DELRAY BEACH, February 17, 2016
Juan Martin Del Petro made a successful return to the ATP World Tour, winning his first round match at the Delray Beach Open on Tuesday. The 27-year-old Argentine was sidelined from the courts for almost one year, entered the main draw with a wild card and won his comeback match against Denis Kudla 6-1, 6-4.
Del Potro has returned to Delray Beach for the first time since 2011 didn’t face a break point, converting three of his own six chances to seal victory in exactly one hour of play.
“I think winning a match after 11 months is the gift of the tournament for me,” the 2009 US-Open champion said. “I’m so excited to keep working because I’m feeling if I do well and if I stay healthy my tennis will be behind me and maybe I can be dangerous one day again.
“I was nervous before the match and excited to see how my forehands and serves were going to be on court. I knew how my backhand would be. I’m still working and improving to have a very good backhand to compete in this level. For me it’s like winning a very important match in my career.”
Last year, Del Potro played only two tournaments – Sydney and Miami – before undergoing left wrist injury in January and June.
“I don’t do anything special. I think the only thing to do is work hard and if you do before a tournament you have more chance to feel good,” the former world numer 4 said. “I have a great family and good friends who support me all the time. They were watching my match on TV in Argentina; it’s very late there. I know they’re very proud of me. They know how sad I was in the past.” Del Potro will face John-Patrick Smith in the second round, who upset defending champion Ivo Karlovic on Monday.
Other wild cards also made a winning start into the tournament, as 19-year-old Noah Rubin stunned Sam Groth, winning 6-4, 4-6, 7-6. The US-American withstood 25 aces and saved three match points to prevail in two hours andn 16 minutes to meet fifth seed Jeremy Chardy next. The 29-year-old Frenchman cruised past Matthew Ebden 6-2, 6-1 in only 47 minutes.
“This is definitely one of the Top 5 matches all time for me,” Rubin told. “I’m looking to carry this momentum and take it through the tournament. Some people are able to get up there quicker than others. I think it’s more experience for the rest of us than anything. For the most part, we’re used to the tennis, but the experience of playing every point, day in day out, really solid all around, that’s something you don’t get as a junior or in college tennis. That’s something you need to find for yourself.”
Tim Smyczek emerged victorious from the all-US-American-affair with special exempt entry and Memphis runner-up Taylor Fritz. Smyczek defeated the with 18 years youngest player in the draw 6-3, 6-3, saving all eight break points he faced capitalizing on three of his own to finish the encounter after one hour and 13 minutes. It was the second win for the Milwaukee resident after he had beaten Fritz in their only previous meeting at the ATP Challenger in Fairfield last year. Smyczek will take on seventh seed Donald Young next, who benefited from the retirement of Mikhail Kukushkin due to leg injury.
Top-seed Kevin Anderson was also forced to retire in his opening match with a right shoulder injury after the world number 14 had dropped the opening set in the tie-break 3-7 to Austin Krajicek.
“I had to pull out of Chennai with my knee, Melbourne with me knee and I think I’d been trying really hard to get back and in doing so I think I may have compensated a little bit and my right shoulder has taken a bit of excess strain and load. I felt it in the very first game,” the South African was dissapointed.
“To get broken the first time I think I served three or four double faults, from there it was a pretty tough battle. Losing serve and then going to the ’breaker, I just realised I was going through quite a bit of pain so to keep pushing and coming back would have been pretty tough to do.”
Second seed Bernard Tomic fell in one hour and two minutes to Rajeev Ram. The world number 89 from the United States fired 14 aces and saved all three break points he faced to meet Illya Marchenko in the second round.