Del Potro off to winning start in Estoril

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iol spt may3 Del Potro AFP Juan del Potro won his first ATP match of the ATP season on clay at the Estoril Open on Thursday.File picture.

Estoril, Portugal – Juan del Potro won his first ATP match of the ATP season on clay in a delayed pre-French Open start on Thursday, setting up a quarter-final with a two-time champion at the Estoril Open.

The 12th-ranked Argentine whose title a year ago on the clay of the Estadio Nacional helped boost his 2011 season, crushed Portugal's Rui Machado 6-1, 6-0 in 62 minutes. The South American trained at home and did not play the Monte Carlo Masters a fortnight ago.

The Argentine next faces 2009-2010 Estoril champion Albert Montanes, the Spanish seventh seed who defeated Bobby Reynolds of the US 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in their second-round match,

“I'm pleased with my performance, this was good for a first match of this part of the season,” said Del Potro, who last played on clay five weeks ago as he won two Davis Cup matches against Croatia in Buenos Aires.

“I played much better than him and took all of my break points. I've been working hard on my game and I can see that it is starting to pay off.”

Del Potro beat Spain's Fernando Verdasco in the 2011 Estoril final.

The winner now stands 24-6 with a title in February indoors in Marseille and a losing semi-final against Roger Federer in Dubai.

Machado had played a home quarter-final two years ago against compatriot Frederico Gil, the surprise finalist against Montanes at that edition.

Women's top seed Roberta Vinci, playing some of her best clay tennis at age 29, booked a semi-final spot with a 6-2, 1-6, 6-4

defeat of Russian seventh seed Nadia Petrova.

Vinci will Friday face sixth Kaia Kanepi after the Estonian put out Czech fourth seed Petra Cetkovska 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro defeated Silvia Soler-Espinosa 6-3, 6-3 to reach the final four. – Sapa-dpa