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Argentine world no.9 Juan Martin del Potro had to fight for his victory in the very first round of the French Open against veteran Spaniard Albert Montanes on Court Phillipe Chatrier at Roland Garros. Montanes, who was once ranked as high as 22nd in the ATP rankings, showed some spark in his game but failed to retain his energy as the match lasted over 3 hours. Delpo, who stands 6-and-a-half feet above the ground, sent down as many as 60 winners which drew the line of difference between him and his opponent. The score line reading 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-1.
Del Potro dominated the first set as the tall Argentine sent down some heavy ground strokes which proved to be too much for the Spaniard. Montanes lacked confidence as he played some defensive tennis, playing from way behind the base line. He maintained a high first serve percentage of 85% but did not go for those heavy first serves which could have troubled the big man. Delpo broke Montanes a couple of times - in the 3rd and 7th games - as he exploited the Spaniard's weakness on the backhand. Montanes had 2 opportunities to break back in the 6th game but he failed to cash in on those as Del Potro played a fine stop-volley to wrap up the game. The 9th seed served well and sent down 13 winners to take away the one-sided set 6-2.
In the second set, Del Potro carried his momentum forward as he broke Montanes' serve yet again in the 3rd game and took a 3-1 lead after consolidating his break. But Montanes seemed to gain some confidence as he wasted an opportunity to break back in the 6th game but eventually broke back in the 8th game despite Del Potro saving 3 break points. Delpo suddenly started to feel the pressure as he gave away some easy points in the form of unforced errors which helped the Spaniard's cause. In the 10th game, Delpo saved 2 set points to hold his serve and managed to take the set into a tie-breaker. The tie-break was a close one, but Montanes managed to achieve a mini break of serve just at the right time to take away the tie-break 7-5 as draw a level in the match.
Before the start of the 3rd set, Del Potro detected some problem with his left knee as he had to take a medical time-out to bandage his knee heavily. He felt some discomfort at the start of the set as he struggled to hold his serve. But his 31-year old opponent looked pretty tired handling the heavy ground strokes of the big man, so he couldn't capitalise on the break opportunities. The big man reached his comfort zone and took the set away with a couple of breaks in the 6th and 8th games.
In the 4th set, Del Potro did not want to take any chance as he started to grind out some superb forehand winners. The Spaniard seemed to have no more energy left in his body after 3 hours of gruelling tennis as he gave away the points pretty easily. Delpo broke his opponent in his first two service games to take a 5-0 lead and eventually took the set 6-1 to wrap up the match pretty quickly in the end.
Montanes, who reached 4th round here in Roland Garros last year, will be disappointed as he failed to produce a similar result this year. Del Potro, who recently came back from injury looked to be in good touch and stayed in the hunt for his second Grand Slam crown. He will now face Frenchman Edouard Roger-Vasselin in his next match, who also defeated his opponent Vasek Pospisil in 4 sets.
While Del Potro struggled for his win, there were routine wins for the 21st seed Marin Cilic and talented Italian Fabio Fognini. Fognini dispatched his opponent Adrian Mannarino in convincing fashion winning more than 60% of the total points with an impressive winners:errors ratio of 28:12. The final score being 6-0, 7-5, 6-1 in the Italian's favour.
Marin Cilic was given a bit more of a workout by his opponent, Daniel Munoz-De La Nava, winning in three close sets 6-4, 6-4, 7-5. Though the outcome of the match was never in doubt, the match itself was not a pretty affair with a net total of 73 errors being sprayed from the racquets of both players. However, Cilic's overall power-based game, which fetched him 34 winners was sufficient for him to progress to round 2 where he is scheduled to play the former French Open champion, Juan Carlos Ferrero.
32-year old Ferrero produced 39 winners to ease past Jonathan Dasnieres De Veigy 6-1, 6-4, 6-3.
File Photograph Copyright: Madrid Masters
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