By Larry Fine
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 centre 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.”
Twice grand slam winner Stan Wawrinka rallied from 5-2 down in the second set to clinch victory over Italian Alessandro Giannessi on Thursday and reach the third round of the U.S. Open.
After dominating the opening set, the third-seeded Swiss battled back to force a tiebreak and then broke the Italian in the final game of the match to finish a 6-1 7-6(4) 7-5 victory.
“I was trying to be a little more aggressive,” said Wawrinka, who blasted 57 winners, including 26 off his forehand, in the Louis Armstrong Stadium contest.
“I’m very happy the way I won the match.”
Wawrinka will next face 64th-ranked Daniel Evans of Britain, a 6-4 6-4 5-7 6-2 winner against Germany’s 27th seed Alexander Zverev.
Results from the U.S. Open Men’s Singles Round 2 matches on Thursday
Juan Martin Del Potro (Argentina) beat 19-Steve Johnson (U.S.) 7-6(5) 6-3 6-2
6-Kei Nishikori (Japan) beat Karen Khachanov (Russia) 6-4 4-6 6-4 6-3
2-Andy Murray (Britain) beat Marcel Granollers (Spain) 6-4 6-1 6-4
Nicolas Mahut (France) beat Paul-Henri Mathieu (France) 6-4 6-4 6-2
11-David Ferrer (Spain) beat Fabio Fognini (Italy) 6-0 4-6 5-7 6-1 6-4
Daniel Evans (Britain) beat 27-Alexander Zverev (Germany) 6-4 6-4 5-7 6-2
21-Ivo Karlovic (Croatia) beat Donald Young (U.S.) 6-4 7-6(4) 6-4
Paolo Lorenzi (Italy) beat 30-Gilles Simon (France) 3-6 6-2 6-2 6-7(1) 7-6(3)
Illya Marchenko (Ukraine) beat Damir Dzumhur (Bosnia and Herzegovina) 6-2 6-4 6-3
22-Grigor Dimitrov (Bulgaria) beat Jeremy Chardy (France) 4-6 6-4 3-6 6-4 6-2
3-Stanislas Wawrinka (Switzerland) beat Alessandro Giannessi (Italy) 6-1 7-6(4) 7-5
14-Nick Kyrgios (Australia) beat Horacio Zeballos (Argentina) 7-5 6-4 6-4
Jared Donaldson (U.S.) beat Viktor Troicki (Serbia) 7-5 6-3 6-3
Joao Sousa (Portugal) beat 16-Feliciano Lopez (Spain) 6-2 6-4 1-6 7-5
Pablo Carreno (Spain) beat Janko Tipsarevic (Serbia) 3-6 4-6 6-1 6-4 6-4
8-Dominic Thiem (Austria) beat Ricardas Berankis (Lithuania) 6-4 6-3 6-2