Maria Sharapova's unique brand of high-volume hitting will return to Wimbledon in some form this summer after she earned enough points to guarantee a place in the qualifying event.
"Winning matches will get me places, so if that's where it got me, then I will take it", Sharapova said.
Sharapova will learn on Tuesday whether she has been given a wildcard into either qualifying or the main draw at the French Open, which gets under way on 28 May.
"I won't be following it live".
It was a surprising response from Sharapova, but one that perhaps indicates that she was quietly confident anyway of being handed a wild card if she had not earned a place by right.
The five-time Grand Slam champion, who is coming back onto the WTA after completing a 15-month doping ban, advanced to the second round at the sun-drenched Foro Italico as she beat McHale for a fifth time without defeat.
Stuttgart finalist Laura Siegemund made the last 16 with a comprehensive 6-2, 6-4 victory over 19-year-old Japanese star Naomi Osaka while fellow German Mona Barthel overcame Peng Shuai in three sets in the Rome heatwave.
Del Potro will next face Kyle Edmund of Britain, who beat Joao Sousa of Portugal 6-3, 6-4.
In the men's draw, Belgian ninth seed David Goffin stopped Thomaz Bellucci 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 6-4 and American Sam Querrey spring a surprise on French 11th seed Lucas Pouille 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (10-8). Also, Sam Querrey eliminated Lucas Pouille, a semifinalist previous year, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (8).
"When in Rome, you have to come to the Colosseum", Sharapova said.
Sharapova showed some signs of a slow start as she failed to find her first serves, allowing McHale to exploit those vulnerable second serves of her, breaking serve to 30 in the opening game and taking the early lead.
The Italian Open organizers were criticized for giving a wild card to Sharapova instead of former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, an Italian.
The five-time Grand Slam victor will play the second round against Croatian Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, who defeated Czech Lucie Safarova earlier on Monday.
Elena Vesnina looked set for success in 2017 when she took the Indian Wells title. However Sharapova always broke back and won the first set after 52 minutes.