With the Australian Open Tennis Grand Slam due to begin next week in Melbourne, many of the players hoping for success there are making their last minute preparations. Among them are the Argentinian giant Juan Martin del Potro who is on the comeback trail after ten months of injury nightmare which has seen his world ranking slip dramatically to number 338.

The one-time US Open champion and Olympic medallist has been recuperating after having had surgery for an injury to his left wrist last year, but still only 26 years old has time to make up as he fights his way back up the rankings, and to hopefully emulate his career high ranking of four back in 2010.

The 6 foot 6 inch del Potro is the defending champion of the Sydney International tournament and as such was given a wild card into this year’s event. Any worries over his fitness and readiness to pick up a tennis racket again in competition were soon dispelled when he claimed a straight sets victory over Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-3 7-6. The Ukrainian may not be among the top players but at 69 in the world it was still an uplifting performance from del Potro, as he took just 88 minutes to progress to the second round and in all likelihood a far sterner challenge against the tournament’s top seed, Fabio Fognini.

Del Potro is well-versed in managing the recovery from serious wrist injuries, having also had surgery on his right wrist after his 2009 Grand Slam triumph, the recovery time being eight months on that occasion.

Last year’s beaten finalist in Sydney is also through to the second round after Australian Bernard Tomic required just 43 minutes to knock out Dutchman Igor Sijsling for the loss of only three games. After Hopman Cup success at the weekend in the mixed-team event with Agnieszka Radwanska, Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz maintained the euphoria with a gritty win over Australia’s rising star Nick Kyrgios after two tie-breaks, ensuring he also features in round two. 

In the women’s event that is taking place at the same time in Sydney, Radwanska maintained her form from last week that included a victory over world number one seed Serena Williams, by beating Alize Cornet in the first round but then suffered a surprise defeat at the hands of the unseeded Garbine Muguruza of Spain in the second round. Hers was not the only shock result in the second round as sixth-seeded Ekaterina Makarova of Russia fell to another Spaniard, Carla Suarez Navarro after taking the first set. With top seed Simona Halep withdrawing from the event with sickness, Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova steps into the position of favourite after her 6-1 7-5 win over China’s Peng Shuai.

There was better news for British tennis in the women’s Hobart International event when Heather Watson played aggressively and limited her error count, to record an encouraging 6-3 6-1 success in the second round over the American number five seed, Sloane Stephens.

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