What a difference a few hours made for Horacio Zeballos.
The Argentine, No. 122 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, did not have a spot in the main draw of the Miami Open presented by Itau when he woke up Friday morning. However, when Roger Federer withdrew from the event due to a stomach virus, Zeballos found himself penciled into the draw as a lucky loser to face countryman Juan Martin del Potro in the second round and won 6-4, 6-4.
The 30 year old, looking for his first tour-level win of the year, made good on his opportunity by serving smartly and avoiding del Potro’s fearsome forehand. The left-handed Zeballos fired six aces and made 77 per cent of first serves, most of which were directed to del Potro’s backhand. He only dropped nine points on serve and did not face a break point in the 81-minute encounter.
Del Potro was bothered by his left wrist throughout the match. The Tandil native called for the trainer after dropping the first set, and seldom drove through the ball with his two-handed backhand, preferring to use the one-handed slice to keep the ball in play. He fired eight aces but was 0-for-2 on break points against.
“He played well,” said del Potro of his opponent. “He’s a lefty, he can play to my backhand easier than anyone else. He played very smart.
“I was suffering a little bit. It was worse than in my first match, but I hope it’s nothing dangerous. I will see what’s going on after today and see if I can practise tomorrow, if I can hit a few backhands. It’d be a surprise for me to win a match at this moment because I’m not 100% yet. But I’m here playing tennis. That’s good for me.”
Zeballos’ opponent in the third round will be Fernando Verdasco, who scored his first win in three FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings with Jeremy Chardy, 6-4, 6-4. The powerful Spaniard hit nine aces and won 90 per cent of first-serve points (29/32) against the No. 28 seed.