It seemed like Juan Martin del Potro, the Argentine who finally ended tennis king Roger Federer’s winning streak at the U.S. Open Monday night, came out of nowhere, but there’s a lot about him that intrigued sports watchers in the know even before he stepped onto the court that changed his life – and the world of tennis.
1. He’s a towering 6’6″ – the tallest Grand Slam champ of all time. A lanky frame and naturally high perch give del Potro, 20, an advantage with his serve and topspin balls – yet he seems to have no problem darting around a court regardless of the surface. Federer, by comparison, is 6’1″.
2. He’s the youngest Association of Tennis Professional player to win four career titles in his first four tournaments – and he did it by August 2008, at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, D.C. In 2005, after turning pro, del Potro – who idolized Pete Sampras as a kid – was the youngest player to finish in the top 200, at age 15.
3. He’s a huge soccer fan. Growing up, he played as much footie as he did tennis, and is a big supporter of Boca Juniors team in Argentina. He’s close pals with Mauro Camoranesi, who plays midfield for Italy’s Juventus team. And you don’t have to look far for a sports gene – his dad was a onetime semi-pro rugby player.
4. He speaks three languages. Besides his native Spanish, he can also converse in English and Italian – all the better to face American reporters to discuss his stunning U.S. Open upset and then watch some Italian soccer afterward.
5. Having trouble swallowing his mouthful of a name? He also goes by the nicknames Enano (“midget”), Palito (“stick”) and Delpo or Del Po (a contraction of his last name).