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Argentine ATP Tennis Star Del Potro Hopes To Maintain Momentum @ Miami Stomping Grounds

Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina in action against Milos Raonic of Canada during the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California, USA, 17 March 2018. EPA-EFE/PAUL BUCK



By Ricky Dimon


Life is good for Juan Martin Del Potro right now. He is coming off the second biggest title of his career–his first at a Masters 1000–and is now set to play what might as well be a home tournament for him.


Five days after fighting off a trio of championship points and upsetting Roger Federer 6-4, 6-7(8), 7-6(2) in the BNP Paribas Open final, Del Potro will kick off his Miami Open campaign on Friday against Robin Haase.


“It was an epic match,” Del Potro said of last Sunday’s thriller in Indian Wells, which propelled him to a 4-2 lifetime record against Federer in finals despite still trailing the overall head-to-head series 18-7. “The level of tennis was very high. The people love to see this kind of tennis, and also the passion both players shows on the finals was great to see. “To me, beating Roger in another final, having a positive record against him in finals, is good. And also to get my first title playing a 1000 Masters in Indian Wells–a place I like to play that makes me feel special…. I’m excited to keep enjoying these days here in Miami with all my people. I’m excited to keep playing good tennis here.”


For the 2009 U.S. Open champion, his time in between the two Masters 1000 events has featured a lot of rest and recovery and just a little celebration.


“We just [had] dinner with all my team,” Del Potro said when asked how he celebrated upon arriving in Miami. “We took some drinks, and that was enough for me because I was exhausted and we [traveled] almost five hours to get here. My body feels all the matches [after Indian Wells], so I need to recover myself to be ready for this tournament, and then I will have time to make a break and celebrate with family and friends (after Miami).”


It’s back to business at the moment for the Argentine, who practiced with Kei Nishikori on Wednesday and with Pablo Carreno Busta on Thursday in preparation for a second-round match against Haase on Friday. While Del Potro is the beneficiary of an opening bye as the fifth seed, Haase earned his place in the second round by scraping past Yuichi Sugita 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 on Wednesday.


The head-to-head series stands at 4-0 in favor of Del Potro, who is 9-1 in overall sets against Haase and has won eight straight sets since losing the second frame of their 2012 Wimbledon encounter, which Del Potro ended up winning 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(3), 7-5. The two veterans squared off twice twice in 2017, when Del Potro got the job done 6-2, 6-4–also in the Miami second round–and 7-5, 6-4 on the indoor hard courts of the Paris Masters.


As their Miami result suggests, this is an especially difficult test for Haase given that a red-hot Del Potro basically has home-court advantage.


“I like the tournament,” the proud owner of 22 career ATP titles explained. “It’s very easy to me, because I am staying very close to the stadium. I like to see Argentinian fans around the courts, Latino-American people also. I will miss this tournament playing on Key Biscayne next year…. I also walk around the streets every day. I like to go to the supermarket and I meet fans there, too. Miami has a big Argentinian society living here in Miami, so I meet them everywhere.”


Perhaps even too big of an Argentinian society–at least too big for the Grandstand. In a 2011 second-round showdown featuring Del Potro and Philipp Kohlschreiber, some of the bleachers on Miami’s second show court almost collapsed due to an overflow of fans who crammed into aisles with no more seats available. That sent the more cautious of tennis fans heading for the exits, although plenty of Del Potro die-hards remained to see their man outlast Kohlschreiber 6-7(3), 6-4, 7-5.


But there will be no such problems this year. Del Potro will play Haase–and all of his other matches thereafter–in the main stadium. An Indian Wells champion, world No. 6, and Argentine favorite is never going to play anywhere else at the Miami Open.


Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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