© Peter Staples

Juan Martin del Potro did not face a break point in his first match in 11 months.

Del Potro Makes Winning Return

Former World No. 4 eases past Kudla in first round

Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro has made a triumphant return to the ATP World Tour at the Delray Beach Open after almost a year on the sidelines. The 2009 US Open champion, playing his first match since March last year, defeated American Denis Kudla 6-1, 6-4 in the first round on Tuesday night.

Delray Beach is a familiar comeback ground for the 27 year old. He won the title five years ago as the World No. 166 in the Emirates ATP Rankings on the comeback trail from right wrist surgery. On Tuesday night, he improved his unbeaten run there to six matches.

“I think winning a match after 11 months is the gift of the tournament for me,” the former World No. 4 said. “I’m so excited to keep working because I’m feeling if I do well and if I stay healthy my tennis will be behind me and maybe I can be dangerous one day again.

“I was nervous before the match and excited to see how my forehands and serves were going to be on court. I knew how my backhand would be … I’m still working and improving to have a very good backhand to compete in this level. For me it’s like winning a very important match in my career.”

Del Potro bolted out of the gates, breaking the American’s opening service game before holding for 3-0 after just 10 minutes. He secured the double break for 5-1 and served out the opener 6-1 after 24 minutes. 

The Argentine broke in the opening game of the second and consolidated for 2-0. He sustained the advantage throughout the remainder of the set against the World No. 59, serving it out on his first match point in little more than an hour.

It marked a crucial step on his fourth comeback trail from injury, having played just two tournaments – Sydney and Miami – before undergoing left wrist surgery in January and again in June last year. He finished 2015 outside the Top 100 in the Emirates ATP Rankings for the third time in six years due to wrist injuries.

“I don’t do anything special. I think the only thing to do is work hard and if you do before a tournament you have more chance to feel good,” del Potro said. “I have a great family and good friends who support me all the time. They were watching my match on TV in Argentina; it’s very late there. I know they’re very proud of me. They know how sad I was in the past.”