Del Potro perseveres through knee pain, defeats Nishioka in five sets

Del Potro perseveres through knee pain, defeats Nishioka in five sets

The Argentine's heart is just as big as his legendary forehand.

World No. 9 Juan Martin del Potro dug again after a rocky start to defeat talented Yoshihito Nishioka, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-2, in the second round of the French Open. The gentle giant is nowhere near 100 percent physically, but he found a way to get past the Japanese No. 2. 

If you are del Potro fan, watching him play in his current condition is equal parts pain and pleasure. The Argentine has seemingly mastered the art of beating quality opponents with either one arm, or in today’s case, one leg. Del Potro was clearly hobbled from the get-go, refusing to run for Nishioka’s well-placed drop-shots and crosscourt forehand angles. 

But still, del Potro's ball striking is magical, and almost every game he cracks a forehand so clean and powerful that you can’t help but shake your head and laugh. 

Del Potro credits mental preparation as a key to his victory, "this preparation helped me on the court to decide when to run, when to do something else, and I believe I did this well until the end."

In his condition, a deep Roland Garros run for the returning semifinalist is probably out of the picture; del Potro called for the trainer several times to tend to his wounded knee, taping and re-taping throughout the match. At this point in his career, Del Potro’s heart is just as big of a weapon as his legendary forehand. 

After the match, in customary Japanese fashion, Del Potro bowed towards Nishioka as a sign of respect for their great battle. "I saw all the Japanese people doing like that and it was, like, respect for him," Del Potro said with a smile. 

The Tower of Tandil will now take on Australian Jordan Thompson, who advanced to the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time in his career with a four-set win over Ivo Karlovic.