ON a day when the leading men breezed through their second-round matches here at the Dubai Championships, some of the biggest cheers were reserved for the session's most unlikely player.
After Juan Martin del Potro had beaten Somdev Devvarman 6-4 6-4 to earn a quarter-final meeting with Daniel Brands, the world No 7 was joined on court by his fellow Argentinian Diego Maradona, who was appointed as a sports ambassador for Dubai last summer.
When the 5' 5" former World Cup winner came on court, he stood on a chair to embrace the 6' 6" Del Potro before picking up a racquet and challenging him to play a few points. Maradona even hit a decent winning volley before leaving to warm applause.
Maradona arrived in the United Arab Emirates two years ago to coach the Al Wasl football club but was dismissed last summer, upon which he agreed a new one-year deal to be a local ambassador.
"It's a pleasure to share moments with Diego," Del Potro said. "All the Argentinian people love him and he's our No 1 representative in the world in sports. To hit some balls with him here in this stadium was amazing for me.
"He played really well – not like soccer, of course, but he can hit the balls with me. Being with him is an honour."
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, the top two seeds, wasted little time reaching the quarter-finals. Djokovic beat Roberto Bautista Agut 6-1 7-6 and will now face Andreas Seppi. Federer took just 71 minutes to brush aside Marcel Granollers 6-3 6-4. The world No 2 will meet Nikolay Davydenko in the last eight. In the remaining quarter-final, Tomas Berdych will take on Dmitry Tursunov.
Meanwhile, former women's world No 1 Caroline Wozniacki bowed out of the Malaysia Open to 186th-ranked Chinese qualifier Qiang Wang 2-6 7-6 6-1. (© Independent News Service)