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Del Potro, Kyrgios, Wawrinka straight through

By Kate Battersby   on   Tuesday 30 May 2017
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Back at Roland-Garros after a five-year absence, Juan Martin del Potro was among a trio of popular seeds to win their first-round matches at Roland-Garros.

Several favourites of the men’s game came through safely on Day 3 at Roland-Garros.

Juan Martin del Petro celebrated his first match here in five years by outclassing compatriot Guido Pella, their match finishing simultaneously with that of Nick Kyrgios, who calmed pre-tournament concerns about hip and shoulder problems with a comprehensive dismantling of the potentially tricky Philipp Kohlschreiber. Meanwhile, the 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka overcame three set points from the Slovakian qualifier Josef Kovalik to complete a satisfying day’s work for the popular trio of seeds.

With a busy program round the grounds, crowds thronged to Court No.6 to see injury-plagued del Potro’s return to Roland-Garros. Only a week ago in Lyon, he was sufficiently troubled by shoulder and back problems that he fell to the world No.125 Gastao Elias; but all is now well, to judge by this first-round encounter. Pella, runner-up to Alexander Zverev in Munich this year, could find no answer to the No.29 seed’s killer forehand for the first two sets, and even though the third set was closer, the 2009 US Open champion did not face a single break point. He took the win 6-2, 6-1, 6-4, with the two friends – both of whom are among Argentina’s reigning Davis Cup holders – exchanging jokes at the handshake.

“I am so happy to be here again after five years,” smiled del Potro. “I think that the tournament is getting better every day, every year. Also, when you have a great match as I played today, everything is easier. I think I'm playing good tennis on the surface where I don't feel good enough. I'm looking forward to be in good shape for doing good tournaments on grass. My backhand is getting better, but I wish I could have done things I was able to do a few years ago. So sometimes it creates a little bit of frustration.

"I have adopted a wait-and-see attitude. We'll see. I try not to make things too complicated, and I try not to set long-term objectives. I just play match by match.”

R1 Highlights: Kyrgios v Kohlschreiber

Moments after del Potro’s win, over on Court No.2 Krygios wrapped up his match against world No.43 Kohlschreiber. He too had injury concerns in the run-up to this tournament, but also looks to have recovered if the 20 aces he delivered were anything to go by.

In the second set he had a break point for 5-4 and was lengthily displeased with umpire Emmanuel Joseph when a key call went against him. Chuntering to himself, the Australian regained focus to command the breaker, pointing at his own forehead to signify his mental toughness. Kohlschreiber, who had won just one of his last 13 matches on clay against top-20 opposition before this match, could not avert his fifth career first-round defeat on the Parisian clay.

Kyrgios emerged the 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-3 victor to capture what was peculiarly his first win over a top-50 player in five attempts here. Afterwards the No.18 seed offered an insight into how matters are working out with his new coach, the former world No.4 Sebastien Grosjean. “He's the type of guy that cares about my well-being first rather than just tennis results,” said Kyrgios.

“He knows I need my space at times and he knows how to deal with me. At the moment it's pretty good. Obviously it's hard for me when we're on the practice court having someone in my ear. I haven't had that for almost three years. To go from one extreme to the other, it's a slow transition, but I think I'm getting there. He doesn't say a lot, just positive things. I tend to be very negative with a lot of chats to myself and it's not really positive chat. I get pretty internal at times, and he tells me to focus on things. I guess that's what I struggle with. So to have him keep reminding me what to do is helping.”

"I have adopted a wait-and-see attitude. We'll see. I try not to make things too complicated, and I try not to set long-term objectives. I just play match by match.”

Kyrgios also revealed what he does not like about clay: “I don’t really like running. When the rally gets long, I go for a low percentage shot. I also don’t like how my shoes get dirty. When I’m back home, I don’t train that much on clay because it makes my cars dirty too.”

Meantime on Suzanne-Lenglen Court, Stan Wawrinka did not have matters all his own way against the unheralded Josef Kovalik. The world No.152 came into this match bidding for his first ever Grand Slam win, just his third Tour-level win on clay, and his seventh Tour-level match win – daunting stuff against the 2015 champion, who has never lost to a player ranked outside the top 50 here, and arrived at Roland-Garros fresh from defending his title in Geneva.

But Kovalik shocked Marin Cilic in Chennai earlier this year to take his sole Tour-level win over a top-70 player in his career to date, and in the second set he not only forced Wawrinka into the tiebreaker but should have levelled at one set all. Facing three set points against him, the Swiss stylishly repelled the lot and turned the tiebreak on its head to stifle the threat, moving on to seal a 6-2, 7-6(6), 6-3 victory.

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