21 Feb Knee holds up as del Potro wins again
By STEVE DORSEY
DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – Every match he finishes and every win he notches is another positive step for Juan Martin del Potro as he works his way back from a right knee injury that sidelined him for four months.
Del Potro added another Delray Beach Open win to his resume Thursday night when the 6-6 Argentine tamed 6-11 American Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-4 in the nightcap at the Delray Beach Stadium and Tennis Center that put the finishing touches on the second round of competition at the annual ATP Tour tournament.
The win moves del Potro into Friday’s quarterfinals where he will face American Mackenzie McDonald in the final match of the day.
“First of all, it was a little bit weird to play a guy who is taller than me,” del Potro mused after the match. Then the subject of his knee was addressed.
Del Potro admitted that his knee “didn’t feel really good” when woke up Wednesday morning following his first-round win Tuesday night against Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan. He said his doctors have told him that he likely will experience some pain in his knee for a few weeks, but del Potro said it’s possible that he might have to make a decision not to play Friday if the knee is bothering him too much.
“We’ll see tomorrow morning. It will be an hour by hour decision,” said the world No. 4 del Potro, who is the top seed here this week and has a huge fan following in Delray Beach. “I’m happy to win two matches in a row. But I want to be ready for the next tournament. Of course I want to play. I love to play this tournament. It’s very special to me and I will do everything to play. Right now (the knee’s) feeling good because the match was completely different than (Tuesday against Nishioka). I didn’t run too much.”
Opelka, ranked No. 56 in the world and a quarterfinalist in Delray Beach last year, delivered 18 aces, compared to only five for del Potro, but it was not enough to trump del Potro’s solid all-around game.
“I think he made some mistakes in both sets and I was there trying to break his serve and I did well in important moments of the match,” del Potro said.
Del Potro broke Opelka to go up 5-4 in the second set, then won four straight points on serve to close out the set and the match. Now he hopes he is able to go for his third win in as many matches this year on Friday against McDonald.
“We were practicing a couple of days ago and I couldn’t win any points so it will be a tough match because he’s playing solid from the baseline,” del Potro said of McDonald. “I don’t know what my condition will be tomorrow.”
Del Potro hopes he’s good to go, as do his legion of fans here.