After having a successful 2018 season ended by injury, Juan Martin del Potro is hoping to once again stage a strong comeback to men’s tennis later this month.
The world No.4 hasn’t played a competitive match since the Shanghai Masters back in October. It was at the tournament where he fractured his right patella bone. Commonly known as the kneecap. The injury forced him to withdraw from last year’s ATP Finals after qualifying for the event for the first time since 2013, as well as the Australian Open.
Del Potro is targeting a return to the tour at the Delray Beach Open, which he last won back in 2011. Leading up to his latest comeback, the Argentine conducted an open practice session in his home city of Tandill on Saturday. The day drew big crowds to the session with members of the public bringing food to donate to a local food bank.
“I feel good, I think it was the most intense week I had since my injury and the rehabilitation.” Del Potro told local media after his practice session.
“I finished it well, which is important for the intensity that comes up a little bit.
“I still have to climb a couple of steps, if I continue like that I will get there,” He added.
The public event had been arranged to be done two weeks prior, but was cancelled by the 30-year-old. Who says that he wasn’t in good enough shape at the time.
Despite his delay to the new season, Del Potro to hoping that he can pick up from where he left. In 2018 the Argentine rose to a ranking high of third in the world. On the tour, he won two ATP titles, including his first at Masters level in Indian Wells. Then at the US Open he reached the second grand slam final of his career and first since 2009. He lost in straight sets to Novak Djokovic. Overall, Del Potro featured in six finals during that year.
“It is difficult to repeat a year like the previous one, but obviously I would like to. Even if i didn’t play in Australia, started a bit behind those I have above me in the rankings. In recent years my career has surprised me.” He said.
“I’m very excited to be able to start (the 2019 season) at last, I’ve already missed an important tournament.” The Argentine added.
Besides his goal of returning back to the top of the men’s game once again, Del Potro is also aware of the wider impact he has. Known as the ‘tower of Tandil’ due to his height of 6’4”, Del Potro want to continue inspiring the next generation of players. On social media he has 3.35 million Twitter followers and 2.027 million Facebook likes.
“I try to be an example on and off the court, the youngest ones (children) imitate you when you’re playing, but also in your physical form, how you dress, what you eat or who you surround yourself with.” He explained.
Del Potro has also given his view about the current state of the tour. At present men’s tennis is dominated by three of the four members of the ‘Big Four.’ The only exception is Andy Murray, who may be forced to retire from the sport soon during to persistent hip problems. At the Australian Open, Novak Djokovic clinched the title after thrashing nemesis Rafael Nadal in the final.
Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Del Potro believes it will continue to be dominated by the usual suspects. Even though the Next Generation contingent are making progress. Highlighted by Alexander Zverev’s triumph at the ATP Tour Finals in November.
“I think it will continue to be them (Nadal and Djokovic) who are fighting for the top places.” Said del Potro. “There are a lot of good players, it’s a matter of time for those to move places, but still Rafa, Djokovic, the same with Federer, when it comes to playing the big tournaments, they are a little higher.”
“The new group (Next Gen) is going to push and move us. They have to be consistent throughout the season and in the big tournaments.”
The Delray Beach Open will get underway from February 18th. Del Potro is set to be the highest ranked player in the draw.
Kei Nishikori recovers from a slow start to beat Taylor Fritz in Barcelona
Kei Nishikori beat Taylor Fritz 7-5 6-2 after 1 hour and 41 minutes to advance to the second round at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell.
Kei Nishikori raliied from 1-4 down in the first set to reel off 12 of the next 15 games.
Fritz converted his second break point in the fourth game and held his service game to open up a 4-1 lead. Nishikori broke twice in the seventh and eleventh games to take a 6-5 lead. The Japanese player served out the first set 7-5 at deuce after saving a break point.
Nishikori went up a double break in the third and fifth games to seal the second set 6-2.
Nishikori and Fritz met once before in the 2016 Memphis final, when the Japanese player beat his younger US rival to clinch his fourth consecutive Memphis title.
Nishikori bounced back from his opening round defeat against Pierre Hugues Herbert last week in Monte-Carlo.
Nishikori claimed two consecutive titles in Barcelona in 2014 and 2015 and finished runner-up to Rafael Nadal, who won the Barcelona title 11 times.
The Japanese player will face Canadian 18-year-old Next Gen star Felix Auger Aliassime or Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri.
Jaziri came back from one set to beat Guido Andreozzi 6-7 (3-7) 6-4 6-2 after 2 hours and 42 minutes.
Spanish veteran David Ferrer dropped just 11 points in his service points to ease past Germany’s Misha Zverev 6-3 6-1 after 65 minutes. Ferrer will face Frenchman Lucas Pouille in the second round.
Teenager Nicola Kuhn from Spain edged past Argentina’s Federico Delbonis 7-6 (7-3) 4-6 6-2 after 2 hours and 30 minutes scoring the biggest win of his career.
