Juan Martin del Potro shrugged off sickness to save two match points and defeat Dominic Thiem in a five-set US Open epic on Monday to book a quarter-final showdown with five-time champion Roger Federer.
Argentina 24th seed Del Potro claimed a heroic 1-6, 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7/1), 6-4 victory over the sixth-seeded Austrian on a rocking Grandstand court, describing it as night he would remember forever.
Del Potro famously defeated Federer in the 2009 final for his only career Grand Slam title before his career was almost torpedoed by a succession of wrist surgeries.
Federer, the third seed, eased into the last-eight with a 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 win over Philipp Kohlschreiber, taking his record over the German veteran to 12-0.
Elsewhere, top seed Rafael Nadal claimed his 50th win at the US Open and will meet Russian teenager Andrey Rublev.
In the women’s event, world number one Karolina Pliskova set-up a quarter-final date against America’s CoCo Vandeweghe.
Estonia’s world number 418 Kaia Kanepi also reached the quarter-finals, just the second qualifier to make the last eight.
But the day belonged to Del Potro, who celebrated his win, which came off a Thiem double fault, by stretching out his arms, head facing the night sky, as his legion of fans, many dressed in the light blue colors of Argentina’s famed football and Pumas rugby teams, celebrated wildly.
“Oh my God,” said Del Potro, who had been 2-5 down in the fourth set.
“I was sick the last two days. I came here trying to play the best I can and then when I see this crowd cheering for me, I was trying to play better every game. I will always remember this.”
FEDERER’S ‘BUM’ NOTE
Federer has a 16-5 advantage over Del Potro but they have split their last six meetings.
The 36-year-old Swiss maestro didn’t face a break point against Kohlschreiber with his biggest challenge having to take a medical time-out off 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 attentions 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 number one and 2010 and 2013 champion Nadal, who could meet 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 goes on to face Russian 19-year-old 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 53, has won 13 of his last 17 matches after breaking 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,” said Rublev.
Meanwhile, the 32-year-old Kanepi, a former world number 15 whose career was almost ended by illness and a crippling injury, downed Russia’s Daria Kasatkina 6-4, 6-4.
She will next face Madison Keys of the United States, who put out fourth seed Elina Svitolina 7-6 (7/2), 1-6, 6-4, ending the Ukrainian’s hopes of taking the world number one spot.
It will be Kanepi’s sixth quarter-final at the majors and second in New York after also reaching the last eight in 2010.
“It’s very tough to believe where I am now after all that has happened. I didn’t expect it,” said Kanepi, who is playing in the main draw of an event for the first time this year.
Top seed Pliskova, the runner-up in 2016, needed just 46 minutes to sweep past American Jennifer Brady 6-1, 6-0 and make her third Slam quarter-final of the year.
She will next face American 20th seed CoCo Vandeweghe, who made the last eight for the first time by beating Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 7-6 (7/2).
Provided by AFP
The 19-year-old defeated Belgian ninth seed David Goffin 7-5, 7-5, 6-3 to become the youngest player in the last-eight since Andy Roddick in 2001.
“Rafa is a real champion. I will try to do my best – I have nothing to lose,” said the world number 53.
Petra Kvitova established herself as a contender for what would be the most remarkable of titles after defeating Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza in the fourth round of the US Open.
It was the most significant match since Kvitova’s comeback from the horrendous hand injuries she suffered when she was stabbed by an intruder at her home last December.
And the Czech reminded everyone just what an unstoppable force she is in full flow with a stunning 7-6 (7/3) 6-3 victory over the clear title favourite.
Kvitova admitted to nerves in the final game, where she had to save three break points, roaring herself to victory.
“It was the kind of moment that I dream of to come and play again on the big stages against great players on the tour,” she said. “That was one of the motivations to be back.
“So probably in my mind was just there, thinking about it. I didn’t really play these kind of great players so far in the season when I came back. It was something really special for me.
“I knew how everything was just so tight and very close, every game that we played in the end of the match. I just knew it would be about a few points.”
This is only the second time Kvitova has made the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows and she has never been further.
The 27-year-old, who next faces Venus Williams, insisted she will continue to play with no expectations but also without being surprised by what she can still produce.
She said: “I’m not thinking like that any more. I think maybe it’s a bad sign sometimes, that I should be more appreciating than I am probably.
“But sometimes I just really feel that the touch is there, the strength, the aggressive kind of game plan. It took me while to find it. Luckily I found it in a grand slam.
“The women’s race is still very, very open. Of course, Garbine was one of the favourites to win the title and be number one. I’m sorry, I’m not sorry I beat her. I’m still happy that I’m in the tournament. But anyone from the draw can win the title here.”
Muguruza was so confident, so assured after her brilliant summer and looked to have too much consistency for Kvitova when she eased into a 4-1 lead.
The turning point came in the next game. Muguruza had chances to go 5-1, could not take them, and slowly Kvitova began to turn the screw.
A missed volley and double fault cost Muguruza the tie-break and she could not turn the momentum back in her favour.
The 23-year-old could yet finish the tournament as world number one, with Elina Svitolina needing to reach the semi-finals or Karolina Pliskova the final to deny her.
And, whatever happens, Muguruza will leave New York in a positive frame of mind, saying: “I’m very happy with the tournament.
“Even though today didn’t go my way, I didn’t feel I did something wrong out there. I think she played very good. We all know she can play, finding the incredible shots and serve.
“Overall it’s a very good tournament for me. Not only a tournament, but the summer in general. I feel very happy. This match is just a match, but I’m happy with all the period that I’ve been playing.”
Muguruza buckled under the weight of expectation after winning her first grand slam title in Paris last summer but is embracing the pressure this time.
“I like it,” she said. “If people think I could be a good competitor there and go far, that’s fine. Of course, I feel these butterflies and things like this. But I go out there, I do my best, and that’s all.”
At the age of 37, Williams is having her most consistent season at grand slam level for 15 years.
After reaching the final of both the Australian Open and Wimbledon and the fourth round of the French Open, she made it an unhappy birthday for Carla Suarez Navarro with a 6-3 3-6 6-1 victory.
Williams has not won a grand slam title since 2008, while the second of her two US Open crowns came way back in 2001.
The American, like everyone in tennis, was shocked by Kvitova’s ordeal and has been inspired by her comeback.
“What she’s gone through is unimaginable, unreasonable,” said Williams.
“The world we live in is just shocking. So for her to be playing well is such a blessing. To be able to come out here and do what she needs to do, to clear her head, it’s such a beautiful thing to see.”