The 2009 US Open champion and recent Roland Garros quarter-finalist Juan Martin del Potro continued his positive form in the second round at the All England Club with victory over Go Soeda in four sets.
The contrast in height between the two athletes and their distinctively different styles of play saw only their tennis whites showcasing any similarities. Physically, while the Argentine stands at 6ft 6ins, the gentleman from Japan measures in at a comparatively diminutive 5ft 10ins, which lies on the shorter end of the male tennis player height spectrum.
Height, however, was not the only distinguishing factor, which made Soeda appear dwarfed in comparison to his giant opposition. Del Potro employs a heavily winding follow-through and a striking forehand, while Soeda in comparison hits with compact swings and instead relies on fast footwork.
The Argentine spoke about his opponent’s style in a press conference after the match. He praised his lower-ranked opponent for improved form and consistency, likening his game to Soeda’s compatriot Kei Nishikori, the No.20 player, who he faces next in the draw.
“He played really similar with forehands and backhands, and he's very fast like Nishikori, also,” del Potro said. He continued, joking: “I will play with all the Japanese players.”
While del Potro raced through the first set in 28 minutes, the second set proved a tougher test, lasting nearly double that amount of time. About his opponent’s improvement over the course of the match, del Potro said: “On grass, if you don't feel the ball 100 per cent, it's tough to play, but he started to play much better after the second set and was dangerous for me at the end of the match.”
In the third set, for instance, Soeda capitalised on his heightened momentum, finding the lines and benefitting from sprayed del Potro shots to run off the first five games of the set. Serving at 0-5, however, del Potro found some of the form that earned the upper-hand thus far in the match, hitting an ace to bring the score to 40-0 and then following that up with a big serve, which forced an error from his 58th-ranked opponent.
In the next game and on his first set point, Soeda powered a forehand winner past del Potro to claim his first set off a top 10 opponent all year in only 22 minutes.
The players held serve until 5-4 in the fourth set, with del Potro leading. Soeda showed signs of nerves on his serve by double faulting to start and followed that up by spraying a forehand long. At 30-40 and on his second match point, del Potro rallied with Soeda, eliciting another forehand error from the Japanese man.
The Argentine celebrated by looking to the sky and throwing his wristband into the stands of a packed Court 18. “I did a good match, and I had a good victory,” del Potro said afterwards.
Where the No.9 player earned success in his second-round match, things didn’t go so well for the crafty Ukrainian and the No.22 seed Alexandr Dolgopolov. Playing against Benoit Paire, the runner-up at the Belgrade tournament on clay earlier this year, Dolgopolov never seemed to find comfort on the lawns of the All England Club on Thursday. In his debut last year, Dolgopolov also fell in the second round.
Paire, who is currently enjoying his career-high ranking of No.55, successfully absorbed Dolgopolov’s power time and again, winning 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-4 in just under two hours. Able to switch from defence to offence, the Frenchman struck 47 errors to his opponent’s 35.
In the match’s final game, Paire began with a backhand winner, coaxing three errors from Dolgopolov afterwards. On his second match point, the Frenchman struck a strong first serve and a forehand winner to advance to his first third round result at a major tournament.