DELPO MAGICAL RUN CONTINUES IN DELRAY

 

Argentinian Rolls Over Chardy With Querrey Next Up

 

By STEVE DORSEY

 

Delray Beach, Fla. – He still has a way to go to regain the form he possessed before a wrist injury sidelined him for the past 11 months, but Juan Martin Del Potro already has cleared more hurdles than even he expected this week at the ATP World Tour Delray Beach Open.

The 2009 U.S. Open champion continued his magical run here Friday night in the quarterfinals with a 6-2, 6-3 win against Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, the No. 5 seed here and the World No. 30. Del Potro’s win kept his unbeaten record intact at Delray Beach where the Argentine is now 8-0, having won the title here in 2011. He’s never dropped a set here either, extending that streak to 16 in Friday’s nightcap at the Delray Beach Stadium and Tennis Center.

Del Potro will face American Sam Querrey in Saturday’s semifinals. Querrey penciled his name into the final four with a 6-7(1), 7-6(4), 6-4 win against compatriot Tim Smyczek in the other quarterfinal match Friday night on the Stadium Court.

It will be Del Potro’s first ATP World Tour semifinal since 2014 at Sydney where he also registered the last of his 18 career titles. Del Potro said after his second-round win on Thursday that he did not have high expectations of playing three matches in his first tournament in nearly a year. Now, he’s facing at least a fourth match here despite admitting he’s been fatigued after each match in his return debut.

“I’m so tired everywhere on my body,” said Del Potro, who became only the second player to defeat Chardy at Delray Beach, the other being Mardy Fish in 2009 and ’10. “I’m enjoying this kind of pain because it’s nothing dangerous, and in the end I will be better. It’s difficult to understand I’m going to play a semifinal after 11 months, but I’m playing my game.”

Del Potro admits that his two-handed backhand is nowhere close to being as effective as it was before the two surgeries on his left wrist last year, but he said another match here will be a “big test” to see how much improved his wrist is. He’s been hitting mostly backhand slices this week and said he’s gradually gaining more confidence as his strength improves while trying to hit winners with his forehand.

“I need to stay calm and be patient because it’s a very long haul to 100 percent,” Del Potro said. “I’m going match-by-match. I’m not thinking about the next tournament I’m in or what’s going to be my ranking next week or whatever. I’m just trying to fight with my mind to understand my moment, and try to keep calm. . . . I’m doing what I can. It’s tough to play after a year (off). I’m doing my best and I think I’m doing well.”

Querrey’s solution for beating the windy conditions at the Stadium Court was to try to deliver aces, which he did, registering 13 of them in his win against Smyczek.

“I was trying to hit through it is all I was trying to do,” said the 28-year-old Californian who is ranked No. 61 in the world. “I was trying to stay aggressive. I probably had a lot of errors out there. I’m confident because I’ve won a lot of matches. You never leave a match where it’s super windy going, ‘Oh, I hit the ball great,’ but I’m really happy with just battling and getting through it.”

It’s the second consecutive week that Querrey has advanced to an ATP semifinal, following on the heels of Memphis where he lost to champion Kei Nishikori.

“It feels good. It’s the first time in a while,” Querrey said of his back-to-back semifinal appearances.

Now he gets to face as somewhat surprising opponent in Del Potro, whose world ranking of 1041 is definitively deceiving after what has transpired so far this week at Delray Beach.

The other semifinal Saturday will match Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, the highest remaining seed here at No. 4, against American Rajeev Ram. The Del Potro-Querrey match will be the nightcap following the doubles semifinal at 6 p.m. between the World No. 1 Bryan brothers – Bob and Mike – against Chardy and Leander Paes.

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