Juan Martín del Potro made a winning return to the Caja Mágica on Tuesday with a pulsating 7-6, 6-3 victory over Dominic Thiem, a win that the Argentinean former US Open champion described as “a big surprise.” Since coming back from a lengthy injury layoff, Del Potro hadn’t beaten a player ranked as high as Thiem, who is currently 14th in the ATP standing.
Del Potro said that the match had been a “big test” in light of the form Thiem has been in this season; the Austrian lifted two clay titles on the Latin American Swing, in Acapulco and Buenos Aires. With tears in his eyes and visibly emotional, Del Potro celebrated his first-round win to the roar of a standing ovation from the crowd.
“I have always been treated really well at this tournament, people here have always been very respectful towards me, they really show me a lot of affection and that’s why I enjoyed today so much,” Del Potro said after the match, adding that he didn’t want to go another season without playing at the Mutua Madrid Open, where the Argentinean hadn’t featured for four years before this week.
Del Potro, a semi-finalist at the Caja Mágica in 2009 and 2011, will play Jack Sock in the second round after his victory on Tuesday, which he described as “very beautiful and emotional, because I have rediscovered my level in the tournament.”