Juan Martin del Potro’s first order of business upon arriving in Miami on Monday was going out for a nice dinner to celebrate his thrilling victory over top-ranked Roger Federer the day before in the final of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California.
Del Potro wouldn’t reveal where he and his friends ate, but judging by the size of his smile, it was a good time.
“No, I cannot tell you details of that,” he said on Wednesday. “We just have dinner with all my team. We took some drinks, and that was enough for me, because I was exhausted and we travel almost five hours to get here. My body feels all the matches and having the final, so I need to recover myself to be ready for this tournament, and then I will have time to make a break and celebrate with family and friends.”
The affable Argentine, always a fan favorite at the Miami Open, is back in the top 10 — up to No. 6 — for the first time since 2014. He had plummeted to No. 1,045 before beginning his comeback from four wrist surgeries that could have ended his career.
Del Potro saved three championship points against Federer on Sunday and hung on to win the Indian Wells title 6-4, 6-7 (8-10), 7-6 (7-2). It was his first title in an ATP Masters 1,000 tournament. He has won 11 matches in a row and is off to a career-best 17-3 start this season. His nine career wins over the world No. 1 are most among all non-top-ranked players.
“It was an epic match,” del Potro, 29, said of his win over Federer. “The level of tennis was very high. The people love to see this kind of tennis. And, also, the passion which both players showed on the finals was great to see.
“To me, beating Roger in another final, having a positive record against him in finals [4-2], is so good. And also, to get my first title playing a 1000 Masters in Indian Wells, a place I like to play, that makes me feel special, and I'm excited to keep enjoying these days here in Miami with all my people. And also, I'm excited to keep playing good tennis here.”
He plays his opening match Friday night against Robin Haase of the Netherlands, who beat Japan’s Yuichi Sugita 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 in the first round on Wednesday.
Count del Potro among the players who said he will miss Key Biscayne’s Crandon Park Tennis Center when the tournament moves to Hard Rock Stadium in 2019 after 32 years on the key. He said Miami feels like a second home, and he spends a lot of time mingling with his fans at his practice sessions and even at the supermarket.
“I like this tournament, it's very easy to me because I am staying very close to the stadium,” he said. “I like to see Argentinian fans around the courts, Latino-American people, also, and the facilities for players are great. I will miss this tournament, playing on Key Biscayne next year.
“I haven’t seen the new venue yet. Like all change, it will take time to adapt. I assume it will be better there, which is why they’re moving, but Key Biscayne will always be special for me.”
For now, he insists he is not thinking about rankings or Grand Slams. All the time off rehabbing after his surgeries taught him to focus on and treasure the present.
“I'm just enjoying the moment what I am living because I know what I have been through to get this time and this place and this ranking,” he said. “I am still calm. This will be my fourth tournament in a row. I'm tired. And mentally and physically it’s not easy to deal with all of these emotions, no?”
He said he will likely take a break during the clay season “because my body feels that surface” and he wants to stay healthy for the latter part of the year.
“Then I will see if can still surprise myself and see what I can do,” he said. “I'm enjoying to play tennis again. I like to play tennis in front of all my fans here in Miami and not think this too much, to enjoy, and I think it's enough to me for this time of my life.”
In Wednesday’s day matches, Americans Ryan Harrison and Taylor Fritz were eliminated. Harrison lost 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-4) to Joao Sousa of Portugal. Fritz lost 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 to Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France. On the women’s side, former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, who is back on tour after having a baby last year, breezed past American Cici Bellis 6-3, 6-0. American Jennifer Brady, a late fill-in for injured Maria Sharapova, lost 7-5, 7-6 (10-8) to Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan.
Serena Williams, also back from maternity leave, played Indian Wells champion Naomi Osaka in the final match of the day session.