For the first time since the 2009 US Open, Juan Martin del Potro hoisted a winner's trophy this weekend. The 22-year-old Argentine made the biggest statement yet during his comeback from injury, knocking off Janko Tipsarevic in straight sets to win in Delray Beach.
The victory moved Del Potro up 77 spots in the ATP rankings. After he bottomed out at No. 485 late last year, he's at No. 89 in the rankings released Monday. With a protected injury ranking and wild card appeal, Del Potro won't have to worry about playing qualifiers in order to get into main draws of tournaments, but if he continues to play like he did in Delray, it'll be a moot point and Del Potro will make a return to the top 40 sometime this spring.
Winning a 250 event against a weak field isn't a sign that Del Potro is back though. Rather, it's a good indication that his comeback is going as planned. Del Potro knows that he's building toward a goal, not racing to one.
"I don't know if I'm ready to fight with top-10 players, but I'm working very hard and hope to do it soon," he told reporters. "I need 20 to 25 matches before I'll really be ready to play with them, but it's coming soon."
In the win over Tipsarevic, Del Potro displayed flashes of what made him a Grand Slam champion. He utilized the massive forehand, defended well on break points and showed flashes of the big serve that helped him defeat Federer two years ago in New York. Yet he still showed signs of rustiness, mainly in his lethargic footwork.
As he says, that will come with time. The first step was getting back on the court. Then he needed to get some wins under his belt. Now Juan Martin Del Potro has a tournament victory.
When the match was over, Del Potro kissed his wrists as if to say "thanks for healing." His game is progressing nicely too.