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A Player Falls Injured At The French Open, And Compassion Takes Over

It's still early in the French Open, but the tournament has already seen a remarkable show of sportsmanship. On Thursday, Juan Martín del Potro climbed over the net to console his opponent, Nicolás Almagro, who was visibly upset by an injury that forced him to withdraw from their match.

The score in their second-round match was tied at one set apiece when del Potro served — and Almagro was unable to move on the opposite baseline, his head down as he tried to cope with the realization that a recurring knee injury would end his run at Roland Garros.

As del Potro stepped over the net and walked toward him, Almagro collapsed on the clay court, his sobs clearly audible over the crowd's cheers of encouragement and appreciation. Del Potro, an Argentine who has faced his own injuries, talked quietly with Spain's Almagro before the two walked slowly back to the bench.

As he passed center court, Almagro, who at 31 is ranked No. 69 in the ATP's world tennis rankings, turned back to shake hands and hug del Potro, and to shake the chair umpire's hand.

"People first, tennis players second," the Roland Garros Facebook page stated.

Soon after the match, del Potro used a tweet to tell Almagro, "I wish you a speedy recovery, @NicoAlmagro. I can imagine what you're feeling. Strength."

The red clay at the Grand Slam tournament in Paris is called the terre battue, or beaten earth. But as Tennis.com explains, it can be deemed the "tear battue" this year, after a string of emotional incidents has already played out early in the tournament.

On Wednesday, Steve Johnson won a grueling match just weeks after his father and coach died, the site reports. And earlier in the tournament, Petra Kvitova and Kristina Mladenovic won victories that had meaning beyond the scoreboard, representing possible new steps in their careers.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: June 2, 2017 at 12:00 AM EDT
A previous version of this post incorrectly referred to Argentinian player Juan Martín del Potro as Martín del Potro.
Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.

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