NEW YORK—It seems a few people listened to my advice. Grandstand was almost completely full this morning for a second-rounder involving, of all people, Diego Junqueira and the tournament's No. 18 seed. Of course, that seeded pro hasn't lost here since 2008, having won the title in 2009 and missing the Open last year. He is Juan Martin del Potro, a fan favorite and a fan of these hard courts.
Did the patrons get their grounds passes worth in Del Potro's 6-2, 6-1, 7-5 win? It may not have been competitive until the end, but it was often entertaining. They can thank Junqueira, a short and scrappy Argentinean—basically the exact opposite of his countryman across the net—for adding value to an otherwise straightforward match. Junqueira gets all he can out of a very short backswing on both sides; he produces a sound that screams "sweet spot." But as clean as Junqueira hit the ball, he didn't move it around the court with the same precision. Del Potro didn't have to move much early on, remaining statuesque while unloading on forehands and backhands. It's a sight we've missed at Flushing Meadows, and it remains a sight to see.
There was also the 0-15 point in the second set, when Junquiera trailed 3-0. But he wouldn't give up—in trying to retrieve a ball, Junquiera rolled over towards the corner of the court, shedding some skin in the process. The entire arena heard the skid, and any one of them would have helped up Junqueira for his effort. Del Potro did it for them, crossing the boundary line to give his compatriot a hand. In turn, the crowd gave them both a hand; how often do ovations occur at 6-2, 3-0?
The crowd was rewarded for its gesture with a third set worthy of additional applause. After saving break points early, Junqueira finally earned some games with his relentless style, and when he broke del Potro down 4-5 to extend the match, he earned even more respect. He nearly did it again after falling behind 5-6, but del Potro wouldn't be denied. And yet again, the Grandstand crowd—even in a straight-sets decision—wasn't denied of memorable tennis.