Juan Martin del Potro confirmed for Auckland ASB Classic return
Fresh from helping Argentina win the Davis Cup, Juan Martin del Potro will return to New Zealand in January to play at the ASB Classic.
Del Potro beat Sam Querry in the Auckland final in 2009 and later that year beat Rafael Nadal in the semifinals and Roger Federer in the final of the US Open.
He was the first player to beat them both in a Grand Slam.
Tournament organisers have tried to get him back to Auckland in the years since then, without any luck but the timing is right for a return in 2017.
He played just six tournaments in 2014 and 2015 because of wrist injuries and in February this year was down to 1045 in the world rankings.
But he's fought his way back, making it to the final at the Rio Olympics and is now ranked 38.
Since June, he has also beaten two current world number ones in Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, as well as Stan Wawrinka and Nadal.
"His year has been incredible, especially to beat two current world number ones," Classic tournament director Karl Budge said.
"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."
Rightly, del Potro was given the award for the comeback player of the year by the ATP and his return to the top is one of those great inspirational sporting stories.
He admits he contemplated retiring during his almost two years out of the game, but showed that through hard work and determination he could get back to where he was.
Ranked 38 in the world, del Potro won't be seeded for the Classic, so unlike the top four seeds won't be given a first round bye.
"Juan Martin is the man of the moment and the bookies favourite for the title in Auckland," Budge said.
"The fact he is unseeded and can land anywhere on the draw will be the talking point to see who he plays on Monday or Tuesday."
A factor in why del Potro chose to make a return to Auckland could have been because he'll be unseeded at the Australian Open and may draw one of the big guns in the first round, so wants to be more match hardened for that situation.
"He's a confidence player and the more he plays the better he plays," Budge said.
"Rather than playing week one and taking the week off before Melbourne, he wants to hit balls and get into a groove going into the Aussie Open.
"He's going to be unseeded in Melbourne, meaning he could draw one of those top four guys in the opening round, so he wants to be ready to take on one of those blokes should it happen."
The signing of del Potro helps puts the men's Classic on an equal field with the women's tournament and with David Ferrer, Roberto Bautista Agut, John Isner, Jack Sock and rising star Taylor Fritz already confirmed, it promises to be a compelling week of tennis from January 9.
The rest of the field for the men's Classic will be announced at 10am on Wednesday.