A Fighting Return For Del Potro In Sydney
by ATP Staff|
Former World No. 4 Juan Martin del Potro earned the first win of his long-awaited comeback, saving one match point to overcome Spaniard Feliciano Lopez 6-7(5), 7-6(9), 7-6(3) in three hours and 20 minutes Monday at the Medibank International Sydney.
"I don't expect this kind of match for the start, but we played a beautiful match, very close," said del Potro. "Feliciano is a fantastic player on this kind of surface, and I played good tennis again. I feel good all on my match, and finally I won a match since one year."
Del Potro, who had played Lopez in his last tour-level match in October at Tokyo, grabbed the early lead Monday before the sixth-seeded Spaniard broke back and closed out the first set in the tie-break with his fifth ace.
With Lopez holding match point on his racquet at 7-6 in the second set tie-break, del Potro kept his hopes alive after Lopez came to the net and played conservative with his slice backhand. Del Potro chased down the shot and delivered a running crosscourt forehand winner, and later drew level with the Spaniard as he capitalised on his third set point.
The 22-year-old Argentine was again made to work hard in the third set, digging deep to fight off six break point chances, and sealed the victory on his first of three match points in the tie-break. He finished the match with 21 aces to Lopez’s 20.
The victory marked del Potro’s first since last January, when he defeated German Florian Mayer in the third round of the Australian Open. Del Potro and Mayer will meet in the second round of the Medibank International Sydney after the German defeated British wild card James Ward 7-5, 6-0 on Monday.
Del Potro was sidelined a majority of the 2010 season with a wrist injury and underwent surgery in May. He made a brief comeback last autumn, but following first-round exits at Bangkok and Tokyo, ended his season to focus on getting in shape for 2011.
While he acknowledged it will take time for him to regain the level that took him to the US Open title in 2009, del Potro declared he is ready to fight for his place in the Top 10.
"I worked very hard for two months in Argentina. My coaches trust in my conditions and I trust in myself, so I'm ready again to play long matches. I am still lower with my level, I need time. I need work to keep going in this road. It's a long road to be in the Top 10 again, but I'm ready to try. I need matches and matches, practice, and work. Maybe four, six months I'm ready to play again good tennis."
In other first-round action, 2006 runner-up Igor Andreev, a qualifier in the main draw this year, advanced to the second round with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Jeremy Chardy in 71 minutes to set up a meeting with third seed Ernests Gulbis. In a match featuring 14 aces and four breaks of serve, Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky edged German Benjamin Becker 7-6(3), 7-6(6). Elsewhere, 2009 finalist Jarkko Nieminen was forced to retire with a right knee injury after losing the first set 6-2 to Portuguese qualifier Frederico Gil.
Also Monday, Polish lucky loser Lukasz Kubot was elevated into the main draw after defending champion Marcos Baghdatis withdrew with a left groin injury. The Cypriot said, “It’s been four days I have pain. I don’t want to risk too much by going in the match and making it worse, so I took the decision today with my team not to participate here.”