Rafael Nadal edges del Potro to set Novak Djokovic clash — ATP Wimbledon

Milos Raonic

Milos Raonic

Nadal was 2-1 down after three sets, but rallied to force a decider, before closing out a 7-5, 6-7 (7), 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 win. The light was fading at the end of day nine, but not in Spanish eyes.

Nadal had not lost a set prior to his first quarterfinal at the All England Club since 2011, but was taken the distance in an epic encounter between two warriors of the game. And how they will both relish their 52nd meeting.

Every single set was hard-earned, with Nadal taking the first 7-5 before Del Potro evened things up on a tiebreak in the second. I wanted to stay there for all night long. Ten minutes after serving for the set, he held in the 12th game to keep it alive. The Spaniard raised his level in set number four, losing just six points on serve and breaking Juan Martin at love in game five to gain the crucial lead, creating two set points on the return at 5-3.

Nadal soon returned the favour with a break of his own, before another hold left Del Potro rattled. It was so hard to stop him. Del Potro, however, opening his shoulders with his feared forehand and blasting a victor that left Nadal gasping on the baseline - and a set down just short of three hours.

Del Potro too noted the change in conditions but appeared to relish the chance to slide around a bit more on the grass. The result was far from certain.

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"Against Rafa", del Potro said, "you must go for winners all the time". The shoes didn't do it. He went 4-3 in front, before closing out the set to increase the pressure on Nadal.

Del Potro finished with 77 winners to Nadal's 67 but failed to convert any of his five break points in the fifth set. There could be no argument with that.

That blip was enough for Nadal, chasing an 18th Grand Slam title, to surrender his first set of the championships.

Isner's 41 attempts to make a semifinal at a major is the second most in the 50-year professional era, behind Sam Querrey, who made the last four at Wimbledon last year with his 42nd try.

The 33-year-old Simon saved a fourth match point when he threw the kitchen sink at a forehand return and the world number 53 eventually took his fourth break point to level at 5-5.

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