LONDON — After a three-year absence from Wimbledon, Juan Martin del Potro is making another strong run at a Grand Slam.
Del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champion who has undergone three surgeries on his left wrist since 2014, beat fourth-seeded Stan Wawrinka 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (2), 6-3 on Friday to reach the third round on another rainy day at the All England Club.
“My hands (are) shaking,” del Potro said after walking off Centre Court to a loud ovation. “It’s a great sensation for me because I’m playing tennis again and I feel alive.”
Wawrinka, a two-time Grand Slam champion, is the highest seeded man eliminated so far.
“It’s great for tennis to see him back,” the Swiss player said of del Potro. “He’s a great guy, a really good player, big champion.”
The match was played with the retractable roof closed over Centre Court, with play on the outside courts delayed and interrupted by scattered rain.
This is del Potro’s first appearance at Wimbledon since 2013, when he reached the semifinals, and his first at any major since the 2014 Australian Open.
“After my third surgery, I’ve been trying to play tennis again,” he said. “It’s like my second or third career in my short life. Now I am in the third round in my first Grand Slam after three years. That means a lot of good things for me.”
The 27-year-old Argentine, who had played just one match against a top-10 player since November 2013, showed flashes of the explosive game that made him one of the most feared men in tennis.
After dropping the first set, del Potro lifted his game and took a 4-1 lead in the second set to take control. He relied on the low, flat and deep forehand that is considered one of the best shots in the game.
Wawrinka, who has reached the quarterfinals twice at Wimbledon, was far from his best, with more unforced errors than winners – 48 to 47. Even del Potro’s stats weren’t great: 23 winners and 25 unforced errors. But he managed four breaks of serve, compared to three for Wawrinka.
“I beat one of the guys who is playing great tennis this season,” del Potro said. “I couldn’t expect this victory for today but I think I played much better after the first set. And I really enjoyed the crowd.”
While rain delayed early matches on the outside courts, Serena Williams and Roger Federer were also playing on Centre Court.
Six-time women’s winner Williams was facing fellow American Christina McHale in a second-round match, with seven-time men’s champion Federer up third against British player Daniel Evans in the third round.
Venus Williams was one point from victory on No. 1 Court, leading 7-6 in the third set against Russia’s Daria Kasatkina, when a heavy shower came, forcing the two off court for the third time.
Wimbledon officials are considering the possibility of scheduling matches on the tournament’s middle Sunday, traditionally a day off.
Only three times in Wimbledon’s 139-year history have matches been played on the middle Sunday: in 1991, 1997 and 2004.