© Getty Images

Former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro downs Steve Johnson in the second round.

Del Potro Blasts Into US Open Third Round

Argentine downs Johnson

Juan Martin del Potro took a stroll down memory lane at the US Open on Thursday, emerging with a convincing 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-2 second-round win against American Steve Johnson on the site of his greatest triumph. The Argentine wild card won the 2009 US Open title against Roger Federer on the same Arthur Ashe Stadium court and returned to Flushing Meadows seven years later older and wiser.

“I’m trying to play as I was in 2009, but it’s not easy as I’m getting older. I took all my chances during the match, and at the end I played very well,” del Potro told ESPN’s Brad Gilbert during an on-court interview after the match.

Del Potro’s huge popularity meant that he was on equal footing with Johnson when it came to crowd support. Both players were evenly matched in the first set until the Argentine’s superior serving made the difference in the tie-break. Johnson bounced right back, breaking for a 2-1 lead in the second set by ripping a massive forehand pass from 10 feet behind the baseline before holding at love for 3-1.

The surge represented the high point of Johnson’s evening. Del Potro drew on his positive memories at Flushing Meadows to capture 20 of the final 22 points of the second set. Unable to find a solution against del Potro’s inside-out forehand attack, Johnson dropped serve in the opening game of the third set and again at 2-4 before succumbing in two hours and eight minutes. He finished with 24 winners and 35 unforced errors while del Potro fired 33 winners and only made 23 unforced errors.

"I think the fans are proud to see me playing tennis again after all my surgeries," del Potro said in his post-match press conference. "They know what I have been through. I'm having great days at the US Open. I am really enjoying the attention from the fans around the world.

"I served much better than in my first-round match. I focused on the important moments of the game. I played great in the tie-break. At the end, I saw him physically a little tired, so I took all my chances to close out the match in three sets."

"I just didn't execute my game plan tonight," Johnson said. "I had a chance to do well in the second, had my chance to get back on serve in the third. I've been winning a lot of those points in the past three months. Unfortunately today I didn't win those points to get back in it. 

"He's a great player. Look, he's 6'6", great serve, can move well, long wingspan, gets his racquet on a lot of balls. That's why he's a Grand Slam champion. He's no slouch."

The Argentine has not been past the third round of a Grand Slam event since his semi-final showing at Wimbledon three years ago and last made the second week of the US Open in 2012, when he reached the quarter-finals. He will next face David Ferrer, who rallied to win 6-0, 4-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 against Fabio Fognini in a marathon match which finished just before 1 a.m. local time.

Ivo Karlovic backed up his historic first-round win with a solid follow-up performance against Donald Young. The Croat, who blasted a US Open-record 61 aces in his opening match against Yen-Hsun Lu, added 24 to his tally in beating the American left-hander 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-4. Karlovic had 52 total winners and saved all six break points faced in the two-hour, 20-minute match. He will take on #NextGen star Jared Donaldson in the third round. The 19-year-old Donaldson is the youngest American to reach the third round at the US Open since Young in 2007.

You May Also Like: Kyrgios' Serving Masterclass At US Open

More stories like this in: