But Murray looked much more like his old self, using the drop shot particularly well and finding the sort of penetration through the court that has been such an issue in 2017.
Murray needed nearly one and a half hours to nail the first set as he uppered in the tiebreak 10-8, only to see their Argentine opponent stand at the net for a while to show frustration between the interval.
That set was gone and, soon enough, his first appearance since 2012 at Roland Garros would be over entirely with a 7-6 (8), 7-5, 6-0 loss to Murray in the third round. "He had some opportunities obviously to close it out, and he served a double fault in the tiebreak on one of the set points".
Murray jogged to his seat at the changeover, the Argentine stood at the net, bent at the waist, his head resting on the net-cord.
But it was Del Potro who made the first breakthrough, with his powerful forehand helping him into a 3-1 lead.More news: Press Secretary Spicer Pressed About White House Taping System
That would be more than the 30 year-old Scot expected of himself: 'When I speak to my team we set high standards but I didn't come here with the mindset that I'm definitely going to go a long way.
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"Obviously his reaction at the end of the first set, he was pretty disappointed".
Men's 3rd rd: Andy Murray (Gbr) bt Juan Martin del Potro (Arg) 7-6 (10-8) 7-5 6-0, Fernando Verdasco (Esp) bt Pablo Cuevas (Uru) 6-2 6-1 6-3, Stan Wawrinka (Sui) bt Fabio Fognini (Ita) 7-6 (7-2) 6-0 6-2, Marin Cilic (Cro) bt Feliciano Lopez (Esp) 6-1 6-3 6-3. "Whoever won that first set would have the momentum as it would have been very hard to come back in these heavy, slow conditions", said Murray. I was going to try and just get through the first round and hopefully feel better each day. "I think he will have very few complaints, if any, of how he played".
Although Del Potro broke back when Murray served for the second set at 5-4, the Scot forced another break to go 6-5 up and served out the set as the crowd. Another fast start in the third saw Murray break for 1-0, and this time it was full steam ahead. (When) you play someone that good, maybe you're a little bit more switched on.
The second set was equally tight as the Argentine produced tremendous power with his groundstrokes, leaving Murray to scamper around the baseline with typically inspired defensive play. Three things to watch out for on day nine of the French Open today.