He's back: Del Potro beats Wawrinka in 4 sets at Wimbledon

"It feels wonderful, it's a great sensation", said 27-year-old Del Potro, the 2009 US Open champion.

Del Potro is playing in his first major since the Australian Open in 2014 after undergoing three wrist surgeries.

Del Potro, the 2009 US Open champion, produced a resilient performance as he defeated Wawrinka 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/2), 6-3 and will next face either Frenchman Lucas Pouille or Donald Young of the United States in the third round at the All England Club.

Unsurprisingly, the match began with both players holding their first service games without any trouble.

Having been cooped up in the locker rooms for so long because of rain delays, some players were particularly keen to make the most of being on court. The Swissbroke in the fourth game of the set to take a 3-1 lead.

The battle between the two grand slam champions, one of 16 first-round matches to spill into Day Five of the rain-ravaged tournament, provided plenty of drama and intrigue but in the end it was Del Potro's heart-warming comeback that had everyone cheering.

Del Potro's career might continue to drift because of the wrist in the years ahead, but on Friday there was respite, a moment to savor on tennis' most famous court. Wawrinka handed him the game with a double fault.

How was it, then, that in this meeting so many years after their last, that it was Wawrinka residing in the top five and Del Potro with No165 by his name?

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For del Potro, however, it became a reality.

A potent Wawrinka serve soon gave him the set 6-3.

Down a break in the final set and one point away from falling behind 3-0, Serena Williams refused to buckle on Centre Court.

It follows similar efforts in 2008 and 2013, but the Kiwi number one is taking confidence from winning through three matches of qualifying and the first and second rounds. There were, though, already signs that the Del Potro serve was warming up and that the new variety on his backhand was working well.

The fourth set found Wawrinka again struggling to figure out how to counter Del Potro.

John Isner got through to the third round too, going to tie-breaks in all three sets with Matthew Barton before securing his progress 7-6 (10/8) 7-6 (7/3) 7-6 (10/8). "He's a great guy, a really good player, big champion". Both held serve for the first seven games of the set.

Two-time defending men's champion Novak Djokovic, meanwhile, was trailing Sam Querrey 7-6 (6), 6-1 in a third-round match on No. 1 Court before play was suspended for the day on the outside courts because of rain.

  • Lawrence Cooper