Juan Martin Del Potro showed why he is the hottest player on the ATP Tour on Friday with a 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 win over Robin Haase in his opening match at the Miami Open.
Things weren’t as smooth for six-time champion Novak Djokovic as he crashed out in the first round with a 6-3, 6-4 loss to Benoit Paire.
Del Potro, the former US Open winner, extended his win streak to 12 straight matches as he seeks his third straight ATP title after winning back-to-back in Acapulco and Indian Wells.
Argentina’s Del Potro, who is ranked sixth in the world, blasted five aces and won 79 percent of his first-serve points in the two hour and nine minute match.
Del Potro moves on to the third round where he will battle 26th seeded Kei Nishikori who needed three sets to eliminate Aussie qualifier John Millman 7-6 (7/4), 4-6, 6-3.
‘I’m trying, but it’s not working’
It was another setback for the Serbian star as he bids to return from the elbow injury that sidelined him for six months and finally saw him have “minor” surgical intervention after a disappointing Australian Open.
“I’m trying, but it’s not working,” Djokovic said. “That’s all it is. I mean, obviously I’m not feeling great when I’m playing this way. Of course I want to be able to play as well as I want to play. Just, it’s impossible at the moment. That’s all.”
Paire broke Djokovic at love to seal the win, Djokovic dumping a backhand into the net on the Frenchman’s first match point.
Paire broke Djokovic in the seventh game of the opening set – part of a run of five straight games that saw him take a 6-3, 1-0 lead.
“I felt I started the match well, first six games,” Djokovic said. “Then I just ran out of gas. He was serving well. I just wasn’t able to break him down. He was just coming up with the good shots at the right time. It happened very fast.”
He said a lack of match fitness was “one of the things” preventing him from gaining any steam in his bid to return to his top form.
But he said that in attempting to play through injury for so long, “I compromised my game and the movement and everything ... I’m trying to figure things out.
“I wanted to come to Indian Wells and Miami because I wanted to see whether I can play a match,” he said. “I love playing on the hard court. I wanted to get a couple of tournaments before the clay court season starts.
“I obviously wasn’t ready for that.”
Although he had planned for the two Stateside hardcourt tournaments to be a precursor to a full clay court season, Djokovic sounded unsure after the defeat.
“That was the plan,” he said when asked if he felt ready to head into the Monte Carlo Masters Aril 14-22. “But let’s see what happens.”