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Qualifying begins: 26 June

The Draw: 30 June

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Order of Play: 2 July

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Friday, 16 September 2016 12:23 PM BST
The magic of Del Potro's return looks back at Juan Martin Del Potro's resurgent 2016. READ MORE

Wiping away tears, raising his racket in appreciation, Juan Martin Del Potro could hardly believe the standing ovation he received inside the Arthur Ashe Stadium.

It was past midnight in his quarter-final match with eventual champion Stan Wawrinka, and the Swiss was on the cusp of ending Del Potro's sentimental return to Flushing Meadows.

But for the raucous crowd, decked out in the blue and white of Del Potro's native Argentina, it mattered little.

“Ole, Ole, Ole, Del Po, Del Po” reverberated around the stands. After two years of rehab that had seen the prospect of retirement loom large, Del Potro was back at the scene of his greatest triumph, and the emotion came pouring out.

“It’s something difficult to describe with words. I can lose the match, but I will never forget this. You know, it's bigger than winning any match,” he said.

“I'm so proud to get that from the crowd, because I have been doing a big effort to play tennis again. They made me so happy tonight, and I don't mind the score.”

It was the heartwarming story of the fortnight, as players, fans and media alike welcomed back the towering, tranquil demeanour of Del Potro.

In 2009, Del Potro had announced himself as a true challenger to the established group sat at the helm of the game, triumphing over Roger Federer in a pulsating, five-set encounter in the US Open final.

A troublesome left wrist injury required surgery and curtailed his march, but following a long rehabilitation, back he came.

The Championships 2013 relaunched Del Potro as a tennis force, catapulting him into the spotlight once more. His semi-final defeat against Novak Djokovic was absorbing, a five-set exhibition of all-out attack.

Unfortunately the left wrist niggled again over in Australia in January 2014, with Del Potro sitting at No.4 in the world. Surgery was once again on the cards.

“I was really close to quit tennis,” said Del Potro in New York, “because after the first surgery, the second one, and, in the end, the third one, it was really, really sad moments for me.”

Ultimately he managed four matches in 2014, just 10 in 2015 with a couple of stuttering comebacks.

His cheeky grin and signature post-match hug were nowhere to be seen.

But this July at Wimbledon, his patience in those dark, rehab-filled days paid dividends.

“It is an amazing sensation for me,” said Del Potro, whose hands were shaking In the press conference after he came back from a set down to dispatch fourth seed Stan Wawrinka in the second round.

“I beat one of the guys who’s playing great tennis this season. I couldn’t expect this victory today but I played much better after the first set.

I was so happy to be on court, the score didn’t matter, but now I am really happy. After my third surgery, it’s like my second or third career in my young life. I just want to play tennis again. It’s a great sensation for me. I feel alive.”

That was just a little snippet of what was to unfold in Rio and New York.

Firstly he outlasted Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, unloading on his forehand time and time again to reach the Olympic final against Andy Murray. “It means something very, very big in my career, it would be the same as the US Open for me, maybe even better,” claimed Del Potro after his semi-final triumph. “I couldn’t dream of beating Novak and Rafa, but I did, I get a medal, it’s amazing.”

Four exhausting, grinding sets ensued in the final with Murray prevailing 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5. Neither player could walk properly up to the net to embrace. Del Potro lent on the Scot’s shoulder and said, “I’m so happy for you, man.” A touch of class and the sentiment was certainly mutual.

After three years Del Potro was relishing being back at the US Open.

Headlines of ‘Juanderful!” filled the American back pages as the 27-year-old, playing as a wildcard at world No.142, surged past Diego Schwartzman, Steve Johnson, David Ferrer and Dominic Thiem along the way to the last eight before Wawrinka ended the fairytale.

“He [Del Potro] is an amazing champion. He won here. He got so unlucky with all the injuries he had, and the way he's playing right now already, it's amazing. Everybody is happy to see him back at that level.” Those kind of remarks from Wawrinka summed up the feeling from the locker room.

“I can imagine how demoralising that must have been (out from surgery), how tough it would have been to keep wanting to do it, keep fighting to do it,” said Murray at Flushing Meadows.

“I'm not surprised at how well he's hitting the ball. He's always been a great ball-striker. I don't expect him necessarily to lose that. It's more the mentality that he's shown really has been the most impressive part.

“I’m happy for him that he's managed to get himself back competing in the big events at the top again.”

Back in the Davis Cup cauldron and Murray is drawn to tackle the rejuvenated Del Potro once again. Can the Argentine’s appeal with tennis fans transcend the tribalism of support in Glasgow?

“I think it will be a tough match, he's one of the best players in the world when he's fit and healthy. he had a really good run over the past few months, played well in New York,” said the British No.1 “I didn't get to see his last match with Stan but from what heard it was a high quality match. So I expect no different here.”

Asked about the Murray match up, Del Potro smirked and responded, “Anything can happen,” and he knows that after a summer of surprises.

Regardless of his record this weekend at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow, an inspired Del Potro is eager for a positive future in the game.

“I think my tennis is starting to respond as I want, but physically I'm still down. I'm not in the same level that these guys. I need to just to stay healthy and wait for the preseason to get 100% for next year,” said the current No.64.

“I'm already top 100, so that's good. Never will ask for wildcard anymore,” joked Del Potro. “Everything is positive right now.”

Could he return to the devastating form of 2009?  “I don’t know, but what is important is I keep on winning. It will be fun if I can hit my forehand the way I did back in 2009.” The tennis world agrees Juan Martin. Ole!

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