16 Feb DOMINATION FOR DELPO
DOMINATION FOR DELPO
Argentine Plays Second Round on Thursday Night at 8:00 PM
By STEVE DORSEY
Delray Beach, Fla. – Juan Martin Del Potro’s return to the ATP World Tour for the first time in almost a year was a successful one Tuesday night as the former World No. 4 registered a first-round win in the nightcap of a drama-packed second day at the Delray Beach Open.
Del Potro’s 6-1, 6-4 win against American Denis Kudla was an emotional triumphant return from an 11-month hiatus as he recovered from a second surgery on his left wrist last year. It capped a hectic and wild day that included the top two seeds – No. 1 Kevin Anderson and No. 2 Bernard Tomic – being ousted while failing to win a single set.
Wild card entry Tim Smyczek’s 6-3, 6-3 win against teenager Taylor Fritz opened the evening session and put the finishing touches on a remarkable day for Americans, who registered seven wins on a sun-splashed day at the Delray Beach Stadium and Tennis Center.
Del Potro last played a match last March at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 in Miami and arrived in Delray Beach this week with a ranking of 1041. The 27-year-old Argentine last played here in 2011 when he brought a ranking of No. 166 to town and won the title without dropping a set. He was coming off surgery on his right wrist in 2010 that year.
Del Potro needed exactly one hour to defeat Kudla, who reached a career-high No. 59 in the ATP rankings last week.
“After all I’ve been through, it’s amazing for me, and I’d like to say ‘thank you’ to the fans,” Del Potro told the crowd that included a strong contingent of Del Potro fans decked out in Argentine colors. “I enjoyed it tonight.”
In the post-match interview with reporters, Del Potro said it meant a lot to him to make Delray Beach his first stop after the long layoff.
“It felt like I was playing in Buenos Aires,” Del Potro said of the reception he received. “I was nervous before the match. It was a very important match for my career. Being my first match in 11 months, I think it was okay. . . . Maybe I can be dangerous again.”
Del Potro’s next match will be Thursday night when he faces Aussie John-Patrick Smith, a qualifier who on Monday night upset No. 3 seed Ivo Karlovic, last year’s Delray Beach Open champion. When asked about his second-round opponent, Del Potro’s answer drew laughter from the crowd.
“I don’t know him. I was for two years at home watching the Simpsons,” Del Potro mused.
Smyczek, ranked No. 129 in the world, sent home fellow American Fritz — at 18 the youngest player in the singles main draw — only two days after the teenager reached the finals at Memphis in only his third ATP World Tour tournament.
“It’s pretty incredible what he did last week, so let’s not forget how difficult that must have been to come back from two days ago playing your first final,” Smyczek said in praising Fritz’s effort. “I’m sure he’s got to be physically tired and emotionally, too. Hopefully, he’s going to rebound real quickly. He’s got a huge game, and tonight I was just trying to weather the storm and keep him from getting too many clean swings. Luckily, I benefitted from him, I think, being a little bit fatigued. I’m not complaining. I’ll go on to the next one.”
It was an important win for Smyczek after losing in the first round at Memphis last week.
“I feel good,” said Smyczek, who next faces another American in No. 7 seed Donald Young in the second round. “I had a good start to the year, played well in Australia, and actually played a good match last week in Memphis. I just came up a little bit short, so it definitely helps to get this one under my belt.”
Commenting on the successful day turned in by his compatriots, Smyczek said he believes the future bodes well for Americans.
“It’s a really exciting time for U. S. tennis,” Smyczek, 28, said. “There’s a lot of guys coming up and are really very promising. Taylor for sure is one of them. I think U. S. tennis is in for some good years ahead of us.”
Wednesday’s schedule includes several matches in the doubles draw, including the No. 1 seed Bryan brothers – Bob and Mike – taking on the Aussie pair of John Millman and John-Patrick Smith in the featured nightcap match.
The featured matches involving seeded players on the Stadium Court include an afternoon matchup between No. 6 seed American Steve Johnson against German Benjamin Becker, with No. 4 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria pitted against Damir Dzumhur of Herzegovi to kick off the evening session. Frenchman Adrian Mannarino, the No. 8 seed, will face qualifier Tatsuma Ito of Japan in an afternoon match on Court 1.