Former finalist Juan Martin del Potro made a winning return to the BNP Paribas Open on Thursday.
The 27-year-old Argentine, who is competing at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden for the first time since 2013, lost just 11 of his service points to defeat qualifier Tim Smyczek 6-4, 6-0 in 69 minutes. He finished runner-up to Rafael Nadal three years ago.
“I think I played well, but I am so happy to be playing tennis again,” said del Potro. “I missed the sport a lot, suffering at home as I tried to fix my wrist. It’s great to be at this big tournament, playing on Centre Court and being around the top guys. It’s very positive just to be here. I think I surprised myself with my level. I didn’t expect to play that well tonight. I have worked hard to be competitive.”
He has a 4-2 FedEx ATP Head2Head advantage against his next opponent, sixth seed Tomas Berdych.
Del Potro underwent left wrist surgeries on 20 January and 18 June last year. He returned to the ATP World Tour at Delray Beach last month, advancing to the semi-finals (l. to Querrey).
Marcel Granollers needed exactly one hour to rout Damir Dzumhur 6-1, 6-0. The Spaniard will face a much stiffer test in the second round in the form of second seed and 2009 finalist Andy Murray. Granollers trails 1-5 in the pair’s FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry and has never won a set against the Brit on hard court.
After receiving a first-round bye, No. 3 seed Stan Wawrinka will open against Illya Marchenko, who saw off Dmitry Tursunov 7-5, 7-6(6). Nicolas Mahut will face countryman and eighth seed Richard Gasquet in the second round. The Frenchman eased past Renzo Olivo 6-2, 6-4.
Meanwhile, qualifier Ryan Harrison fired six aces to oust Dusan Lajovic 6-3, 7-6(3), and will take on No. 10 seed Marin Cilic in the second round.