Juan Martin del Potro continued his comeback at Indian Wells Thursday night by thumping American qualifier Tim Smyzcek 6-4, 6-0. A finalist in his last appearance in 2013, del Potro won the last seven games of the match.
“I think I played well, but I am so happy to be playing tennis again,” said del Potro. “I missed the sport a lot, suffering at home as I tried to fix my wrist. It’s great to be at this big tournament, playing on Centre Court and being around the top guys. It’s very positive just to be here. I think I surprised myself with my level. I didn’t expect to play that well tonight. I have worked hard to be competitive.”
Del Potro will now meet Tomas Berdych Saturday in the second round. He leads the Czech 4-3 in their head-to-head.
In the much-anticipated “Next Gen” matchup, Frances Tiafoe broke late then held on to serve it out and beat friend and fellow 18-year-old Taylor Fritz 6-3, 2-6, 6-3.
“Winning a match in Indian Wells is huge,” said Tiafoe, the youngest player in the Top 200. “It’s a dream to play on this court, there’s so many great matches played on that court. To play a friend early, as two wild cards, it was unbelievable.”
Fritz had high hopes after a breakout February, felt he could have had a better day.
“Usually I handle pressure really well, but I definitely wanted to beat him badly because I never beat him in the juniors,” said Fritz. “It’s been a while and I’ve been doing so well and I thought this was my time to take it. Like I said, I didn’t play at the level I usually would play.”
Another teen, Borna Coric, also advanced.
Other winners included Nicolas Mahut, Robin Haase, Ryan Harrison and Inigo Cervantes who won an all-Spanish battle over Nicolas Almagro 5-7, 6-3, 6-4.
Today, more teens take the court led by Alex Zverev and Jared Donaldson, and veterans Fernando Verdasco, Ernests Gulbis and Juan Monaco are in action.
Andy Murray will be in doubles with Colin Fleming against the big-serving tandem of John Isner and Milos Raonic.
FRIDAY INDIAN WELLS SCHEDULE
STADIUM 1 start 11:00 am
ATP – I. Dodig (CRO) vs A. Zverev (GER)
ATP – [WC] J. Donaldson (USA) vs V. Pospisil (CAN)
WTA –  V. Williams (USA) vs [Q] K. Nara (JPN)
WTA – V. King (USA) vs  S. Halep (ROU)
Not Before 7:00 pm
WTA –  S. Williams (USA) vs [Q] L. Siegemund (GER)
SALUTE TO HEROES
Not Before 8:30 pm
ATP – D. Young (USA) vs A. Seppi (ITA)
STADIUM 2 start 11:00 am
WTA – D. Kovinic (MNE) vs  P. Kvitova (CZE)
ATP – J. Isner (USA) / M. Raonic (CAN) vs C. Fleming (GBR) / A. Murray (GBR)
ATP – E. Gulbis (LAT) vs G. Garcia-Lopez (ESP)
ATP – D. Istomin (UZB) vs D. Kudla (USA)
Not Before 6:00 pm
ATP – [Q] M. Berrer (GER) vs J. Monaco (ARG)
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