Andy Murray and Stefanos Tsitsipas have paid tribute to Juan Martin del Potro as he looks to be nearing retirement from tennis.
The Argentine came back from a long injury hiatus to play Federico Delbonis in the first round of the Argentina Open on Tuesday.
But the 35-year-old declared on the eve of the match that he viewed it as more of a farewell than a comeback, with his knee injury still causing him pain.
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Though he said he would talk to his doctors following the match – which he lost 6-1 6-3 – it seems he is nearing retirement.
Murray – who so memorably beat Del Potro to win Olympic gold in 2016 and himself the victim of a litany of injuries during his career – empathised with Del Potro’s plight.
“He’s obviously been struggling for a really long time,” the Scot said.
“I’m aware of what it’s like to be in that position where you’re running out of options and things to rehab.
“He was always competing with the top players, always very dangerous. As a player he had a power that very few guys on the tour have ever had.
“He was really popular all around the world, people loved watching him play. It’s really sad and I hope he’s OK.”
Murray also praised the way that Del Potro adapted his game after wrist surgery.
“He was a very intelligent player which I don’t think gets spoken about much. He had issues with his wrist for a number of years and had to adapt the way he was playing, used a lot of slice backhands, and was still very competitive with the best players in the world even with that issue.”
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For Tsitsipas, Del Potro was an idol that shaped his own journey to becoming a tennis player.
The 23-year-old said: “He was my favourite player of all-time, next to [Roger] Federer.
“He is someone that I grew up watching and whose style I loved. I feel like he has left a lot in tennis. He’s someone that I will definitely remember for a very long time having an impact on my career as a child.”
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga played Del Potro seven times in his career, and knew first-hand what impact the ‘Tower of Tandil’ had on the game.
“He’s going to leave a huge legacy for South America,” said Tsonga.
“He did a lot for tennis, not only in South America but also outside of it. He was one of the players able to beat the Big Four [of Murray, Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal].
“I think he gave a lot of pleasure to fans. He was a special player, different. I hope he’s going to recover and he will be able to do many things outside of tennis.”