New York: Juan Martin Del Potro said it felt like only yesterday that he won the 2009 US Open and the big-hitting Argentine played like it Wednesday, losing only five games in crushing Filippo Volandri in the first round.
Del Potro, who missed most of last season, including the US Open, because of surgery on his right wrist, celebrated his return to Flushing Meadows with a 6-3, 6-1, 6-1 romp.
"I feel really glad," the tall Argentine said after his 88-minute dismissal of the unseeded Italian. "To be playing here after winning here, it`s special.”
"It`s my favorite tournament, so I`m really happy to get the opportunity to play here again."
Del Potro said returning to the National Tennis Center felt almost like beginning a defense after missing nine months on the tour during a lost season in which the one-time world number four plummeted to 485 in the rankings.
"It has been a really sad year, 2010, for me," said Del Potro, who has slowly climbed back to number 18.
"This year to be playing the US Open, it`s amazing, it`s great. I`m feeling really glad to see the crowd again, to see the Argentinian fans come to see me especially play here."
Del Potro won his first career major in grand style, toppling the world number one and two players - Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal -- in his last two matches at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The 22-year-old Argentine said he owed a debt to the raucous fans at Flushing Meadows, who help make the US championship special for him.
"I really enjoy the crowd, the fans are crazy, and they are very excited," he said. "Every match, the crowds are full every match.”
"That helps me to fight. I remember in the final two years ago when I was two sets to one down and they help me, started cheering more for me than Roger, and that helped me a lot to win the final."
Del Potro said his serve was back better than ever and that he was seeing improvement in the rest of his game, but might not yet be quite ready to rise again at this year`s Open.
"I know that other players are playing much better than me at this moment, especially the top 10 players," he said. "To be here playing this tournament, for me it`s a great signal for my future. I know I`m getting closer to my best level."