NEW YORK • Juan Martin del Potro pulled off one of tennis' most remarkable comebacks on Monday to reach the quarter-finals of the US Open.
The 2009 champion has been struggling with illness and won only three games in the opening two sets against sixth seed Dominic Thiem. It seemed doubtful whether the Argentinian would even be able to complete the match but he did much more than that.
The 22nd seed raced through the third set, saved two match points with aces in the fourth and then clinched the fifth to win 1-6, 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7-1), 6-4.
At his moment of victory, after HawkEye showed that Thiem had served a double fault, del Potro stood with head back and arms aloft as his legions of supporters on the Grandstand court roared.
On-court interviewer Pam Shriver had to wait for the "Ole" chants to die down before posing the question of just how he was able to win the match.
"Oh my God," said del Potro. "I don't know what can I say after this big battle. I was sick the last two days... when I saw all of this crowd cheering for me, my illness cleared up. I was trying to feel better every game. I fight like this because of you guys."
DEL POTRO’S WRIST INJURY LAY-OFFS
Played: three tournaments
Out: nine months
Played: four tournaments
Out: nine months
Played: two tournaments
Out: Most of season
Played: 12 tournaments, including February’s Delray Beach Open, his first since surgery in June 2015.
The 28-year-old must now try to recover for a quarter-final meeting with Roger Federer, whom he beat to win his only Grand Slam title eight years ago before his career was almost torpedoed by a succession of wrist surgeries.
The Swiss beat Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 later on Monday, taking his record over the German veteran to 12-0.
"I would like to have the trophy after these five matches," said del Potro with a smile. "I'm so happy to go through after playing this great match. I enjoyed it a lot. I think it's enough for me but maybe I have the chance to play Roger again, which is special for me, and I would like to play my best tennis."
Federer has a 16-5 advantage over del Potro but they have split their last six meetings.
The 36-year-old Swiss did not face a break point against Kohlschreiber, while his biggest challenge was having to take a medical time-out away from the court at the end of the second set.
"I needed a rub on my back... or bottom and I didn't want to do it in front of you guys," he explained before he turned his attention to del Potro. "It's great to see him back on Tour. He's had a rough ride with wrist problems. He's a good guy."
World No. 1 and 2010 and 2013 champion Rafael Nadal, who could possibly meet arch-rival Federer for the first time in New York in the semi-finals, crushed Ukraine's Alexander Dolgopolov 6-2, 6-4, 6-1.
The 31-year-old Spaniard will face Russian 19-year-old Andrey Rublev, who stunned Belgian ninth seed David Goffin 7-5, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 to become the youngest quarter-finalist since Andy Roddick in 2001.
"I played a solid match with not many mistakes," said Nadal, the reigning French Open champion.
Rublev, ranked 53rd, has won 13 of his last 17 matches after breaking into the top 100 for the first time in June.
"Rafa is a real champion. I will try to do my best - I have nothing to lose," he said.
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
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