Del Potro free-wheeling prior to Estoril start
Argentine drawcard Juan Martin del Potro took time away from training for his first serious 2012 test on clay on Monday, with the top seed lured out on a brief bicycle tour of the Atlantic coast resort town where players are staying during the Estoril Open.
The 12th-ranked South American took a spin over the cobblestone streets of Cascais, 20 kilometres from Lisbon along with second seed Richard Gasquet of France,
Del Potro, who arrived at the weekend from South America, will be making his pre-Roland Garros start when he plays in the second round after a bye against one of two Portuguese, wildcard Pedro Sousa or 90th-ranked Rui Machado.
Del Potro won the title here a year ago over Spain's Fernando Verdasco. He owns a trophy this season indoors in Marseille.
Since arriving from home, the 2009 US Open champion had put in multiple practise sessions to get accustomed once again to the conditions which he will face over the next four weeks until the May 27 start of the French Open.
"I'm feeling fit and ready to play," said Del Potro, winner of two Davis Cup matches on the surface in Buenos Aires during Davis Cup a month ago. "I'm thinking only about getting my form for this week.
"I'm not looking ahead yet to Roland Garros. I need to work hard before I start my tournament."
Gasquet, the second seed and ranked 18th, has not stepped onto clay since losing two Davis Cup matches last September against Spain.
The Frenchman is making his first return to Estoril since losing the 2007 final to Novak Djokovic back when the Serb world No 1 was just another talented youngster hoping for a breakthrough.
Swiss third seed Stanislas Wawrinka has also been haunting the practise courts at the Estadio Nacional complex as he makes his debut.
Wawrinka has had a solid clay start in 2012, reaching semifinals in Buenos Aires and Acapulco in February and losing a Monte Carlo quarterfinal to Rafael Nadal.
"I want to keep up my level," said the 22nd ranked Swiss. "I've done very well so far on clay and don't want to stop now.
"Conditions here are different than in Monaco, there is much more wind. But after getting over a leg problem (in March in the US), I've showed I'm fit again.
"I'll be giving my maximum this week. I want to start getting rhythm for the big events coming up."
Estoril leads into the Madrid Masters starting on Sunday in the Spanish capital, a venue located at 650 metres above sea level. That makes the ball fly and requires another massive adjustment from players.
With final qualifying rounds dominating the Monday programme at the joint ATP-WTA event, a handful of main-draw matches were scheduled.
On the men's side, Italian Paolo Lorenzi staged a comeback to go past Eduardo Roger-Vasselin of France 3-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4 after more than two and a half hours. The winner will be the opening opponent for Gasquet.
Dutch sixth seed Robin Haase beat Italy's Simone Bolelli 6-3, 6-2.