Matteo Berrettini beats Mikhail Kukushkin in Budapest
Italy’s Matteo Berrettini claimed his first win on clay this season with a 6-4 6-4 victory over Mikhail Kukushkin in the opening round of the Hungarian Open.
The first set started with four breaks of serve in the first five games, as Berrettini built up a 4-1 lead. Kukushkin pulled back one of the three breaks in the sixth game for 2-4. Berrettini held his final two games at love to claim the first set 6-4.
Berrettini went up a double break in the first and fifth games to open up a 5-1 lead. The Italian player wasted his first match point. Kukushkin got one break back and saved another match point to hold his service game to win his third consecutive game for 4-5, but Berrettini served out the win at love in the 10th game.
Berrettini set up a second round against Aljaz Bedene, who came back from a double break down in the opening set to beat Bernard Tomic 7-6 (7-3) 6-3.
Radu Albot from Moldova broke serve twice in each set to seal a 7-5 6-4 win over Sergiy Stakhovsky on his fourth match point after 1 hour and 41 minutes setting up a second round against Filip Krajnovic, who edged Andreas Seppi 6-2 6-7 (3-7) 7-5 after wasting four match points in the second set.
Marco Cecchinato has pulled out of the Hungarian Open and will not defend the title he won last year.
Fernando Verdasco wins all-Spanish clash against Feliciano Lopez in Barcelona first round
Fernando Verdasco beat Feliciano Lopez 6-4 6-3 in 81 minutes at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell.
Former Barcelona champion Verdasco, who won this tournament in 2010, improved his win-loss record against his compatriot to 6-5 in their 11 head-to-head matches.
Verdasco claimed his only break point at love to close out the first set 6-4. Lopez got his first break at deuce in the opening game of the second set. Verdasco won four consecutive breaks from 2-3 down with two breaks to wrap up the second set 6-3. Verdasco will face Grigor Dimitrov in the second round.
Taylor Fritz won an all-American first round clash against giant Reilly Opelka 6-3 6-4 after just 55 minutes In the match between two US rising stars Fritz never faced a break point and converted one break point in each set from the four chances he created to cruise into the second round.
Fritz earned the only break in the fifth game of the first set at 15 to take a 3-2 lead after Opelka made a volley error in the fifth game. Fritz hit three service winners in the ninth game to seal the opening set 6-3.
Fritz went up a set and a break in the third game of the second set with a forehand winner. He hit a forehand winner to close out the match, as he was serving for the match at 5-4.
Diego Schwartzman came back from one set down to beat Yoshihito Nishioka 4-6 6-4 6-2.
Nishioka converted his fourth break point in the first game, but Schwartzman broke back in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. After a trade of breaks in the sixth and seventh games Nishioka saved saved three break points to hold his serve in the eighth game. The Japanese player converted his fifth break point after a double fault from Schwartzman in the ninth game. Nishioka served out the first set at love.
Both players traded breaks twice in the second set en route to drawing level to 4-4. Schwartzman broke serve in the 10th game to close out the second set 6-4. Schwartman reeled off four consecutive games from 2-2 with two breaks of serve to win the third set.
Schwartman was playing his third match in Barcelona because he had to play the qualifying round. He forgot to sign before the tournament deadline.
Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer battled past Marius Copil 6-3 6-7 (3-7) 7-5 after two hours and 36 minutes to score his ninth match win of the season.
Mayer earned his first break to race out to a 3-0 lead and saved four break points at 3-1. He held his final two service games to close out the second set 6-3. Both players saved a total of four break points in the second set to hold their service games en route to the tie-break. Copil earned three mini-breaks to claim the tie-break 7-3 forcing the match to the third set. Mayer got the only break at love in the 12th game to seal the third set 7-5.
German Jan-Lennard Struff cruised past Hugo Dellien 6-3 6-1 after just 51 minutes. Struff saved all three break points and dropped 14 points in 8 service games. He broke once in the fourth game of the first set and three times in a row to seal the win.
Jaume Munar came back from one set down to beat Portuguese qualifier Pedro Souza 2-6 6-4 6-0 setting up a second round match against US Frances Tiafoe. Sousa got four of the six breaks to win the first set 6-4. The second set went on serve until the 10th game, when Munar got his first break on his third chance to close out the second set 6-4. The Spaniard broke three times to take a bagel win in the third set.
Mackenzie McDonald saw off Japan’s Taro Daniel 6-2 6-2 in just 57 minutes. Mackenzie converted four of hi sten break points and dropped nine points in eight service games. He won the final four games of the first set from 2-2 with two breaks to close out the first set 6-2. He got two more breaks in the third and eighth games to wrap up the match with with a forehand crosscourt winner.
Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics cruised past Denis Kudla 6-4 6-1. The Hungarian player saved two break points he faced and converted four of his nine break points.
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