It’s like my sec­ond or third ca­reer, says trem­bling Del Potro

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

THERE is a rea­son why Juan Martin del Potro went un­der the knife – over... and over... and over again.

Three wrist op­er­a­tions since his last ap­pear­ance at Wim­ble­don in 2013 meant Del Potro had had more ap­point­ments with sur­geons and phys­io­ther­a­pists than on- court en­gage­ments with ten­nis pros over the past 27 months.

Yes­ter­day, the gen­tle gi­ant from Ar­gentina showed why all the pain and scars – both phys­i­cal and men­tal – were worth it as he top­pled fourth seed Stan Wawrinka 3- 6 6- 3 7-6(2) 6-3 un­der a closed Cen­tre Court roof in the sec­ond round of Wim­ble­don.

“It feels amaz­ing. I beat one of the guys who is play­ing great ten­nis this sea­son and I couldn’t have ex­pected this be­fore to­day,” a trem­bling Del Potro said.

“I was re­ally sad for the last two years and now I am en­joy­ing play­ing ten­nis again. My hands shak­ing is a great sen­sa­tion for me be­cause I’m play­ing ten­nis again and I feel alive,” he added.

Del Potro, World No 165, was feel­ing “so alive” that by the time the match hit the mid­way point of the sec­ond set, Wawrinka did not know what had hit him.

The Swiss, who won grand slam ti­tles in Mel­bourne and Paris in the last few years, was prob­a­bly left wish­ing Del Potro’s sur­geon had not done such a good job of fix­ing the stricken left wrist which he uses to belt his trade­mark dou­ble-handed back­hand.

A break for 3-1 was enough for Del Potro, to bag the sec­ond set and he marked the mo­ment with a clenched­fist salute to his sup­port­ers.

While pun­ters on the out­side courts had to make do with watch­ing an army of ground­staff drag­ging the green cov­ers on and off with com­i­cal fre­quency, Del Potro’s flow­ing racket skills lifted the spir­its of the soggy fans sit­ting atop Wim­ble­don’s Hen­man Hill and fol­low­ing pro­ceed­ings on the gi­ant TV screen.

By the time the play­ers swapped serves for four suc­ces­sive games at the start of the third set, Wawrinka knew he was in for a tor­rid time against the 2009 US Open cham­pion. When the Swiss whipped a back­hand wide on match point to com­plete an­other mis­er­able out­ing at the only ma­jor in which he has yet to reach at least the semi- fi­nal, it com­pleted a re­mark­able come­back from the ten­nis wilder­ness for his op­po­nent. “After my third surgery, I’ve been try­ing to play ten­nis again. It is like my sec­ond or third ca­reer in my short life,” said Del Potro who will next face Lu­cas Pouille. “I didn’t know if I could be in the top po­si­tion again... after all the in­juries,” the 27-year-old added. “To be in the third round in my first grand slam after three years, it means a lot to me. I’m ex­cited to go far in the tour­na­ment.”

● Serena Williams com­posed her­self after a first-set loss and a burst of anger to van­quish tena­cious fel­low Amer­i­can Christina McHale 67(7) 6-2 6-4.

The de­fend­ing cham­pion fi­nally ran out a win­ner against the World No 65, march­ing on in her quest to em­u­late St­effi Graf ’s Open era record of 22 grand slam sin­gles ti­tles.

Williams thought she had won the first set and was walk­ing back to her chair after a McHale fore­hand was called long with the World No 1 5-4 and 40-30 up. To her cha­grin, how­ever, a Hawk­eye chal­lenge showed the ball brush­ing the base­line.

McHale went on to win the game and force a tiebreak in which a rat­tled Williams made a string of er­rors, in­clud­ing two dou­ble faults, be­fore bury­ing a fore­hand into the net to lose the set.

Fu­ri­ous as she sat down, she ham­mered her racket into the ground in frus­tra­tion be­fore hurl­ing it be­hind her.

But the 34-year-old put the dis­ap­point­ment be­hind her and showed the bat­tling form that has won her six Wim­ble­don crowns to take the next two sets, clos­ing out the two-and-ahalf hour match with three aces. – Reuters ● World No 1 No­vak Djokovic was 7-6 6-1 down to 28th-seeded Amer­i­can Sam Quer­rey be­fore his match was sus­pended due to rain at the time of go­ing to press last night.

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