Juan Martin del Potro made a winning return to the ATP Tour on Tuesday. The one-time Grand Slam champion, who is making his return from wrist surgery this week at ATP Delray Beach, defeated Denis Kudla in straight sets 6-1, 6-4.
That scoring line is a pretty good one for a player that hasn’t played a competitive tennis match in ages. Kudla isn’t exactly the toughest player on tour, but JMD appears to have made pretty light of the American. With the victory, del Potro advanced to the second round of the 250-level event.
The Argentine is not on the order of play for Wednesday, but his fans or those following his return should look for his name in the draw on Thursday. At that point, he’ll face Australia’s John-Patrick Smith in the round of sixteen, a player that is yet to make a real name for himself on tour.
With top-seeded Kevin Anderson out of the draw with a shoulder injury, the complexion of the draw really changed for the better on Tuesday for the former World No. 4. Del Potro, surviving Smith, would need to play well in the quarters in order to defeat what will probably be a match against Jeremy Chardy, the first player of substance that Delpo could face in his return to tennis.
But if you were to pick a championship match for Delray Beach 2016 based solely on the talent remaining in the draw, it would be del Potro on the top half and Grigor Dimitrov on the bottom. However, as is often the case in the 250-level events, there’s a fair amount of parity. Even Rajeev Ram appears poised for a run to the semifinals, the American having dispatched of Bernard Tomic in the first round.
For the highest-ranking players on tour, 250-series events like ATP Delray Beach do not offer a lot. The 250 ranking points don’t usually make a difference for Top 10 players, and the prize money isn’t amazing for professional tournaments. However, 250 ranking points would mean the world for del Potro right now, a player who entered this week ranked outside of the Top 1000 in the world.
If he can claim a title this weekend, it would immediately put him close to the Top 200. Based on what JMD has done in the past, it would also set some alarms off on tour and make the current era a little more interesting.