LONDON (Reuters) - Juan Martin del Potro's first Wimbledon campaign for three years ended as the Argentine crumbled to a 6-7(4) 7-6(6) 7-5 6-1 defeat by Frenchman Lucas Pouille in the third round on Sunday.
After three left wrist operations in three years had put his career in jeopardy, the 27-year-old remained upbeat about his prospects of re-joining the game's elite, however.
"I'm very confident, very positive with the situation," a weary Del Potro, who has battled back to 165 after his ranking fell off a cliff, told reporters.
"I played three matches in this tournament against big players. I did a great match today against the 30th player in the world and I was there very, very close to winning.
"My level could be better at the end of the year or the next season but I need to work hard physically, my wrist, my backhands. Then I will be competitive on all surfaces."
Del Potro's backhand, the one his left battle-scarred wrist is needed for, has changed to take the strain off the joint.
It was still effective enough for him to stun fourth seed Stan Wawrinka in the previous round but against 32nd seed Pouille he was clearly suffering from fatigue.
The fourth set sped away from him as Pouille booked a last-16 clash with Australian Bernard Tomic.
"As you can see I'm exhausted," the 2009 U.S. Open champion who has been robbed of large chunks of his career by injury, told reporters. "Yesterday was even worse than today.
"My body is hurting everywhere but that's normal after a big match against Wawrinka. I have to keep working hard because in the future I will need to be ready between matches and feel better physically than today.
"Of course I've got frustrations, I feel sad for my loss but in the end that means I still have the fire in myself and that's good."
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond and Clare Fallon)