Juan Martin del Potro made a winning start to his ATP World Tour Finals campaign, coming from a set down on Monday to beat France’s Richard Gasquet 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 7-5.
Del Potro had suffered a distressing journey to London after being robbed at Paris’s Gare du Nord railway station, an incident which cost him his passport and a rosary blessed by Pope Francis.
The Argentine, who lost to Roger Federer in the Paris Masters quarter-finals, finally subdued a lively challenge from 27-year-old Gasquet in two hours and 23 minutes in the opening Group B clash at London’s 02 Arena.
The victory was crucial for fourth-seeded del Potro, who faces Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in his remaining group matches.
“I’m so happy to qualify once again here. I have fantastic memories from Wimbledon and the Olympics and I always play well in London,” he said.
“Richard has an unbelievable backhand and he is a good fighter but, in the end, I played solid and won.
“Hopefully I can beat Novak and Roger. It’s going to be really tough, but I don’t have anything to lose against them.”
Del Potro has claimed four titles this year and came desperately close to reaching the Wimbledon final, only for Djokovic to beat him in five sets in the semi-finals.
Gasquet was making his first appearance at the Tour Finals since 2007 after rising to ninth in the world rankings on the back of one of his better seasons.
With Wimbledon champion Andy Murray sidelined after back surgery, Gasquet’s ranking was high enough to earn entry into a tournament usually reserved for the world’s top eight players.
In the opening match, Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka marked his debut at the Tour Finals by defeating Czech fifth seed Tomas Berdych 6-3 6-7 (0-7) 6-3.
Wawrinka continued the best year of his career, the 28-year-old hitting 43 winners to 30 by Berdych and showed his class and composure after being blown away in the second set tiebreaker.
Seventh seed Wawrinka, who won in two hours and 25 minutes, will play world No.1 Rafael Nadal and Spain’s David Ferrer in his remaining Group A matches.