London – Juan Martin del Potro says he is proud to be playing in the same era as Rafael Nadal, but that burning admiration won’t prevent him from trying to derail the Spaniard’s Wimbledon campaign on Wednesday.
Del Potro returned to the quarter-finals at the All England Club for the first time since 2013 when he defeated Gilles Simon of France 7-6 (7/1), 7-6 (7/5), 5-7, 7-6 (7/5) on Tuesday.
Now the Argentine faces two-time Wimbledon champion Nadal, who allowed him just six games when they last met in the Roland Garros semi-finals in June.
That straight sets loss was the fifth-seeded del Potro’s 10th defeat in 15 meetings against the former world No 1.
“Everybody admires Rafa as a competitor. He’s a fighter. He’s always trying to be positive and thinking in the next ball. Doesn’t matter if he miss or not,” said Del Potro.
“It’s too tough to see a guy in front of the net when they are always positive during the game. As a player, it’s amazing.
“He’s the No 1. He has been making records every Grand Slam. I’m very proud to be in the same era as him and Roger Federer.”
Del Potro went on to the semi-finals at Wimbledon five years ago and it took Novak Djokovic to halt him in a five-set epic played out over four and a half hours.
It is one of just five semi-final appearances at the Slams for the supremely gifted Del Potro, whose career has been ravaged by a number of wrist injuries which once pushed him to the brink of retirement.
With his 30th birthday approaching in September, his lone Slam triumph at the 2009 US Open is a meagre return as a consequence.
On Wednesday on Centre Court, he will start as underdog against Nadal, the 17-time major winner who is in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon for the first time since 2011 when he went on to finish runner-up.
Nadal has won both the pair’s career meetings on grass including at the All England Club in the last-16 seven years ago.
The 32-year-old is also appearing in his 35th Grand Slam quarter-final.
“Everybody knows the favourites for the title are Roger and Rafa,” added Del Potro.
“It could be a surprise this year. You never know. We always want to win the title, but it is not easy to beat these guys in this big event.
“They are still making records in every tournament. It’s amazing for the tennis world and also for the people who shared matches with them, and shared good moments in the lockers.
“I’m very proud to be in the same time as them.”