The sight had to make all tennis fans, and especially those of Juan Martin del Potro, cringe: the trainer trotting out to visit the Argentine.
Del Potro had his right knee heavily taped after dropping the opener of his second-round match against Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka on Thursday at Roland Garros. But the two-time semi-finalist played with the pain and managed to make his way into the third round for the sixth time in Paris 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-2.
Del Potro found his way in the second and third sets, crushing forehand winners and mixing in drop shots as Nishioka sagged behind the baseline.
The 6’6” right-hander is playing in only his fourth tournament of the season after breaking his right kneecap last October at the Rolex Shanghai Masters. He tested the injury in February in Delray Beach, only to realise he needed more time for rehab.
Watch: Up Close & Personal With Del Potro In His ‘Road To London’
During the European clay-court swing, Del Potro has made his comeback and shown that he’s truly ready. The 30-year-old reached the quarter-finals of the ATP Masters 1000 event in Rome, holding two match points against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic.
Thursday’s match, at times, matched its environment – the new Court Simonne-Mathieu, named after the 1938 and 1939 Roland Garros women’s champion who, during World War II, signed up as a volunteer for the French Army.
The court is nestled below four greenhouses, each with plants from a different continent – Australia, Africa, South America, Asia – and watching a match there can feel as relaxing as a stroll through exotic gardens.
Del Potro will hope for a more relaxing scoreline when he next faces Aussie Jordan Thompson. Thompson made his first Round of 32 at a Grand Slam by beating Croatian Ivo Karlovic 6-3, 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-3. On Tuesday, the 40-year-old Karlovic became the oldest man to win at Roland Garros since 1973. Thompson went 1-11 at tour-level last year but already is 15-10 this season.
Did You Know?
This is the fifth straight year the top eight seeds have reached the third round in Roland Garros. The top 8 seeds have not reached the third round at any of the other 12 Grand Slam events during that time (2015-18 Wimbledon, 2015-18 US Open, 2016-19 Australian Open).