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Tuesday, 5 September 2017 09:34 AM BST
US Open Day 8: Del Potro sets up Federer quarter-final rounds up the action from Day 8 at the US Open. READ MORE

Del Potro’s impossible comeback

When American television chooses to stay with another match instead of locking in on Roger Federer, you know something big is going on. From inside Arthur Ashe Stadium, Federer could hear the noise from the neighbouring Grandstand Court, where Juan Martin del Potro was busy producing one of the most remarkable comebacks in US Open history. 

Two sets to love down to the No.6 seed Dominic Thiem, having gone into the match struggling with a virus, Del Potro wanted to quit. But the noise in Grandstand, where the blue and white striped Argentina shirts were clearly visible, kept him going, aided by a couple of pills administered by the doctor. Somehow, he won the third set but at 5-2 down in the fourth, he was down and out.

It was then that Del Potro, the singles champion in 2009 who has gone through three wrist surgeries to get to this point, dug deeper perhaps than ever before.

Thundering forehands into the corners so hard that the crowd yelped in awe, Del Potro saved two match points at 5-6, both with aces, and then ripped through the tiebreak, clinching the set with a crosscourt forehand reminiscent of his 2009 title run, when he beat Federer in the final.

In the final set, Thiem looked shell-shocked and Del Potro held his nerve to squeeze through to the last eight with a 1-6, 2-6, 6-1, 7-6(1), 6-4.

Darren Cahill, watching courtside for ESPN, described it as the best comeback as he has ever seen in his days as a player or commentator, in part because of how Del Potro was feeling in the 48 hours leading in. Del Potro also found it hard to explain.

“Oh my God, I don’t know (how I won),” he said on court after an atmosphere more akin to a football match or perhaps a Davis Cup tie in Argentina. As the exhaustion set in soon after, he said only the crowd stopped him from retiring during the match. 

I took all the energy from the fans

- Juan Martin del Potro

"I was thinking to retire in the middle of the second set because I couldn't breathe, I couldn't move well. Dominic was dominating the match so easy.

“But then when we start the third set, I broke his serve very quick and then I won the set in 20 minutes. Then the history changed a lot. I started to see the crowd. I took all the energy from the fans.

"That's what I did in the end, just keep fighting. I didn't give up any points from the third until the fifth set.”

2009 all over again

And so Del Potro will take on Federer again at the US Open, eight years after the final that gave him his only Grand Slam title. Federer was in cruise control in his 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 win over Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany, the only moment of concern coming when he left the court at the end of the second set for treatment.

“I just felt my muscle being tight at the back,” he said. “Sort of my quad, I guess. I don't know what you call it. It was more precaution. It's all good. No problems there. I'm not worried about it.”

Nadal moves through gears

World No.1 Rafael Nadal produced his best performance of the fortnight as he took apart Alexandr Dolgpolov of Ukraine 6-2, 6-4, 6-1 on a day when the increasing temperatures made him feel at home.

The Spaniard made only a handful of unforced errors and Dolgpolov was never in the hunt. Nadal will next play 19-year-old Andrey Rublev of Russia, who beat an ailing David Goffin 7-5, 7-6(5), 6-3. Rublev is the youngest man into the quarters since Andy Roddick in 2001.

Pliskova on song at last

After three scratchy performances, the world No.1 truly showed up as Karolina Pliskova hammered American Jennifer Brady 6-1, 6-0 in 47 minutes. The Czech looked like the pressure was finally off as she romped through to a meeting with Coco Vandeweghe, the American, who ousted another Czech, Lucie Safarova 6-4, 7-6(2).

Pliskova is now in a two-way battle for the No.1 spot after Elina Svitolina, who could have replaced her, was beaten 7-6(2), 1-6, 6-4 by another American, Madison Keys.

The 22-year-old came from 4-2 down in the final set and will now play unseeded Estonian Kaia Kanepi, who took out Daria Kasatkina 6-4, 6-4, the latest win in her comeback from injury. “The crowd helped me, especially when I was down in that third set,” said Keys, one of four American women in the quarter-finals.

Quote of the day

“I always wanted to be young. Even when I was 8 years old, I was not very happy when it was my birthday, to be 9. Still the same. I am 31, and I am not happy when my birthday going to be 32. I am happy being young.

"I don't want to get older. For the moment, I didn't find the way to stop that watch.” Rafael Nadal, asked what he liked about being 19.

Shot of the day

Del Potro’s forehand has long been a brutal weapon but none were struck as hard as this one, a point that won him the second set.

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