Del Potro Cruises Into Second Round At Wimbledon
Just seven different men have captured the Wimbledon title in the Open Era without competing at a grass-court event beforehand. Juan Martin del Potro, attempting to become No. 8 on that list, got off to a strong start on Tuesday.
The Argentine fifth seed faced few complications in dispatching tricky German Peter Gojowczyk 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 in one hour, 50 minutes to advance to the second round.
While the 29-year-old is playing his first event on the surface in 2018, he arrives at the third major of the year in good form, having advanced to the Roland Garros semi-finals for the first time since 2009. The World No. 4 will also still be carrying the confidence from capturing his maiden ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophy at the BNP Paribas Open in March.
Del Potro, who has now won at least one match in each of his nine appearances in this tournament, hit 22 aces and broke three times without getting broken himself to defeat the World No. 39. He earns his 18th match win at Wimbledon, putting him just one behind David Nalbandian (19) for the most victories on the historic grass by an Argentine. Del Potro, now holding 85 Grand Slam wins, is also just one triumph behind Nalbandian for second in their country’s history.
A stiff test awaits in the second round, though. Del Potro next faces 2017 Fever-Tree Championships titlist Feliciano Lopez, who beat Argentine Federico Delbonis 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. By competing, the Spaniard breaks Roger Federer’s all-time record by playing in his 66th straight Grand Slam main draw. Lopez has not missed a major since the 2002 Australian Open.
“When I was about to break the record, I thought, ‘Wow, I’m going to beat Federer at something’, which is a lot already,” Lopez said with a laugh. “It”s only a number, and I’m really proud of my consistency. It’s not about the number of Grand Slams played. It’s about how many years I have been playing at the top level. This is the most important thing.”
Lopez and Federer have known one another since they played the Under-16 division of the Junior European Championships two decades ago. And the Swiss said after his own victory on Monday that he is happy for Lopez.
“It’s nice that more and more players are able to keep themselves in shape,” Federer said. “That we can talk about breaking each other’s records, him breaking mine, it’s a great thing. It’s a testament for both of us to keep ourselves in shape, loving the sport. I hope that many more players can achieve such a thing.”
Did You Know?
Del Potro has captured 22 tour-level titles, but none of them have come on grass. Michael Stich, Andre Agassi and Novak Djokovic are the only three men in the Open Era to have won their first grass court titles at Wimbledon, in 1991, 1992 and 2011, respectively.