2012 French Open: Del Potro survives injury scare to beat Montanes

By IndepthAfrica
In Sports
May 27th, 2012

PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 27: Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina serves during the men's singles first round match between Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina and Albert Montanes of Spain on day one of the French Open at Roland Garros on May 27, 2012 in Paris, France.

Juan Martin Del Potro survived an injury scare to secure a spot in the second round. Bothered by a left knee injury, the no.9 seed required treatment, dropped a set, before confounding his fans’ fears to close out the match.

In truth, Montanes’ hopes of winning this encounter can never have been high. He was facing an opponent ranked 55 places higher than his 64, eight years younger than his 31, and nine inches (23cm) taller than his 5ft 9in (1.75m). Not promising.

Their career jousts were tied 1-1, but Montanes’ win came when del Potro was obliged to retire when leading by a set and 5-3 in Acapulco six years ago. For a while in this first round encounter, it appeared the industrious Spaniard might manage a repeat statistical victory by precisely the same means.

The first set breezed past in a scant 38 minutes, with del Potro’s ability to convert first serves into points the key factor. Actually both had break point chances, but only del Potro made them count. Indeed, you would hardly know from the final scoreline that Montanes amassed more break points throughout the match – 12 to the Argentinian’s 11. The problem was he converted merely one to his opponent’s seven.

But in the second set del Potro was struggling. Having taken to the court with a blue stretching plaster supporting his left thigh, in a second set lasting 75 minutes he began spraying the ball anywhere but inside the tramlines. As the two traded breaks, he racked up three times as many unforced errors as Montanes. It was something of a marvel that the set got as far as the tiebreak, where the Spaniard edged it.

With the set gone, del Potro summoned the trainer and heavy strapping was applied to his left knee. But at the 2-2 changeover he needed more attention, and this time was given tablets. From then on it was as if the crisis had never existed. True, his body language between points – never exactly exuberant at the cheeriest of times – became more lugubrious than ever, which was something of a puzzle given that the scoreline was rampaging away in his favour. Del Potro reined in the unforced error count, the second and third sets lasted as long as the second set alone, and the job was done.

Del Potro now faces Edouard Roger-Vasselin in the second round, with Tomas Berdych possibly waiting in the last 16 and then Roger Federer if the Argentinian can make the last eight.

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