In the quest to win a Grand Slam tournament, sportsmanship can sometimes fall by the wayside for even the most well-to-do athletes in the game of tennis as the intensity ratchets up to the highest of levels.
On Thursday morning in a heated second round matchup between Juan Martin del Potro and Nicolas Almagro, Almagro fell to the court with an apparent knee injury and writhed in pain almost instantly.
Without a second’s hesitation, del Potro hopped over the net and was by his opponents side consoling the inconsolable Almagro as his French Open dreams likely came to an end for this year’s tournament at the very least.
Almagro and del Potro were tied at one set a piece and one game a piece in the third set when the injury occurred.
Del Potro, who has also dealt with a slew of injuries over the course of his 12-year career, empathized with Almagro and tried to take his mind off of tennis.
“I tried to — I don’t know — tried to find good words for that moment. I told him to try to be calm. And I told him to think about his family, his baby. And sometimes the heart is first than the tennis match or the tennis life.”
“He was in agony. It was tough. I told him that tennis is important, but health matters more than tennis in this case.”
Almagro, 31, had to retire from a match against Rafael Nadal at the Italian Open just a month earlier due to an injury to the same knee.
Del Potro, ranked seeded No. 29 in the tournament, will now face tournament No. 1 seed Andy Murray in the round of 32 on Saturday at Roland-Garros.
Del Potro is 3-6 against Murray all time, but has taken two of the last three matches from the top-seeded Murray.
Neither Murray or del Potro have won the French Open, but Murray finished second to Novak Djokovic last year and will undoubtedly be in top shape against del Potro as he looks to get back to the finals in 2017.
“Andy is one of the favorites to win this tournament,” del Porto said, per Yahoo! Sports. “And now I know his game a lot, but I need to be in good shape and physically be stronger to hold a long match if we play a long match, long rallies.”