LONDON (Reuters) - Fifth seed Juan Martin del Potro overcame service troubles and Benoit Paire’s fine serve-and-volley game to beat the Frenchman 6-4 7-6(4) 6-3 on Court Two and reach the Wimbledon fourth round for the fourth time on Saturday.
The big Argentine world number four, who has yet to drop a set, looked on for a routine win before meeting sterner resistance in the second set from Paire, who delighted the crowd with his drop shots and a break of serve to go 4-2 up.
Del Potro, a semi-finalist in 2013, immediately broke back after a slip by Paire and fears he might have hurt his heavily bandaged left knee, but the Frenchman resumed and saw the set through to the tiebreak, but lost it 7-4.
The 47th-ranked Paire, who reached the fourth round last year and won his only previous meeting with Del Potro in Rome in 2013, said he had a minor cartilage problem but the bandage was for security and he had felt no pain.
“You have to be good to beat Paire, he’s dangerous and I was lucky in the tiebreak,” said Del Potro.
He added that his two-handed backhand has improved a lot after the difficulties he had with it following wrist surgery.
“It’s almost good, I have no pain. I’m hitting more often with the two-handed backhand, which is good for my whole game.
“On this surface, I can mix it up with the slices and hit hard when I have the chance to make a winner with a two-handed backhand. I think I am improving all my game when I have also my backhand working good. It’s pretty important for me.”
Del Potro, looking for a second Grand Slam title after the U.S. Open in 2009, marched into a 3-0 lead in the deciding set only to allow Paire back to 3-3 with a broken service game that included three double faults.
However, the Argentine, who had problems throughout the match serving into the sun at the northern end of the court, broke again and took it in straight sets after a brief hold-up while officials helped a person who had fainted in the crowd.
“The sun bothered me quite a bit, from one end of the court it was very difficult to serve, it was difficult to find the exact spots to place the ball,” he said.
“But, well, I won in three sets and that’s important for my fitness, despite not serving as well as the other day,” he added referring to his win over Feliciano Lopez on Thursday.
Del Potro faces another very different Frenchman, Gilles Simon, in the fourth round.
“Simon is a very smart player, he likes to play from the baseline with long rallies. I need to be prepared for that, to be accurate down the lines,” del Potro said.
Reporting by Rex Gowar; editing by Clare Lovell