Juan Martin Del Potro, only three events into his comeback from left wrist surgery, has booked a second-round date Friday with fellow on-the-mend star Roger Federer at the Miami Open.
Argentina’s Del Potro defeated countryman Guido Pella 6-0, 7-6 (7/4) Wednesday in his opening match at the ATP and WTA hardcourt event, advancing to face third-ranked Federer, who underwent knee surgery February 3 and as a seed had a first-round bye.
“I’m going to try to play my best tennis against Roger,” Del Potro said. “We’re both coming off injuries but I think it will be a really good match.”
Del Potro, the former world number four, is now ranked 366th as a result of his long injury layoff. He is in only his third tournament since returning from left wrist surgery last June, having reached last month’s Delray Beach semi-finals and being ousted in the second round at Indian Wells.
Federer, winner of a record 17 Grand Slam singles titles, has a 15-5 career record against Del Potro. But the biggest win in the rivalry went to the South American when he outlasted Federer in the 2009 US Open final 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2. Federer had won all six matches against Del Potro before that.
While Federer has won their past two meetings, in a 2013 Paris quarter-final and a round-robin match at the 2013 ATP World Finals, it has been since the 2012 London Olympics since they met on an outdoor hardcourt surface as they will Friday.
Del Potro rolled through his first set in 29 minutes, Pella having as many unforced errors, 14, as points in the set.
Pella battled back in the second set, saving a set point in the 10th game, but dropped three of the last four points in the tiebreaker, netting a backhand volley with the last to lose after 87 minutes.
“It was a tough moment for me but I got through and that’s all that matters,” Del Potro said.
Del Potro, 27, is making his eighth Miami appearance, with his best showing a run to the 2009 semi-finals, where he lost to eventual champion Andy Murray of Britain.
Federer, 34, won Miami titles in 2005 and 2006 and this year was a finalist at Brisbane and Australian Open semi-finalist before the operation.
“It’s great to have Roger back,” top seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic said. “He is such an important player for our sport with his personality and all he has achieved in his career.”
– Djokovic opens with Edmund -World number one Serena Williams will begin the quest for her fourth consecutive Miami Open crown and the ninth of her career on Thursday when she faces fellow American Christina McHale in a second-round match.
McHale outlasted Japan’s Misaki Doi 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 over two hours and eight minutes in a first-round match. McHale fired eight aces and dropped only seven points on her first serve in the match.
Top-ranked Djokovic hopes to sweep Indian Wells and Miami crowns for the third year in a row and fourth time in six years.
Djokovic will face Britain’s Kyle Edmund in the second round Friday after the 21-year-old Englishman dispatched Czech Jiri Vesely 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (8/6).
“He’s very calm. He seems very mature for his age,” Djokovic said of his former Wimbledon warm-up partner. “Britain, other than Andy Murray, needs a player who has the potential to be at the top.”