US Open: Juan Martin del Potro hails 'crazy' support as comeback trail continues

Juan Martin del Potro beat Steve Johnson 7-6 (7/5), 6-3, 6-2 to reach the third round of the US Open

Tom Allnutt
Flushing Meadows, New York
Friday 02 September 2016 08:18
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Juan Martin del Potro celebrates his victory over Steve Johnson in the US Open second round
Juan Martin del Potro celebrates his victory over Steve Johnson in the US Open second round

Juan Martin del Potro is living the dream at the US Open after returning from a nightmare two years with injury.

Del Potro booked his place in the third round at Flushing Meadows on Thursday with a 7-6 (7/5) 6-3 6-2 victory over American Steve Johnson.

The Argentinian is unseeded in New York but considered a dark horse for the title after reaching the final of the Olympics last month, where he lost out to Andy Murray.

Del Potro won the US Open in 2009 but a chronic wrist injury caused him to miss nine grand slams in a row before he made a comeback at Wimbledon this year.

Del Potro embraces Johnson after their second round encounter

The 27-year-old's win over Johnson was the last match of the night session in Arthur Ashe Stadium and, while he was facing a local favourite, he was also touched by the support he received.

"The people supporting me are making crazy and I cannot believe that," said Del Potro, who will now play Spain's David Ferrer.

"I think they are proud to see me playing tennis again after all my surgeries. They know what has been through to get here to come back on tennis.

"That's amazing when I get into the court and the people like just to see me. I'm having great days at the US Open."

Del Potro is in the same half as Murray, and could meet the Scot in the semi-finals, but the pair are also due for a Rio reunion in the Davis Cup later this month.

Del Potro is in the same half of the draw as Andy Murray

Reigning champions Britain take on Argentina in the semi-finals of the competition, and Del Potro revealed he is eager to play.

"Yes, I am still waiting to be decided for being there," Del Potro said.

"I would like to go to Glasgow. Hopefully I can play better than here in that semi-final because it's very important for me, for my team."

Sixth seed Kei Nishikori made progress after overcoming rain and a barrage of booming serves to edge out Russia's Karen Khachanov 6-4 4-6 6-4 6-3.

Kei Nishikori defeated Russia's Karen Khachanov to reach the third round

Khachanov climbed into the world's top 100 for the first time in June and, at 6ft 6in tall, the Russian certainly has the physique to rise higher.

The 20-year-old fired off 20 aces to Nishikori's six in Louis Armstrong Stadium and there was also the additional challenge of bad weather, which interrupted the first set for almost three hours.

"It's never easy. It took maybe two, three hours between the rain delay," said Nishikori, who now faces Nicolas Mahut.

"And at that time I had started playing little better, I started getting my rhythm. Then rain came. It wasn't easy moment for me."

Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Nick Kyrgios and Dominic Thiem are also safely through, but world number 28 Alexander Zverev is out after losing in four sets to Britain's Dan Evans.

PA

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