PARIS (Reuters) - Juan Martin del Potro fired a menacing warning to those already writing Rafael Nadal’s name on the French Open trophy with a bludgeoning 7-5 6-4 6-1 third-round defeat of Spanish claycourter Albert Ramos-Vinolas on Saturday.
The seemingly unstoppable Nadal might be the red-hot favourite to claim an 11th title at Roland Garros next weekend but Argentine powerhouse Del Potro could prove a significant obstacle in the semi-finals.
The way the fifth seed overwhelmed Ramos-Vinolas on Court Philippe Chatrier with his serve and forehand working like clockwork will not have gone unnoticed in the Nadal camp.
“I think I was a bit lucky in the first set because Albert made me run a lot, but I had control of the match in the end and played well in the right moments,” Del Potro said.
“I’m playing better every day. Claycourt is not my favourite but I’m enjoying playing here.”
Del Potro was given a fight in the first set but after squandering a 5-3 lead he broke Ramos-Vinolas in the 12th game to move ahead.
There was still plenty of resistance in the second set but Del Potro piled on the pressure as Ramos-Vinolas served at 4-5 and pulled two sets clear.
The third was a formality as del Potro moved into the last 16 on the Paris clay for the first time since 2012.
He will face American John Isner on Monday and says he feels strong enough to keep going having suffered an injury scare in the build-up to the French Open.
“I think I’m strong enough to keep doing well. (It) Has been three difficult matches to me, but I played well and I know I could play even better in my next round,” he said.
“All the guys who are still alive in this tournament has big chance to go far, so now the tournament becomes more interesting to watch and to play.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Clare Fallon and Christian Radnedge