Juan Martin del Potro says he hopes to emulate the “passion” of notoriously feisty fellow Argentine Javier Mascherano after sealing his spot at the ATP Finals on Wednesday.
The towering Del Potro, enjoying one of the best seasons of his injury-blighted career, dismissed Russia’s stubborn Karen Khachanov 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) in Beijing to surge into the quarter-finals of the China Open.
Significantly, victory means that Del Potro has qualified for the season-ending ATP Finals for the first time since 2013, joining Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in London in November.
It underlines the 30-year-old’s return to the men’s elite after years of wrist problems that threatened to destroy his career.
Mascherano, an aggressive former Barcelona defender who has close to 150 caps for Argentina, was in the Beijing arena to see his countryman and friend in action.
“We have a good relationship and we admire him, of course,” Del Potro said of the 34-year-old, who now plays his football in China.
“He played a lot for our country, he played in the best teams in the world. Of course, we have something to learn about his lifestyle, the passion that he puts in every game. We try to do the same in tennis.”
The world number four, losing finalist at the US Open last month, talked excitedly about the prestigious ATP Finals, saying he anticipates “amazing moments”.
“Of course, it’s a very special tournament for us. I will be excited to do well in London,” said Del Potro.
Something of a gentle giant and a popular figure in the locker room, Del Potro faces Filip Krajinovic of Serbia in the last eight on Beijing’s outside hard courts.
The Argentine will not be joined in the quarter-finals by Bulgaria’s third seed Grigor Dimitrov, who was on the end of a major shock.
Dimitrov totted up nine double faults in a three-set defeat to Serbian qualifier Dusan Lajovic.
Lajovic meets Britain’s fifth seed Kyle Edmund in the quarter-finals.
In the women’s draw, number two seed Caroline Wozniacki rounded off a polished display with an ace in a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Petra Martic of Croatia. The Dane faces Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit in the last 16.
Seventh seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic set up a meeting against China’s top player Wang Qiang.