Summertime Sadness

In the span of what seemed a few short hours, several ATP players known for battling various health issues and injuries throughout their careers made headlines on Monday. But it was one who delivered a heartfelt announcement through video that definitely made it a melancholy start to the week.

Argentina’s Juan Martin Del Potro posted an extended video on You Tube to give everyone an update since having last competed in Miami. The former US Open champion revealed that after much consultation with his surgeon and, likely a lot of soul searching, Del Potro decided to undergo a third surgery on his left wrist that has troubled him so much.

“If I want to return to tennis I have to face surgery again and I will do that with the doctor I have faith in who cured my right hand,” Del Potro said.

While tennis fans certainly wish Del Potro the very best, some pointed out correctly in social media comments that there was a palpable feeling of desperation about the whole video announcement. While Del Potro certainly is within his right to try yet another surgery, isn’t his body, in very certain terms, telling him that perhaps surgery, or any treatment for that matter, really isn’t the final solution?

As this was occurring, American Mardy Fish was announcing plans to return to competition later this summer in both singles and doubles (with Andy Roddick who will come out of retirement for his friend) at the Atlanta Open. Fish, who last played at Indian Wells, revealed he is still battling with an anxiety disorder he first dealt with in 2012 after recovering from an heart issue. Fish, now 33, will see how he does and feels in Atlanta first before deciding to perhaps play at the US Open.

“Obviously, it’s no secret, I’d love to go back to the U.S. Open, where sort of it all came crashing down for me in 2012, and sort of conquer that place,” Fish said. “And by ‘conquer,’ I mean just get back out on the court there. I have a lot of demons from that place.”

On the same day, Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt lost his opening round match at Queen’s Club to Kevin Anderson. Hewitt, a multiple champion at the event, is on a well-known farewell tour that will include Wimbledon where he lifted the trophy in 2002. While somewhat healthy now, for the most part, Hewitt’s career is full of starts and stops due to multiple injuries over the years. Even though his Grand Slam title winning days are over, the now 34-year-old Hewitt still enjoys competition and being able to cause quite a few big upsets especially at the majors. Ironically, one of them over Del Potro in the second round of the US Open back in 2013.

Hewitt certainly could have stopped playing several years ago. But thankfully for tennis fans, there is no front office or decision maker at an athletic department, like with most team sports, who decides when a player’s time on the court is up. Hewitt, who likely wonders “what if” had he not endured so many injuries, readjusted his expectations of what he wanted out of the game. And that may be what Del Potro himself will need to do in the coming months and years post-surgery number three.

At age 26, Del Potro certainly has time on his side. And as we’ve seen with recent Grand Slam winners, turning 30 or being past 30 is actually a benefit. But one has to be 100% healthy to reap them. Maybe Del Potro’s latest surgery will be a complete success so much so that it allows him to play completely pain-free and return to the kind of form that took him to trophy in New York. That would be an incredible comeback.

The more likely scenario though is that Del Potro may comeback, play well enough, but endures yet another injury setback that causes him to miss time again, very much like Hewitt. Does Del Potro, if he realizes that he may not win another Grand Slam title, keep going? Or does he continue playing with a different purpose? That’s a decision only he can make.

If Del Potro needs some advice, when and if that crossroads occurs, he could do no better than to ask Tommy Haas.

At age 37, Haas after missing a year due to a right shoulder injury, is on yet another comeback attempt that started in Stuttgart last week and now in Halle this week.

Haas, who reached a career high of No. 2, has endured numerous injuries over the years. Yet, we’ve seen Haas return to action after a long layoff and prove he can challenge the current ruling greats on tour.

“These are the things that you don’t want to worry about too much when you go out there, as matches often come down to one or two points,” Haas said about his return. “I’d like to get some matches to get a feel of how it’s like to compete. Then I’ll make a decision from there.”

In a week that started with a feeling of summer melancholy over what Del Potro’s final tennis chapter might be, Haas certainly proves that it might all lead to a hopeful future, so long as all involved are willing to see it through for perhaps another decade.

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