Del Potro takes a win at London after theft in Paris

Del Potro takes a win at London after theft in Paris

Juan Martin del Potro admitted he struggled to focus on tennis after scraping past Richard Gasquet to win his first match at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.

The Argentinian was the victim of a theft at Paris’ Gare du Nord on Saturday as he prepared to make his way across the Channel for the season-ending tournament.

Del Potro’s suitcase was stolen, containing his passport and a prized rosary that had been blessed by his countryman Pope Francis along with other personal items.

It did not look like his fortunes on the court would be any better when Gasquet won the first set at London’s O2 Arena but Del Potro showed courage to fight back and win 6-7 (4/7) 6-3 7-5.

There was little sign of joy from the Argentinian as he talked after his victory, though, and he appeared close to tears at one stage.

He said: “It’s tough to enjoy the fantastic tournament after my really bad Saturday.

“I like to play tennis. I enjoy a lot my work. But someone took a part of my life. I really resent it. It’s tough to not think about that.

“One of my things was the rosary. But I had a few things which mean a lot from my life. I don’t have them anymore.

“After the win everything is much better. But at the beginning of the match, I couldn’t be positive. I was thinking too many things.

“But then the atmosphere down there was incredible and that helped me to enjoy a little bit the match.

“I couldn’t close the match when I served at 5-4 because I was nervous. I made easy mistakes. But then in the end, I played good points and finally I beat one of the tougher opponents in my group.”

Gasquet, whose only previous appearance at the end-of-season event came back in 2007 before it moved from Shanghai to London, was seen as very much the outsider in Group B.

But he started very well and it was not until Del Potro got his fearsome forehand going in the second set that he turned the match around.

The fourth seed looked like he might have blown his chance when he was broken to love serving for the match at 5-4 in the decider but he broke Gasquet again and made no mistake second time around.

With matches against defending champion Novak Djokovic and six-time winner Roger Federer to come, Gasquet’s hopes of making the semi-finals appear slim at best.

But the Frenchman was relatively upbeat, saying: “I think I took a little confidence from this match. Of course, I’m a little bit disappointed because I could win that match. I was really close.

“It was important for me to win the first match. Now I need to play two big players again, so it’s very difficult. The level is very high. Every match is a final for me.”

The first winner of the singles tournament was the only debutant, Stanislas Wawrinka, who upset fifth seed Tomas Berdych 6-3 6-7 (0/7) 6-3 in the Group A opener.

It was not surprising he felt so at home given the vocal Swiss support, although he was quick to acknowledge the red and white hordes are not in London just for him.

“They wanted Roger, but they had me,” he said with a smile.

Wawrinka added: “It was a really good atmosphere. It’s always nice to play in front of such nice people. There were a lot of Swiss people.

“I’m really, really happy we are both in the tournament. I think it’s something really special for Switzerland.

“I saw this tournament so many times on TV. To play was something different. For sure to win my first match here was something really special for me.”

The big guns take to the court on Tuesday, with world number one Rafael Nadal facing David Ferrer before Djokovic meets Federer in the pick of the group matches.

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