After the traumas and tribulations suffered on Wednesday by so many of the big names, Argentina’s Juan Martin Del Potro cut a very large and reassuring figure on Centre Court as he moved into the third round with his second straight-sets victory at the 2013 Championships.
As most would have forecast, the 6ft 6in Del Potro, the Tower of the Andes, dominated Jesse Levine, his 5ft 9in Canadian opponent, winning 6-2, 7-6 (9-7), 6-3 in a minute under two hours, and shaking off a spirited fightback from the left-handed Levine which threatened to snatch the second set.
Perhaps it was the fact that he was making his first, and quite probably last, Centre Court appearance that inhibited Levine, someone who was born in Canada and lived there until the age of 13 before moving to the United States and becoming an American citizen, only to revert to being a Canadian last December. Until he settled to the majestic surroundings, Levine offered a strange mixture of the brilliant and banal, alternating aces with double faults and good shots with very bad ones.
Without needing to break sweat Del Potro cruised into a 4-0 lead and captured the first set in 31 minutes, whereupon Levine did the spectators a favour by stepping up his input and accuracy. The Levine resurgence appeared at first to take the eighth seed by surprise and he suffered a service loss which put him 1-3 behind. Belatedly, the Argentinian stirred himself but still found himself in danger of dropping the set, letting out a roar of annoyance as a grotesque mis-hit handed Levine a 5-2 lead.
Time for the 2009 US Open champion to show what he is made of, and he duly obliged, serving with power and skill and reeling in Levine game by game until the set reached a tie-break. Here Levine frittered away a 3-0 lead to lose it by nine points to seven. The Canadian’s chance had been blown and he appeared to accept it, managing to collect just four points from Del Potro’s five service games in the third set.
One break of serve, achieved in the second game, was all Del Potro needed and he rounded things off the way big men like him should do, walloping his 13th ace at match point, asserting as he came off court, “I like to play on grass”.
This is perhaps not as strange as it sounds for a man from a country where clay courts are what people play tennis on. His compatriot David Nalbandian was runner-up to Lleyton Hewitt in the 2002 Championships, and at the 2012 Olympics here at the All England Club Del Potro defeated Novak Djokovic to capture the bronze medal.
Del Potro was happy later to elaborate on his liking for tennis on turf. “I remember when I came here as a junior and lost really easily and I thought I would never play good on grass. But I learned that my game can be a dangerous one on grass. That’s what I did today and did in the past, also at the Olympics here and Wimbledon last year.
“I play aggressive and players who do that can go very far on this surface and have a chance to win. I think I am improving my game day by day. I was out for two months (with a respiratory illness) after Rome until here. It’s not easy to come back and feel 100 per cent. But I’m improving. I played much better today than I did in the first round.”
20:24...But boy, it was a barrow-load of fun. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did. Thank you for all your messages throughout, you've been the glue holding us together as the edges frayed amid the madness. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for us Brits to raise a toast to Andy Murray and Fred Perry. British sporting legends both.
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