Argentine Juan Martin del Potro fell to American Sam Querrey in the Delray beach Semi-Finals. But what del Potro’s participation meant is much more important than the outcome. This competition was his first professional outing in 11 months.

His career is of great note for tennis fans because of all of the thoughts of what could have been. In 2009, he became the first player to beat powerhouses Nadal and Federer in the same Major. But shortly after his win, he underwent a surgery on his wrist. It was the first of many— over five years he has had four surgeries. One on the right, and three on the left. It was a question of if, not when, he could return to his powerful style of play.

When he entered the tournament, del Potro held a ranking of 1,042. During the tournament, flashes of his old brilliance were present, and he exited with a ranking of 420. Still a ways to go to the top, but that’s not a leap to balk at.

Fan or not, it is hard not to respect the drive that del Potro has had to overcome pain and injury to resume doing what he loves. It is truly a lesson for us all.