Juan Martin del Potro saved two match points and came from two sets down to reach the U.S. Open quarterfinals.
NEW YORK – You'd think by now we'd learn not to count out Juan Martin del Potro.
After No. 6-seed Dominic Thiem fended off three straight break points to go up by a set and 5-2 in the second, a second quarterfinal run in as many years looked to be out of reach for the Argentine. The 28-year-old looked gassed, queasy and he had a fever. He would drop the set in short order.
Then, he dug. And dug. And dug some more.
In what was the match of the tournament so far, del Potro upset Thiem 1-6, 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (1), 6-4 in a marathon match that lasted three hours and 35 minutes and ignited the crowd on Grandstand on Monday evening.
It felt like Argentina on Grandstand. Cries of "Vamos, Delpo!" rang out among a capacity crowd that continued to sing “Olé, Olé, Olé! Delpo, Depo” throughout the match. The crowd was behind him, and he needed every bit of extra energy he could get.
With his back against the wall, del Potro inspired some hope, breaking Thiem to go up 2-0, and handily took the third 6-1 in a swift 31 minutes. He'd quickly lose those believers when he gave a break back in the fourth, and lost four straight games to fall behind 5-2 in the fourth set.
Then, he did something seemingly impossible. After fighting back to make it 5-4, del Potro cracked just his fifth and sixth aces of the night to save two match points and force a tiebreak. After that, the only thing that seemed impossible was del Potro leaving the court without a win.
With an assault of missile forehand winners, del Potro cruised through a fourth-set tiebreak. In the fifth and deciding set, del Potro broke Thiem at 5-4 and when the young Austrian double faulted on the second match point, del Potro sealed the victory, and a spot in the U.S. Open quarterfinals, against Roger Federer.