del Potro wins classic
Originally published on 04/09/17 00:00
The former champion, serenaded by his vocal compatriots, awoke from his slumber and recovered from two sets down to stun Dominic Thiem 1-6 2-6 6-1 7-6(1) 6-4.
In a contender for match of the tournament, del Potro saved two match-points with a pair of aces in the fourth set before completing the job in a drama-filled decider.
It quickly became apparent that the Argentinian was struggling physically. His serve failed to pack a punch, his groundstrokes lacked fizz and his movement was sluggish. He was barely competitive and it took him until the middle of the second set to thrash his first winner of the contest.
The Austrian powerhouse achieved a two-set advantage with the minimum of fuss and he appeared set to maintain his record of never losing a Grand Slam match from such a commanding position.
del Potro improved considerably in the third set. He was holding his own in the baseline exchanges and the most fearsome forehand in tennis was beginning to warm up.
As the former champion raised his level, Thiem’s failed to match him. The Austrian played an error-strewn third set as his opponent quickly halved the arrears.
The fourth set was a dramatic affair filled with exquisite shotmaking and lung-busting rallies that the spectators inside the atmospheric Grandstand Court were fortunate to witness. Thiem and his thunderous backhand forced a breakthrough in the sixth game and he was soon in a position to serve for the match.
The Austrian had an opportunity to seal victory however he faltered from a 30-0 position. It was a calamitous game from the No.6 seed and he was noticeably frustrated at his inability to close out the match. He was to get another opportunity on his opponent’s delivery in the 12th game – but precision serving denied him.
Unusually agitated and flustered, Thiem played a tiebreak to forget and the pro-del Potro crowd had the decider they craved.
The momentum was firmly with the Argentinian and his forehand was in full flow in a pulsating fifth set. Thiem scurried and scampered behind the baseline in an effort to stay alive but his resistance was finally broken in the 10th game.
Serving to stay in the match, Thiem succumbed to the pressure and he coughed up an untimely double-fault to gift-wrap his gutsy rival an unlikely win.
“What can I say after a big battle like that,” remarked the weary Argentinian with a grin. “I was sick the last two days and I came here trying to play as well as I could. When I saw the crowd cheering for me, I was trying to feel better with every game. I think I fought the way I did because of the crowd.”
Del Potro will take on a familiar face in the last eight. Roger Federer set up a repeat of the 2009 final by easing past Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4 6-2 7-5 without facing a single break-point.
Last year at the US Open, Rafael Nadal came a cropper at the fourth round stage to Lucas Pouille, but he is safely through to the last eight this time
The world.No.1 delivered his best display of the tournament so far as he dismissed Alexander Dolgopolov 6-2 6-4 6-1 to taste victory for a 50th time in New York.
The top seed was watertight from the baseline for the duration of the swift contest. He smacked 23 winners and committed a miserly 11 unforced-errors as his consistency proved to be too much for his out of sorts opponent.
Dolgopolov, who produced one of the finest performances of his career as he dismantled Viktor Troicki in the third round, showed fleeting glimpses of his shotmaking capabilities but he was unable to string anything meaningful together for a sustained period.
The Ukrainian made a total of 39 unforced-errors as he exited the final Grand Slam of the season with a whimper.
Nadal, into his seventh US Open quarter-final, did not drop serve once and he was encouraged by his display. “I played a solid match,” he remarked.
"I played without many mistakes and Dolgopolov, like I said before the match, can play amazing shots but at the same time he can be a little bit unpredictable. He combined amazing points with mistakes so I tried to be very focused on serve all the time and wait for my opportunities on the return.”
Standing between Nadal and a spot in the last four is Andrey Rublev. The Russian teenager defeated David Goffin 7-5 7-6(5) 6-3 to become the youngest player to reach the US Open quarter-finals since Andy Roddick in 2001.