While he may have needed three sets to close out the match this time around, the Tower of Tandil Juan Martin del Potro still managed to work his way into the quarter-final stage of the Apia Sydney international. His next opponent will be Mikhail Kukushkin, whom he has already defeated once previously in Davis Cup competition.
Watch the match live here: Del Potro v Kukushkin
The Argentine suffered from a slow start on Wednesday evening, and even caused quite the fright when he requested that the trainer be brought on court between sets. However, del Potro was able to overcome the odds and secure his spot in the quarter-final stage of the tournament with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 win. Del Potro hit 11 aces, won 81% of his first service points and saved four of six break points – facing none in the second or third sets – to defeat the Italian in 1 hour and 48 minutes.
“I thought I played better,” said del Potro. “I felt better on the court, especially at the end of the match. I served well, I hit good forehands and my backhands improved from yesterday… I need to keep playing with these guys, hitting the ball as fast I can, and keep trying.”
The defending champion admits that his wrist had not worsened, which is only helping with his confidence.
“My wrist is the same. It’s not getting worse, so I have confidence with that. Of course, I’m very happy to beat my first top 20 player on the year.”
His opponent, Mikhail Kukushkin, needed just a pair of 7-5 sets to get past his opponent, Pablo Cuevas. The Kazakhstan native struck 7 aces, won 67% of his first service points and saved six of seven break points to close out the match in 1 hour and 49 minutes.
This marks just the second time that these two competitors will cross paths on the professional tour, with the Argentine leading the series 1-0 with a victory back in the 2011 Davis Cup quarter-finals. The defending champion will look to further his run in the draw and edge himself closer to regaining the title.
Prediction: Juan Martin del Potro in Three Sets