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He’s back: Del Potro beats Wawrinka in 4 sets at Wimbledon

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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.

Azarenka aims to come back in time for Wimbledon

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MOSCOW — Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka says she is planning to return to competition before Wimbledon.

Azarenka, who was ranked No. 1 for seven months in 2012 and 2013, went on a break last July to have her first child. She had previously been targeting a return at the July 31-Aug. 6 Bank of the West Classic in California.

In a statement on Twitter, the Belarusian says “my training has been progressing well and I feel ready to start competing,” adding that she plans “to play one of the grass court events prior to Wimbledon.”

Wimbledon starts July 3.

Azarenka won the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013, and has twice reached the Wimbledon semifinals.

Djokovic announces Agassi will coach him at French Open

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ROME —¬†Novak Djokovic is joining forces with Andre Agassi in an effort to return to No. 1.

Djokovic announced Sunday that Agassi will coach him at the French Open, which starts next Sunday.

“I spoke to Andre the last couple weeks on the phone, and we decided to get together in Paris,” Djokovic said. “So he’s going to be there. We’ll see what (the) future brings.

“We are both excited to work together and see where it takes us. We don’t have any long-term commitment. It’s just us trying to get to know each other in Paris a little bit,” Djokovic added. “He will not stay the whole tournament. He’s going to stay only to a certain time, and then we’ll see after that what’s going to happen.”

The second-ranked Djokovic split with longtime coach Marian Vajda and two other team members – fitness coach Gebhard Phil Gritsch, and physiotherapist Miljan Amanovic – at the start of the month.

Agassi, who retired in 2006, won eight Grand Slam titles.

Djokovic has won 12 Grand Slams.

“Andre is someone that I have tremendous respect for as a person and as a player,” Djokovic said. “He has been through everything that I’m going through. On the court he understands the game amazingly well. I am enjoying every conversation that I have with him.

“But also, on the other hand, he’s someone that nurtures the family values, philanthropy work. He’s a very humble man, is very educated. He’s a person that can contribute to my life on and off the court a lot. I’m very excited to see what is ahead of us.”

The pairing is the latest in a series of top players working with former standouts, from Andy Murray and Ivan Lendl, Rafael Nadal and Carlos Moya, and Kei Nishikori and Michael Chang.

Djokovic was coached by Boris Becker the last three seasons, but they split last year.

Vajda started working with Djokovic in 2006.

Djokovic lost his No. 1 ranking to Andy Murray last year after a slump in form following his French Open triumph.

He lost in the third round at Wimbledon, his earliest defeat in a Grand Slam in seven years, lost in the first round at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, reached the final of the U.S. Open, and lost early again at the Australian Open.

Djokovic finished 2016 at No. 2, his current ranking. He’s won only one of his last 11 tournaments.

While Agassi has not coached a top player before, Djokovic said his record as a player and spokesman of the game was enough to convince him.

“He’s a legend of our sport,” Djokovic said. “He’s made a mark in this sport forever. He’s won everything there is to win in tennis.

“He was a revolutionary player because he had this charisma, he had this approach to tennis and to life that was quite different from others. That’s why he was so interesting.”

Agassi has already been offering advice on the phone.

“He’s been definitely following up closely all the matches, the big matches, especially on the TV,” Djokovic said. “So he knows players, he knows everyone that I was playing against in (the) last couple of weeks, so we talked before every match.

Djokovic added, “I already feel like we are very kind of close to each other and creating this nice vibe.”