Del Potro passes early test unscathed


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The Independent Online

On the corresponding Monday 12 months ago Juan Martin del Potro was celebrating his rise to No 4 in the world rankings, having just overtaken Andy Murray. Yesterday the Argentine went on court in the Sydney International as the world No 259 in search of his first victory for nearly a year.

The win was duly delivered, Del Potro beating Feliciano Lopez 6-7, 7-6, 7-6, but of greater relief to the 2009 US Open champion was the fact that his right wrist had stood up to the challenge of playing a match that lasted three hours and 20 minutes. An injury to the wrist has troubled Del Potro since the autumn of 2009 and kept him off court for most of last year.

After reaching the fourth round of last year's Australian Open, when the injury was causing him increasing trouble, Del Potro did not appear again until Bangkok and Tokyo in the autumn. He lost at the first hurdle on both occasions and admits now that he tried to come back too early.

Now, having worked hard on his fitness, Del Potro feels ready to begin his climb back up the world rankings, although he admitted he had a long way to go before he approaches the form he had found before his injury.

"I worked very hard for two months in Argentina," Del Potro said. "My coaches trust in my conditions and I trust in myself, so I'm ready again to play long matches. I am still lower with my level. I need time. I need work to keep going on this road. It's a long road to be in the top 10 again, but I'm ready to try. I need matches and matches, practice and work. Maybe in four or six months I'll be ready to play good tennis again."

Del Potro, who is keen to have more time on court in preparation for next week's Australian Open, now plays Germany's Florian Mayer, a 7-5, 6-0 winner over Britain's James Ward, who received a wild card. Marcos Baghdatis, the defending champion and No 2 seed, has pulled out of the tournament with a groin strain.

Elena Baltacha, whose return to the court was delayed by flu, beat Thailand's Tamarine Tanasugarn 6-3, 6-3 in her first match of the year at the Hobart International. The British No 1 was due to play Italy's Roberta Vinci in the second round today.