Juan Martin del Potro was not on the list of most pundits’ favourites to win the title here on Sunday week, but the 24-year-old Argentinian is progressing just nicely. A 6-2, 7-6, 6-3 second-round victory over Canada’s Jesse Levine on Centre Court was his second successive straight-sets win and provided a reminder that he is enjoying his grass-court tennis more and more with each visit to the All England Club.
Four years ago Del Potro came here as the world No 5 only to be brushed aside in straight sets by Lleyton Hewitt, a master of the surface. Since then the 2009 US Open champion has learned much about playing on grass. He reached the fourth round here in his two subsequent visits, losing to Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer, and played better than ever at last summer’s Olympics.
Del Potro’s defeat in the semi-finals to Roger Federer was the longest match in Olympic history – the Swiss won the final set 19-17 after four hours and 26 minutes – yet the Argentinian still managed to summon up the energy to beat Novak Djokovic in the subsequent bronze medal match.
Having disposed of Albert Ramos in the first round here on Tuesday, Del Potro made short work of Levine, who is the world No 112 but no novice on grass. The 25-year-old Canadian left-hander recorded the best win of his career on these courts four years ago when he beat Marat Safin in the first round and went on to reach the last 32, which remains his best performance at a Grand Slam event.
Del Potro won the first set with something to spare, but Levine, going for his shots, pushed him hard in the second before the Argentinian won the tie-break 9-7. Levine, who at 5ft 9in is 9in shorter than the strapping Del Potro, worked hard to stay in contention in the third set, but a single break of serve was enough to see the world No 8 home. Del Potro rounded off the victory in appropriate style after an hour and 59 minutes with an ace.
“Jesse’s a good fighter,” Del Potro said afterwards. “I thought I was lucky to survive in the second set, but at the end of the match I had more confidence in my forehand and served well.”