LONDON—Having not played at the All England Club since 2013, Juan Martin del Potro's return to Wimbledon on Tuesday was a momentous occasion, both for himself and his many fans.
The moment was made all the better thanks to a dominant 6-1, 7-5, 6-0 win over Stephane Robert.
“Great sensations after three years,” del Potro said. “This year is completely different for myself, and I am enjoying tennis a lot. Of course, when you win your first round, everything is much better.
His last match on these lawns was a semifinal loss to Novak Djokovic, but del Potro isn’t spending too much time thinking about the player he was back then.
“To be honest, I feel my forehands and serves are working well at the moment,” he said. “But I need to play good matches [to be] 100 percent. I'm not having all my confidence on my backhands yet, and that's tough when you play against the top guys because they are [such] good players, and they are strong enough to play in the fifth‑set matches.”
The biggest challenge on the Argentine’s mind is his wrists. Surgeries on both his wrists have set him back drastically for the better part of the last two years. He made multiple comeback attempts before finally getting back into the swing of things in Delray Beach this past February. He skipped Roland Garros, though, to focus on the grass season.
Next up for the gentle giant at Wimbledon is fourth-seeded Stan Wawrinka, who overcame talented American teenager Taylor Fritz, 7-6 (4), 6-1, 6-7 (2), 6-4.
You'll see a familiar face in Del Potro’s box. Dani Vallverdu—who previously coached Andy Murray and, more recently, Tomas Berdych—has joined del Potro's team temporarily.
“I’m working here with Danny Vallverdu for these weeks,” del Potro said. “We will see after Wimbledon what is the plan … We have a great relationship. We know each other since [the juniors. He's a great person. So we are working well here. But we will see after here what [happens].”
Though his coaching situation and his health remain a bit up in the air, what is indisputable is that both players and fans are excited to see del Potro back, and he's mutually grateful for their support.
“Well, my [family] and friends was very important for me,” he said. “They were behind me all the time, push me up every day. As I said before, I was close to [quitting] tennis in the end of the last year. But now [I’m] completely different. I'm enjoying tennis again. I'm starting to talk about tennis, and no more about my wrist. That's important.
“I would like to stay here on tour for [a few more] years. I think I'm close to [getting] that goal.”