsman of the Year in 2013 as the success continued. He had climbed into the world’s top five and won ATP titles in Rotterdam, Washington, Tokyo. He also successfully defended his Basel crown.