After a resurgent season including a US Open final, a French Open semi and a title at Indian Wells, star-crossed Argentine Juan Martin del Potro fractured his kneecap in what appeared at first to be an innocuous fall in Shanghai last October.
Turned to be not so innocuous.
The world No. 5 will miss the entire Australian summer season, including the first Grand Slam tournament of 2019.
“Recovery is going great and I will tell you later where I will be making my comeback. Unfortunately it won’t happen in Australia, I’ll miss you Australian Open, but I’m happy with my progress,” del Potro wrote on Twitter.
After being pretty down in the dumps when the injury first occurred, del Potro appears determined to keep a positive mindset as he comes back from yet another injury.
The random nature of this one – and the fact that his 2018 season had been so encouraging as he was back near the top of the rankings where he belongs – must have made that difficult.
Del Potro went 47-13 on the season, with two titles. He reached a career-high ranking of No. 3 last summer.
Del Potro had not planned any official tournaments before the main event. He did announce a month ago he would play some matches at the Kooyong Classic exhibition the week before the Australian Open.
But that was never confirmed 100 per cent. He was one of only two top players (Borna Coric being the other) who had no plans to play a tournament (exhibition or other) before Melbourne.
Points to defend Down Under
Del Potro reached the final in Auckland a year ago, and the third round at the Australian Open.
He won’t be able to defend the 240 points he earned with those two efforts.
The Argentine lost in straight sets in Melbourne to another battered veteran, Tomas Berdych. Berdych returned to action Sunday in Doha after a six-month absence because of back woes.
But the absence isn’t likely to hurt his ranking too much. The only player with a realistic chance to pass him in the rankings would be No. 6 Kevin Anderson.
Anderson lost a five-setter in the first round in 2018 to Kyle Edmund. So he can only gain ground even though he has a Pune final to defend, and is currently 600 points behind del Potro.
Del Potro hasn’t officially withdrawn from the Australian Open yet. But next in line to replace him in the main draw would be Pedro Sousa of Portugal.
American Jack Sock would then be two spots out of making the singles main draw on his own ranking. That would mean the USTA could give the Australian Open reciprocal wild card to someone else.
Reilly Opelka and Bradley Klahn, who finished second and third in the wild-card playoff in November, already are in on their own rankings.
Next in line would be Tommy Paul, who otherwise would be unseeded in the qualifying. So that would be a huge break for him.
Canadian rising star Félix Auger-Aliassime now is four out of the main draw.
The domino effect will move young Brit Jay Clarke into the qualifying.