Top seed Juan Martin del Potro marked his return to tennis after a month-long injury absence on Wednesday with a three-hour victory over German qualifier Daniel Brands to reach the Austrian Open third round.
The Argentine defeated Brands 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (8/6) in a match featuring 59 aces and no breaks of serve.
“If I’d known I’d have to start with a three-hour win, I would have stayed home,” joked last year’s finalist, who was playing for the first time since suffering a wrist injury in last month’s Davis Cup semi-finals.
“We both served so well, it was a really tough match,” added Del Potro, who kept alive his hopes of booking a place in the eight-man World Tour Finals next month in London which wrap up the ATP season.
The top seed struggled to find any rhythm in the first set, relying on his serve to stay out of trouble against Brands, the world No. 111 who made the semi-finals last year.
The German won the opening set only to see Del Potro return the favor in the second, claiming it on a fifth set point.
The final set was also tight before Del Potro clinched victory in another tiebreaker.
Third-seeded Nicolas Almagro advanced to the quarter-finals of the Stockholm Open on Wednesday to set up a meeting with former world No. 1 LIeyton Hewitt of Australia.
The Spaniard was given a wild-card entry into the indoor tournament and won 6-4, 7-6 (4) against Marius Copil of Romania after earning the only break of the match in the first set.
Hewitt ousted eighth-seeded Jarkko Nieminen of Finland 7-6 (2), 2-6, 6-4 in a match where both players struggled to hold serve.