Del Potro confirmed for Auckland return
TENNIS: Comeback player of the year Juan Martin del Potro will headline the ASB Classic men's tennis tournament in Auckland in January.
Out of the game for nearly two years, forced to undergo three wrist operations and contemplating retirement, Del Potro's comeback has been the feel-good story for 2016.
The Argentinian bottomed out at world No.1145 in February but finished the year as an Olympic silver medallist and Davis Cup champion, in the winning circles at ATP level and firmly back inside the world's top 50.
On Monday, he capped his stellar year by inspiring Argentina to its first Davis Cup victory, defeating Croatia in Zagreb. The 28-year-old fought back from two sets down to beat world No.6 Marin Cilic in five sets and almost five hours, in what Del Potro called one of the biggest wins of his career.
Since June, he has also beaten two world No.1s, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, as well as Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal.
"His year has been incredible, especially to beat two current world No.1s,” said tournament director Karl Budge.
"He is back winning ATP tour titles and just steered Argentina to their first Davis Cup crown.
"It's a hell of a comeback. He is the player that none of the Big Four want to draw in Melbourne.”
He played in Auckland as the top seed in 2009 and beat American Sam Querrey to win the title, the fifth of his career. It proved to be a great start to his year as he went on to win the US Open, beating Roger Federer in the final.
Del Potro has been sidelined since 2014 with wrist injuries, but has thundered back into prominence in recent months.
He beat Djokovic and Nadal en route to his Olympic silver medal in August.
A month later, in a five-set epic, Del Potro dealt world No.1 Murray his first home Davis Cup singles defeat.
The full men's line-up will be announced this week. Defending champion Roberto Bautista Agut, David Ferrer, John Isner, Jack Sock and ATP Next Generation stars Karen Khachanov and Taylor Fritz have already been confirmed for the tournament starting on January 9.
Isner won the tournament in 2010 and 2014, while Sock was a finalist this year.
Ferrer is returning for his 12th ASB Classic having won the tournament in 2007, 2011, 2012 and 2013.