© Peter Staples / ATP World Tour

Juan Martin del Potro wins his debut match of the 2017 ATP World Tour season Tuesday night in Delray Beach.

Del Potro Returns A Winner In Delray Beach

Argentine enjoys a straight-sets win in his first match of the season

Juan Martin del Potro made a tentative, but ultimately successful, 2017 ATP World Tour debut Tuesday night at the Delray Beach Open, posting a 6-4, 6-4 win over Kevin Anderson. In a battle of the former Delray Beach champions, del Potro hit cautiously off his backhand wing and survived a tumble in the first set that left him with a grazed right knee.

The former US Open champion, who has endured three left wrist surgeries (in addition to 2010 surgery on his right wrist), struggled to generate pace on his backhand and mixed in a number of one-handed slices. When Anderson approached the net, del Potro elected to either lob or stretch the South African with well-placed, medium-paced backhands.

But the Argentine’s powerful serve and flat, thumping forehand were enough to steer him to a sixth win in six career FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings with the 6’ 8” Anderson.

“It’s not easy in my first match to show good tennis but I think I did well," del Potro said. "I survived in the first game of my serve, and then I started to serve much better. I started to feel the ball better and better. And I think for the conditions tonight, we made a good tennis match and always the most important thing is when you don’t feel 100 per cent is trying to win the match and I did.”

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Assessing his backhand, del Potro said, “I think I did well with my slices but I could improve my two-handed backhand a lot. For being my first match of the season, I think it’s okay, but I need to keep working hard and start to find the way to make winners with my backhand as well.”

Of his forehand, he said, “It was effective but I can hit it even better. I made some easy mistakes with my forehand but fortunately not in the important moments. But when I have the confidence on the forehands I can hit it cross-court or down the line; I can play whatever I like, and that’s happened only with my forehand, not with my backhand yet and that’s what I have to work on."

Del Potro, 28, also began his 2016 season in Delray Beach, reaching the semi-finals. He went on to win 32 matches to finish inside the Top 40 of the Emirates ATP Rankings and to be named ATP Comeback Player of the Year for the second time.

Del Potro required just one break in each set. He converted his fifth break chance of the match for a 4-3 lead in the first set and seized his first break chance for a 2-1 lead in the second set.  The Tandil native next plays the man who beat Anderson last week in Memphis, Damir Dzumhur.

Anderson, the 2012 champion, dropped to 0-2 on the season, following an opening-round loss last week in Memphis. “He made me play a couple of balls in the games I got broken on, and I played some loose points and that basically decided that match,” Anderson said.