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