Thank God for handball. It was a sight to behold, the 7-6 (4), 7-6 (2) lesson in pressed-but-composed tennis that Juan Martin del Potro put on against No. 1 Novak Djokovic in their Olympic opener in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday night. But it almost didn't happen.
As is well known by now, Delpo was stuck in an elevator for 40 minutes before members of his home country's handball team more or less saved him. (Apparently that's the new way to prepare to defeat him.) Argentina is certainly moving as one unit at these Summer Games, with that as the case in point.
Del Potro and Djokovic were both lachrymose after their tightly contested encounter, which was one of three that Delpo has won over the Djoker, including the bronze-medal match at the London Olympics four years ago.
oh my god. There's nothing like the Olympics. https://t.co/g1ZOz8R9iR— Ricky Dimon (@Dimonator) August 8, 2016
And just like that, the far-and-away No. 1 in men's tennis, the Djoker, was rendered a court jester in Rio.
Fans and observers weren't spared from tears and emotions during and in the wake of the spellbinding affair either.
This is how Delpo started the day: trapped in an elevator at the Olympic village for 40 minutes. pic.twitter.com/EFNmOKqIwE— Jorge Viale (@jorgeviale) August 7, 2016
DelPo's forehand is disrespectful— Black King Cole (@SUN_Of_Uhhh) August 8, 2016
Good day for former US Open champs so far as Stosur, Kuznetsova win and DelPo has match point...— Jon Wertheim (@jon_wertheim) August 8, 2016
"It's really difficult to talk. I love the sport. I love the crowd. It was amazing." del Potro.— Erik Gudris (@ATNtennis) August 8, 2016
I am dead. https://t.co/d0wv751r2Z— Ricky Dimon (@Dimonator) August 8, 2016
Del Potro is 3-0 vs. Djokovic in national competition, 1-11 in individual competition.— Chris Skelton (@ChrisSkelton87) August 8, 2016
As he so deserved, del Potro got the final word in the matter.
GRACIAS!!! ???????????????????????? pic.twitter.com/h6LBQVD3n6— Juan M. del Potro (@delpotrojuan) August 8, 2016
Djokovic may be No. 1 on the ATP World Tour, but del Potro himself became the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter worldwide after the match ended, with more than 150,000 tweets about his effort and ensuing victory being posted to the platform.
He didn't have much time to dwell on his victory as he took on Joao Sousa on Monday, winning 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 to advance to the round of 16.
Follow Jon on Twitter @jonscott9.