Juan Martin del Potro, seeded seventh at the Italian Open in Rome, made major news in taking in a Mass at the Vatican on Wednesday and also sharing a meet-and-greet with the recently elected leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis. Del Potro presented the Pope, a fellow Argentine, with one of the racquets he used to defeat Roger Federer in the 2009 U.S. Open, an axe hailing from that landmark achievement for South American tennis.
The Pope actually picked out del Potro in a crowd—probably not hard when the 24-year-old stands 6'6". Said del Potro, “There was a very nice moment when he was talking to all of us, all of his audience, and he turned his face, saw me, and raised his thumb. He recognized me and that surprised me. We talked for a few seconds. He told me that he knew I was playing at the tournament in Rome, he blessed me and wished me the best. I congratulated him and thanked him for the opportunity to talk to him.”
A few Delpo's friendly foes on the ATP World Tour were also in attendance at the Vatican, namely Kevin Anderson, Marin Cilic, Carlos Berlocq, Horacio Zeballos, and Santiago Gonzalez. Rendezvousing with His Holiness, Pope Francis, didn't do del Potro's tennis much good, though, as he struggled through an ensuing 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) loss to Benoit Paire the next day.
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