Nadal beats Del Potro in five-set thriller – highlights & report
|Wimbledon 2018 on the BBC|
|Venue: All England Club, Wimbledon Dates: 2-15 July|
|Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button, Connected TVs and the BBC Sport website and app; Live Radio 5 live and 5 live sports extra commentary; Text commentary online.|
Rafael Nadal reached the Wimbledon semi-finals for the first time since 2011 with a five-set victory over Juan Martin del Potro on Centre Court.
The two-time champion won 7-5 6-7 (7-9) 4-6 6-4 6-4 hours after Roger Federer lost to Kevin Anderson.
Nadal was forced to come back from a set down before breaking in a thrilling fifth set to win in almost five hours.
The Spanish second seed will play 12-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals.
Nadal is bidding to win his third Wimbledon title and his second Grand Slam of the year, having secured the French Open in June.
And the 17-time Grand Slam champion is a strong favourite to win the tournament following Federer’s shock exit.
“Anything could happen, so this is a big achievement for me to get to the semi-finals at Wimbledon,” said Nadal.
“Now is the moment to enjoy but start to recover, it was a tough physical battle,” he added. “The opponent that is coming is one of the toughest. I am just excited to be in the semi-finals.”
Del Potro has only reached the Wimbledon semi-finals on one occasion – in 2013, when he lost to Djokovic in a record-breaking five-set thriller.
The fifth seed, who also lost to Nadal in the semi-finals of the French Open, bounced back from a set down to claim a closely-contested tie-break in the second.
Del Potro was on top for much of the third set before finally forcing a late break of serve to take the lead at two sets to one.
But Nadal broke midway through the fourth to put the pressure back on the former US Open champion and force a fifth set.
It was evenly balanced and full of drama until near the end – Nadal even jumped into the crowd at one point during a rally, and saved five break points in the final set.
But the Spaniard broke midway through the final set and held his nerve from there to set up his sixth Wimbledon semi-final – and a third meeting with Djokovic at SW19.
Dramatic fifth set sends it to the wire
Nadal went into the final set with much of the momentum after drawing level with a break midway through the fourth set.
And it was a routine love hold for each player in their opening two games of the fifth set.
But drama started to kick in shortly afterwards when Del Potro was taken to deuce four times in his next service game.
The Argentine kept his nerve and pushed Nadal to a deuce of his own in the following game before the Spaniard got the crucial break he needed to win the match.
But it was a nervous end to the set for Nadal as he saved five break points in his next two service games – the second game lasting over 12 minutes.
He thumped the air in delight after holding and went on to serve for the match minutes later – Del Potro sinking with exhaustion as Nadal roared with relief.
“I think it was great quality tennis,” said Nadal. “The final set there were some amazing points.”
“It had a little of everything, great points, great rallies, he was hitting crazy with his forehands. I tried to resist, maintaining focus.
“Sorry to Juan Martin, an amazing opponent and player. In some ways he deserves to go through too.”
‘One of the best sets ever’ – analysis
Former British number one Tim Henman on BBC Two
It was such a great effort from Del Potro. After losing the first set we thought he would be up against it but he did well to get on level terms and then get his nose in front.
It was Rafa’s resilience, his intensity to find a way to come out on top [that made the difference].
Three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray on BBC TV
It was a great match that got better and better. That fifth set is one of the best sets I have ever seen.
Both played at such a high level, huge hitting and we saw great touch too. It was a great match and I felt very lucky to have watched that.