Del Potro to meet Nadal in fourth round after seeing off Simon

By Peter Higgs

When you have just reached the fourth round at Wimbledon for the first time you do not want to think about having to play the best player in the world in the next round. Not immediately anyway.

Juan Martin Del Potro was happier to bask in the warm glow of his 7-6, 7-6, 7-5 victory over Gilles Simon of France before facing up to the harsh reality of what awaits him.

There was a time when the 6ft 6in Argentine would have strongly fancied his chances of giving Rafael Nadal a tough match and even beating him.

Safe passage: Juan Martin del Potro has lined up a date with Rafael Nadal

Safe passage: Juan Martin del Potro has lined up a date with Rafael Nadal

But Del Potro, 22, is on his way back from a wrist injury which robbed him of nine months of his career and does not yet feel back to the form which took him to the US Open title in 2009.

In that epic surge to the crown at Flushing Meadows, Del Potro swept aside Nadal in three one-sided sets in the semifinal, then came back from a set behind in the final to inflict Roger Federer's first defeat there for six years.


But within five months he was having to withdraw from tournaments with a wrist injury, which became so troublesome that in May 2010 he underwent surgery and did not return to tennis until the end of 2010.

He has since clawed his way back up the rankings, won a tournament in Portugal and is now ranked 21 in the world and seeded 24 at Wimbledon.

But does that mean he is ready for Nadal?

Del Potro said: 'First, I feel glad I beat Simon. I want first to enjoy my victory today and I will see if I'm in good shape to play Rafa. He's the best player in the world and it will be a big challenge.

'That victory was two years ago and we played this year at Indian Wells and he won really easily. I don't know if I'm still far away from that level. I don't know if I will have a little chance or not.'

And what does he think about Nadal claiming that Del Potro is playing like a top five player again?

Top five form: Del Potro looks back to his best

Top five form: Del Potro looks back to his best

'It's not easy to be top five', said the Argentine. 'But I'm improving my game every day. That's a good signal for the future. I am still learning on grass. I want to improve my serve, my volley. And maybe for the second part of the year I can be ready to play against all the players at the same conditions.

'I want to be back to the top as soon as possible. But it's a long, long road.'

Tomorrow's match will give some indication of how far along it he has travelled.