SYDNEY, Australia -- Wild card Juan Martin del Potro made a successful return to the ATP World Tour on Monday, winning his first-round match at the $450,000 Sydney International, a final Australian Open tune-up. Defending champion Marcos Baghdatis pulled out of the draw, citing a groin injury.
The 2009 U.S. Open champion del Potro outlasted sixth-seeded Spaniard Feliciano Lopez 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (11-9), 7-6 (7-3) in 3 hours, 20 minutes on the hardcourts at Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre. Del Potro and Lopez combined for 41 aces, including 21 from the 6-foot-6 winner.
Del Potro participated in only three tournaments last year because of a right wrist injury that required surgery in May and cost him the opportunity to defend his title at Flushing Meadows. After losing in the fourth round of the Australian Open, the former world No. 5 star did not play again until late September. He suffered first-round losses in Bangkok and Tokyo.
Up next for "Delpo" will be rising German Florian Mayer.
The former Aussie Open runner-up Baghdatis beat France's Richard Gasquet in last year's Sydney finale, but the excitable Cypriot will not be able to defend his title here this week.
The aforementioned Mayer handled British wild card James Ward 7-5, 6-0, while Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky topped German Benjamin Becker 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (8-6).
Additional Day-1 wins came for Portuguese qualifier Frederico Gil and Russian qualifier Igor Andreev.
This week's top seed is tall American Sam Querrey, who received a bye into the second round.