The big game of Argentine giant Juan Martin del Potro is enough to frighten any opponent, but Jeremy Chardy showed no sign of nerves when it mattered most, upsetting the men’s sixth seed in five sets on Saturday afternoon.
Del Potro became the first major casualty in the men’s singles draw at Australian Open 2013, going down 6-3 6-3 6-7 (3) 3-6 6-3 to the 36th-ranked Frenchman, who steadied in the final set after seeing a two sets to love lead evaporate as the 2009 US Open champion came charging back.
Chardy’s victory in three hours and 45 minutes sees him advance to the fourth round in Melbourne for the first time.
“If I wanted to win, I had to take my chances and go for it,” said Chardy, smiling broadly after the match.
“I’m very happy when my form is like this against a good player like Juan Martin. Today, I was a little bit scared before I came on the court.”
The only other time they played, del Potro made quick work of Chardy in a 6-1 6-3 quarterfinal win at the 2012 Cincinnati tournament, perhaps explaining Chardy’s mood.
The Frenchman had every right to feel apprehensive coming into the match, as del Potro had only lost 13 games coming into the third round, fewer than any other player through two matches.
From the outset, Chardy was prepared to take the most risks, and his courage paid dividends. He tallied 78 winners to only 36 for del Potro, but the Frenchman also had a high error count, posting 64 unforced errors to only 35 for del Potro.
Throughout the match, del Potro struggled to hold his serve, offering Chardy a surprising 17 break point opportunities, of which the Frenchman took advantage of five.
Del Potro was barely a factor in the first two sets, unable to find a comfort level on the court. It wasn’t as if the Argentine wasn’t trying; he just couldn’t seem to find his range or stamina. He was clearly frustrated, and smashed a racket early in the encounter.
However, once del Potro secured the third set, winning the tiebreaker with a scorching forehand crosscourt winner, he seemed ready to turn the match in his favour. In the fourth set, del Potro took the advantage by breaking Chardy’s serve in the eighth game and successfully served for the set at 5-3.
Expectations were that del Potro, the more accomplished player, would prevail, but Chardy had other plans and piled on the pressure. Del Potro eventually lost serve on a second break point of the eighth game on an unforced forehand error, putting Chardy in position to serve out the match. He didn’t need a second invitation, closing out the contest with an ace.
Chardy will play 21st-ranked Andreas Seppi in the fourth round after the Italian took out 12th-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia, 6-7 (2) 6-3 2-6 6-4 6-2.