Del Potro Stays Alive After Five

Argentine, with his knee taped, reaches the Round of 32 in Paris

The sight had to make all tennis fans, and especially those of Juan Martin del Potro, cringe: the trainer trotting out to visit the Argentine.

Del Potro had his right knee heavily taped after dropping the opener of his second-round match against Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka on Thursday at Roland Garros. But the two-time semi-finalist played with the pain and managed to make his way into the third round for the sixth time in Paris 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-2.

“He’s a tough one, for sure. He has fantastic physical conditions. He’s very, very fast and very solid from the baseline,” Del Potro said. “It was a tough match… Long rallies, long points. We made a great match, and in the end I think I played a little bit better than him.”

Del Potro found his way in the second and third sets, crushing forehand winners and mixing in drop shots as Nishioka sagged behind the baseline.You May Also Like: Zverev Wins In Straight Sets For Only Second Time At Roland Garros

In the fourth, however, Nishioka broke and led 3-1 before evening the match when Del Potro missed a second-serve return forehand wide. The 2009 and 2018 semi-finalist pounced early in the fifth, though, breaking for 3-1 and again to clinch the three-hour, 46-minute affair.

Most importantly, Del Potro said his knee was feeling OK.

“I slid and I lost my balance, and I hurt my hip, and this also resounded in my knee. I felt a weird feeling, which worried me,” Del Potro said. “And after all I have gone through, my feelings in my knee, I had to be careful and fight mentally during those games to make the best decision and decide what I had to do to play correctly.

“It was costing me to move and to play, but if you’re strong mentally, the passion, the desire to play and to compete is what takes over. And that’s how I won.”

The 6’6” right-hander is playing in only his fourth tournament of the season after breaking his right kneecap last October at the Rolex Shanghai Masters. He tested the injury in February in Delray Beach, only to realise he needed more time for rehab.

Watch: Up Close & Personal With Del Potro In His ‘Road To London’

During the European clay-court swing, Del Potro has made his comeback and shown that he’s truly ready. The 30-year-old reached the quarter-finals of the ATP Masters 1000 event in Rome, holding two match points against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

Thursday’s match, at times, matched its environment – the new Court Simonne-Mathieu, named after the 1938 and 1939 Roland Garros women’s champion who, during World War II, signed up as a volunteer for the French Army.

The court is nestled below four greenhouses, each with plants from a different continent – Australia, Africa, South America, Asia – and watching a match there can feel as relaxing as a stroll through exotic gardens.

Del Potro will hope for a more relaxing scoreline when he next faces Aussie Jordan Thompson. Thompson made his first Round of 32 at a Grand Slam by beating Croatian Ivo Karlovic 6-3, 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-3. On Tuesday, the 40-year-old Karlovic became the oldest man to win at Roland Garros since 1973. Thompson went 1-11 at tour-level last year but already is 15-10 this season.

In other action, Lucas Pouille will try to make it six Frenchmen into the Round of 32 on Friday. His second-round match against Slovakian Martin Klizan was suspended because of darkness on Thursday night with Klizan leading 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-3, 3-1. The winner of Pouille-Klizan will face 10th seed Karen Khachanov, who beat French wild card Gregoire Barrere 6-3, 7-6(6), 0-6, 7-5.

Did You Know?
This is the fifth straight year the top eight seeds have reached the third round in Roland Garros. The top eight seeds have not reached the third round at any of the other 12 Grand Slam events during that time (2015-18 Wimbledon, 2015-18 US Open, 2016-19 Australian Open).

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