DELRAY BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Juan Martin del Potro was tired, sore and still nervous about being back in competition.
The 27-year-old Argentine had reason to celebrate, too, after beating Australian qualifier John-Patrick Smith 6-4, 6-4 on Thursday night to advance to the Delray Beach Open quarterfinals.
Out for 11 months because of a left wrist injury that took two surgeries to repair, Del Potro won consecutive matches for the first time since he reached the quarterfinals in Sydney in January 2015.
Smith attempted to exploit del Potro’s backhand, a shot that the Argentine has had to alter from his customary two-hander to a one-handed slice due to the injury. But del Potro was quick enough to run around the backhand and pummel forehands deep into the court.
“I need to improve my backhand as soon as I can,” said del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champion and former world No. 4. “He kept making me hit backhands down the line and I don’t have the confidence to do that.”
Del Potro will face fifth-seeded Jeremy Chardy of France. Chardy fought…