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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.

Nadal doesn’t see himself skipping tournaments like Federer

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MONACO (AP) For now, Rafael Nadal doesn’t see himself skipping any major tournaments the way Roger Federer has been sitting out the French Open.

The veterans are back at the top of world tennis, with Nadal needing to win the Monte Carlo Masters this week to avoid losing his top ranking once again to Federer in their seemingly eternal battle for tennis supremacy.

For the second consecutive season, the 36-year-old Federer is skipping the entire clay-court season in order to be at his best on grass.

After coming back from injury to win the Australian Open last year, Federer skipped the clay-court season, won Wimbledon, and retained his Melbourne crown to extend his record tally to 20 majors.

The Swiss star is keeping his aging body fresher by playing a bit less – avoiding Nadal on clay at Roland Garros or elsewhere – and it is working for him.

But Nadal still thinks he can play a full schedule.

“There (are) tournaments that I can’t imagine missing on purpose, because (they are) tournaments that I love to play,” Nadal said on Wednesday. “I don’t see myself missing Monte Carlo on purpose. I don’t see myself missing Wimbledon on purpose, or the U.S. Open, or Australian, or Rome. These kind of events, I don’t see missing (them).”

The 31-year-old Spaniard recently returned from a right hip injury which forced him to retire during the fifth set of his Australian Open quarterfinal against Marin Cilic.

With his 32nd birthday coming up on June 3 – during the French Open – the 16-time Grand Slam champion accepts he may think differently when he gets closer to Federer’s age.

“Of course, when you get older, you need to adjust a little bit more the efforts and the calendar. But for me (it) is difficult to say I don’t play, for example, grass, or I don’t play hard (courts),” Nadal said. “(It) is not in my plan, but I can’t say `never’ because I cannot predict what’s going to be in the future.”

Nadal is chasing an 11th title at both Monte Carlo and Roland Garros, which begins on May 27.

More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

Jerome Pugmire on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire

Thiem reaches third round at Monte Carlo

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MONACO — Dominic Thiem saved a match point and beat Andrey Rublev of Russia 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 in the second round of the Monte Carlo Masters on Tuesday.

Rublev was serving for the match at 5-4, 40-30 but hit a forehand narrowly wide. Fifth-seeded Thiem broke him with backhand pass down the line and held for 6-5.

The Austrian was 15-40 up on Rublev’s serve and clinched victory on his first match point, when Rublev double-faulted with a weak serve into the net.

“I was 10 centimeters from being out of the tournament,” a relieved Thiem said. “But I’m happy that I played two hours and 40 (minutes).”

Thiem has reached the French Open semifinals for the past two years. He next meets 12-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic or Borna Coric of Croatia, who play their second-round match on Wednesday.

“I’m looking forward to watching Djokovic and Coric in front of the TV, and then playing the winner on Thursday,” Thiem said.

In the second round later Tuesday, fourth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria faced Pierre-Hugues Herbert and seventh-seeded Lucas Pouille played Mischa Zverev.

In remaining first-round play, there were wins for Gilles Simon of France, Marco Cecchinato of Italy and Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany.