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Del Potro starting to gather momentum

Juan Martin Del Potro sticks a volley.
by Ian Baker
Tuesday 26 June 2012

If you did not know much about tennis, you would be hard pushed to tell the difference between Juan Martin Del Potro and Robin Haase, judging by this neck and neck first-round battle. Both had white headbands and white wrist bands and both gave as good as they got.

One thing’s for sure Del Potro, the 2009 US Open champion, certainly knew he had been in a fight against his Dutch opponent, ranked 79 in the world, after winning 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 7-5 to progress to round two.

“I think it was more difficult than I expected,” the Argentine said. “He's a big player to beat on grass court. He's very, very dangerous. He’s not seed so could be a dangerous opponent for all the players.

“Today I'm glad because I beat him. I played really well in the end I'm still feeling good sensations. I closed the match at a good level, so that is very positive.

“It’s emotional here. I really like this tournament. I have friends to come to see all the matches. The crowd is amazing.

“I'm very exciting to still winning matches. I'm really glad just to be here. I had a little knee problem, but anyway, I'm here and I want to still improve my game on grass.”

The lawns may not be the Argentine’s favourite surface and his match against Haase was his first on grass in 12 months. But that does not stop him wanting to get beyond the fourth round for the first time. He also holds a proud record of never losing in the opening match at The Championships.

In truth that record was never under danger and Del Potro’s start was phenomenal, breaking Haase in the very first game of the match and going on to close the first set out.

A serve percentage of 80 in a first set lasting just 31 minutes told its own story but Haase came roaring back into the match, proving he was not there to make up the numbers.

Del Potro’s service game went to pot at 3-4 as Haase took his third break point from 0-40 before closing out the set. Suddenly the No.9 seed was in a spot of bother, as breaks were exchanged at the start of the third, and he was far from his most fluent best. 

But he won the match largely thanks to his fighting spirit, taking a crucial third set 7-3 on the tiebreaker, with fists clenched in delight.

Despite another closely-fought fourth set in which Del Potro had the early break advantage before surrendering, the Argentine broke again at 5-5 to see off his gritty opponent. Now he hopes to up his game with more practice time in a bid to reach the second week.

“This year I have been unlucky,” he said, referring to his knee problem, as he looks to better his achievement of losing to Rafael Nadal in last year’s fourth round. “I couldn't play Queen's and I have not had too many hours on grass.

“But anyway I trained very hard the week before I started the tournament. I remember last year when I lost against Rafa in a big match. I had good memories with the crowd, so hopefully I can go far and try to repeat a big match against them.”

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