The US Open has been special to Juan Martin del Potro ever since he won his only Grand Slam title here eight years ago, when he beat Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals and Roger Federer in the final.
The 28-year-old Argentinian has been dealing with wrist problems ever since and has had long periods out of the game, but he is through to the fourth round after an emphatic 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Roberto Bautista Agut.
Bautista Agut arrived at Flushing Meadows fresh from his triumph at last week’s Winston-Salem Open but was on the back foot from the start.
Del Potro, who has yet to drop a set in this year’s tournament, loves the quick conditions here. His thumping forehands in particular troubled the 29-year-old Spaniard throughout.
From 2-1 down at the start Del Potro won four games in a row to take a hold on the opening set and won the second and third sets thanks to early breaks of serve in both. Although he now slices most of his backhands rather than hitting through the ball with his one-time power, Del Potro’s forehand remains a potent weapon.
“I’m so glad to beat Bautista,” the world No 28 said afterwards. “He’s a great player. It’s very important for me to reach the fourth round in this special tournament. It means a lot. I think I played better today than in the other matches and in the next round I’ll need to play even better if I want to win.”
He added: “When you get older I think you get more patient about everything. I just want to play tennis. I had too many problems with my wrists a few years ago, but now I have the chance to play here in New York. I love to play this tournament. I love to be here in New York. It’s amazing.”
Asked in his in-court interview about the support he has here, Del Potro became emotional as he thanked the fans. “I don’t want to cry this year,” he told his interviewer. “I’m close, so let’s finish the interview here.”
Since his 2009 triumph Del Potro has twice reached the quarter-finals here, losing to Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka in 2012 and 2016 respectively, but he will need to beat Dominic Thiem, the world No 8, if he is to go that far again.
Thiem reached the last 16 by beating France’s Adrian Mannarino 7-5, 6-3, 6-4. The Austrian lost both his previous meetings with Del Potro. Their most recent encounter was in the fourth round here last year, when Thiem retired in the second set because of a knee injury.
Juan Martin del Potro will face Austria’s Dominic Thiem in the fourth round (AFP/Getty Images)
Over the last fortnight the major interest in Alexandr Dolgopolov has concerned unusual betting patterns involving one of his matches, but the 28-year-old Ukrainian has also been turning heads here with some of his on-court performances.
The world No 64 matched his best run at this tournament when he beat Serbia’s Viktor Troicki 6-1, 6-0, 6-4 to reach the fourth round. Dolgopolov, who beat Tomas Berdych in the previous round, broke serve seven times and made only 18 unforced errors in winning the match in just 81 minutes. He now faces the winner of Saturday’s later match between Rafael Nadal, the No 1 seed, and Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer.
The Tennis Integrity United looked into Dolgopolov’s 6-3, 6-3 loss to Thiago Monteiro at last week’s Winston-Salem Open after bookmakers reported unusual activity in betting markets. Monteiro, who was ranked 51 places below Dolgopolov, went from being an underdog to a hot favourite.
Alexandr Dolgopolov has matched his best run at the US Open after a controversial few weeks (Getty Images)
Dolgopolov said he had sought out the TIU after the unusual betting patterns had been widely reported in the media. “I wasn’t happy with what’s going on in the press, so I was the first one to come there and try to give them all the information so they can investigate it faster,” he said.
Asked if he thought there were matches involving gambling where players did not give their best, Dolgopolov said: “You cannot be perfect every week, I think. So, for sure, you can see bad matches, players playing badly. But if there is gambling involved, it’s not for me to say.”
When asked if the controversy had had any effect on him in his matches, Dolgopolov said: “Not much. You can see I’m playing. I’m fit. I’m doing well. Obviously it’s disappointing, but not more. If people want to write something, they write something. You can’t stop them from doing it. It’s just not under my control.”
John Millman, who knocked out Nick Kyrgios, has his run ended by Philipp Kohlschreiber, who beat the Australian 7-5, 6-2, 6-4.