Déjà Vu For Delpo: No. 5 Seed Ousts Benneteau

Argentine to face 2017 Monte-Carlo finalist Ramos-Vinolas

It was like dêjà vu for Juan Martin del Potro at Roland Garros on Thursday. For the second time in three days, he was competing in front of an energetic Parisian crowd that was cheering on a home favourite. There was something else that remained the same: Del Potro came out on top.

The No. 5 seed moved past Julien Benneteau 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 to advance to the third round on the terre battue for the second consecutive year. Previously, the Argentine had not competed at the French Grand Slam since 2012.

"I feel better than in the first round. I was able to make more winners, to run better," Del Potro said. "The level of my game was a bit higher. So this made me feel good, and I'm happy to know that I'm improving day after day, and that the day after tomorrow I have another match to try and feel good."

The victory gives Del Potro his 25th match triumph of the season (25-6), and his win rate of 80.6 per cent in 2018 is third best on the ATP World Tour behind just Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer,according to the FedEx ATP Performance Zone. The 29-year-old’s first-round win against Nicolas Mahut made him just the third Argentine to earn 80 Grand Slam match wins (Guillermo Vilas (139) and David Nalbandian (86)).

Del Potro returned to the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings on 15 January for the first time since August 2014 after reaching the Auckland final, and his season has only gotten better. The 'Tower of Tandil' captured his maiden ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown at the BNP Paribas Open, ending Federer's 17-0 start to the season. And now, he is looking to make his best run yet at the clay-court Slam — Del Potro reached the semi-finals in 2009. 

After beating Benneteau in the Frenchman's final Roland Garros, Del Potro moves on to face 2017 Monte-Carlo finalist Albert Ramos-Vinolas, who ousted #NextGenATP Norwegian Casper Ruud 6-4, 6-2, 6-4. The Spaniard arrived in Paris with a 15-15 record on the season, and with just one Round of 16 showing at the three clay-court Masters 1000 events.

"As he's left-handed, his forehand is his best stroke," Del Potro said. "The Spaniards, they like to play long matches, so it's going to be a difficult challenge."

It appears to be one that Del Potro is ready for. Benneteau said that the Argentine simply played too well for him at his home Slam.

"Facing such a powerful opponent, you have to really dominate the ball, and I didn't have the power, neither physically nor mentally," Benneteau said. "As the match was unfolding, he was playing stronger and faster. His shot was stronger. He returned more along the line. And even though I tried to place the shot, he was already always on top of things."

Another Argentine also moved through without problem on Thursday. No. 11 seed Diego Schwartzman rolled past Czech Adam Pavlasek 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 in one hour, 27 minutes. Schwartzman won 65 per cent (89/137) of points in the match to reach the third round in Paris for the second consecutive year. 

Schwartzman will face a stern test as he seeks his best result at the year's second major, playing Croatian Borna Coric next. The 21-year-old, who is two wins away from 100 at tour-level, overcame an early hiccup to beat Italian Thomas Fabbiano 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-1 in two hours, 14 minutes.

Coric has dominated his FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry against Schwartzman, winning both of their previous matches in straight sets. None of the four sets have gone past 6-3 in favour of the 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals semi-finalist. One of those meetings was on the clay of Marrakech last year, when Coric earned his maiden ATP World Tour title.

Did You Know?
Del Potro is now 9-0 against opponents competing at their home Grand Slam. He is 6-0 against Frenchmen at Roland Garros (2-0 this year) and 3-0 against Americans at the US Open.

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