By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Wild card Juan Martin del Potro showed himself a force to be reckoned with at Flushing Meadows as the Argentine swept aside American Steve Johnson in three sets to reach the third round of the U.S. Open on Thursday.
Del Potro, who won the 2009 U.S. Open in a thrilling five-setter over Roger Federer, has come through a long battle with a left wrist injury that has dropped him to 142 in the rankings.
The power hitter now appears back to full strength coming off a rousing silver medal performance at the Rio Olympics.
In Rio, del Potro beat world number one Novak Djokovic in the first round, 14-times major winner Rafa Nadal in the semi-finals and battled Andy Murray to four tough sets in the final.
Del Potro, playing the final match of the day at Arthur Ashe Stadium, was competing on center court in Flushing Meadows for the first time since 2013.
“It’s amazing, the stadium. It’s amazing the atmosphere out there,” del Potro said on court after his emphatic 7-6(5) 6-3 6-2 victory.
“I’m so happy to be playing tennis again after my third surgery on the wrist and I think I did a really good job to come back at tennis.”
The big Argentine belted 15 aces past 19th seed Johnson and yielded only one break of serve in the two hour, nine-minute match.
“I’m trying to play as I did in 2009 but it’s not easy, I’m getting older,” said de Potro, 27. “But I’m so happy to be here.”
(Editing by Andrew Both)