Editor’s Note: ATPTour.com is resurfacing features to bring fans closer to their favourite players during the current suspension in tournament play. This story was originally published on 5 May 2013.
Juan Martin del Potro met His Holiness Pope Francis, the first Pope from South America and a fellow Argentine, after attending Mass at the Vatican on Wednesday. Del Potro presented the Pope with a racquet used during his 2009 US Open final victory over Roger Federer.
“It was an incredible experience with Pope Francis, something that I’ll never forget,” said Del Potro. “It was a dream come true for a guy like me. It was an unforgettable moment. I was very nervous before meeting him, to be able to congratulate him and talk with him. He was nice. Everybody knows he is very humble. Today was a day that I’ll remember forever.”
Born Jorge Mario Bergoglio and noted for his humility and concern for the poor, Pope Francis was elected just over two months ago, during Del Potro’s run to the BNP Paribas Open final.
“I wanted to meet him from the moment he got elected Pope,” Del Potro said. “I said it in Indian Wells. This moment was possible thanks to arrangements in Buenos Aires and to the ATP. It also coincided that I had a day without a singles match.”
The World No. 7 and winner of 14 ATP Tour titles said that he was surprised when the Pope recognised him in the crowd.
“There was a very nice moment when he was talking to all of us, all of his audience, and he turned his face, saw me and raised his thumb. He recognised me and that surprised me. We talked for a few seconds,” Del Potro said. “He told me that he knew I was playing at the tournament in Rome, he blessed me and wished me the best. I congratulated him and thanked him for the opportunity to talk to him.”
Seventh seed Del Potro opened his Internazionali BNL d’Italia campaign on Tuesday with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Andrey Kuznetsov. He returns to action on Thursday with a third-round clash against Benoit Paire.