DUBAI // Just three days ago, Somdev Devvarman was hitting with Juan Martin del Potro. After they were done, the Indian went up to the Argentine and took his autograph.
"He's a fantastic player, obviously, coming off wins at Rotterdam, top 10 player, such a great talent, such a good player, such a nice guy," Devvarman said of the world No 7.
Del Potro is a grand slam winner as well, having won the 2009 US Open, and is one of the favourites to win the Dubai title. And the Argentine took a step towards that with a 6-4, 6-4 win yesterday over Devvarman, who is returning from a shoulder injury.
Devvarman, 28, had risen to No 66 in the world in 2011 before the recurring injury put him out of action and he slipped to No 664 last year. He is back to No 315 and Del Potro has no doubt the Indian will improve his position further.
"It's really, really tough coming back after a year without competitions and tournaments," said Del Potro, who had a hit on court with Diego Maradona, the Argentine footballing great and former Al Wasl coach, after his win.
"I know how tough is trying to be back. But he deserves to be playing this tournament. He made everything good to be back, and in the future he's gonna be with a very good ranking, for sure. He's very solid.
"He played well, and he has already beat good, good players in the past so he can do the same in the future."
Del Potro's next opponent is the big-serving German Daniel Brands, who knocked out the eighth seed Mikhail Youzhny yesterday.
"He serves so hard, more than 200 kilometres every service, and I need to be strong with my wrist and backhands, trying to put the ball in the other side," Del Potro said about his quarter-final clash today.
"But if I serve well and if I take my opportunities, maybe I can beat him."
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