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Clijsters and del Potro return to hero’s welcomes


 

Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:44

The party isn’t over just yet for Juan Martin del Potro and Kim Clijsters – and in case they had though otherwise, crowds of thousands were on hand when they landed back home to celebrate their US Open triumphs.

Del Potro was greeted at Buenos Aries airport by chants of Ole, Ole and DelPo, DelPo. Reporters and TV cameras jostled for position as the Argentine signed autographs, smiling throughout the kind of manic scenes usually reserved for the stars of the national football team.

But with Maradona’s men struggling to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, del Potro’s surprise 3-6 7-6(5) 4-6 7-6(4) 6-2 victory over Roger Federer in Monday night’s US Open final has provided a timely morale boost for the country.

And now, having won his maiden grand slam, del Potro has set his sights on his second career goal.

My dream is to be No.1,” announced the 20-year-old, who broke into the world’s top five on the back of his performance in Flushing Meadows. “But it will be a long road – today there are players much better than me.

For now, however, a parade in his hometown of Tandil, a key to the city and the honorary position of sports ambassador will have to do. Asked to recall his victory over Federer, del Potro just smiled.

I still dont understand a thing, he said. I havent had time to relax. Im on automatic pilot.

Del Potro, the first Argentine man to win the US Open since Guillermo Vilas in 1977, used his underdog status for motivation. There were critical moments when I thought I would lose, he admitted. “On the other hand, I thought I had nothing to lose.

“It was Federers twenty-first final and my first. I just kept running until the final point. I think I realised I could win in the final set when I broke his serve.

Im not going to change who I am, he added. Ive only fulfilled a big dream I had, but Ill still have the same friends. This is something important to keep my feet on the ground. And I have my coaching and training staff around me, and my family.

Touching down in Brussels airport, Kim Clijsters could well have said the same thing. Much to her surprise, thousands turned out to welcome her back to Belgium.

Clijsters had only just returned to tennis after two years out to start a family, but still managed to beat Caroline Wozniacki 7-5 6-3 to win the final grand slam of the year.

Clijsters, who re-entered the WTA rankings at No.19 on Monday, patiently signed autographs for her supporters and looked a little stunned by her reception, but there was one particular engagement that took priority on her return.

During an exhibition match at Rosmalen back in June, Clijsters’ coach Wim Fissette told her that if she won the US Open he would shave his head.

And once back home in Belgium, she did.

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