Few players in the circuit are as wildly popular as Juan Marin Del Potro, the tall Argentine with the affable, friendly demeanor. Over the years, he's charmed Miami with his passion on the court, and in turn, Miami, as both city and a tournament, has charmed him. In an exclusive conversation with Ocean Drive, he looks back at his career and at the Miami Open.
We’ve seen you play here in Miami for over a decade. How has your training changed? What are you doing different at 29 than at 19? I am very focused on my health and body now. I’ve realized that without this the rest is impossible, so it has become my priority. I’m not spending as many hours on court as I used to, but I am spending more time taking care of my body. Every day I have to do many different exercises to make sure I am able to compete. I always travel with my physio to give my body the best possible recovery. My body feels very good. I have not been able to play this much tennis for a few years, so I am very happy that I am competing again at this level.
You obviously play all over the world. How is the atmosphere different in the Miami Open? I really love playing in Miami. It is one of my favorite stops of the year because the crowd always makes me feel very special. When I step on the court, there is an amazing atmosphere, especially because of all of the Argentines and Latin Americans. It’s always a very unique and enjoyable experience to play here.
Most memorable Miami match? Two moments really stand out for me. The first one was in 2009 in the quarterfinals against Rafael Nadal, when I beat him 7-6 in the third set. The match lasted more than three hours and I remember it being physically exhausting, which is always the case against Rafa. [Laughs] This was the first time I ever beat him, and it gave me the confidence to continue having a great year. A second strong memory is when I played Philip Kohlschreiber in 2011 on the Grand Stand court. It was at night and another very grueling match. The Grand Stand is a very intimate court and you feel like the fans are there with you. There was a very big community of Argentines and other Latin Americans that carried me through the match. The crowd created an amazing atmosphere, and I felt like I was playing at home. I was very happy to get the win.
Last year’s match against Federer was pretty epic. Are you looking forward to another face-off in Miami? I always love playing against Federer. Some of my best memories on court are from the matches with him. I would love for the local crowd to see us battle in Key Biscayne one last time.
Best Argentine restaurant in Miami? I eat a lot at Novecento whenever I am in town.
What do you think of the tournament moving from Key Biscayne to the Hard Rock Stadium? I am going to miss the tournament in Key Biscayne. I spend a lot of time training there during the year, so it feels like a second home for me. I am going to enjoy this last year, but I look forward to seeing the new stadium next year. I am sure the tournament is ready to make some big changes for the fans and players.