Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 U.S. champ, advanced to the third round at Flushing Meadows for the first time since 2012.
Del Potro swept 19th-seeded American Steve Johnson 7-6 (5), 6-3, 6-2 on Thursday. The Argentine may be ranked 142nd after three left wrist surgeries, but he’s been playing like the major champion he is the last couple of months.
Since the start of Wimbledon, he’s posted victories over Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Stan Wawrinka and won an Olympic silver medal.
In a match that featured a behind-the-back shot by Johnson and a between-the-legs shot by del Potro, the Argentine’s serve — not his big forehand — was the difference. He had 15 aces and won 85 percent of the points on his first serve.
Johnson has never been past the round of 16 at a major. He had noted last week that if del Potro received a wild card into the U.S. Open, it was possible the Argentine could eliminate an American in the first round.
As it turned out, del Potro knocked Johnson out in the second round — while getting lots of support from a crowd that appreciates the Argentine’s past championship and his injury comeback.