LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - With his frustrating wrist injury finally behind him and the U.S. Open looming large next month, the smile is back on Juan Martin Del Potro's face as he prepares for this week's ATP event in Los Angeles.
"It has been a very long while (with) my wrist injury but now I'm okay," former U.S. Open champion Del Potro told reporters while preparing for his opening match at the Los Angeles International.
"I'm getting better with my tennis, with my mind and my problems are in the past. I am not thinking about my wrist, about different injuries that I had last year.
"I know it's a long road, a very tough road but I still believe in my game. I am very confident with my level at this moment."
"I am lucky to be top 20 at this moment but it was really tough for me to come back, especially in the beginning of the season when I was in the Australian Open and I lost in the second round," the Argentine said.
"Then I came here to the U.S. to play indoors and I played the first round (in Memphis) against John Isner, a very difficult player to start the first round.
"But if you don't have the rankings after an injury, it can happen like maybe what can happen in this tournament if I play against Blake in the second round. But that's tennis...."
Del Potro plans to take a week off after the Los Angeles International before competing in Montreal and Cincinnati to wind up his preparations for the season's final grand slam, the U.S. Open in New York.
"If I could start to play (the U.S. Open) tomorrow I would," he added with a huge grin. "But first I have very important tournaments before.
"This tournament (in Los Angeles) is important for me. It will be my first tournament after the clay and grass season. And I have very good memories here. I won my first hardcourt tournament here in L.A."
(Writing by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Frank Pingue)