Juan Martín del Potro pulled off one of tennis’s most remarkable comebacks to reach the quarter-finals of the US Open by coming back from two sets down and saved two match points to beat sixth seed Dominic Thiem.
The 24th seed, cheered on by a large Argentine contingent on the Grandstand court, won 1-6 2-6 6-1 7-6 (7-1) 6-4.
Despite feeling ill and requiring treatment, he came through in three hours and 35 minutes to set up a quarter-final against Roger Federer.
“I played one of the epic matches of my career here at the US Open, which is my favourite tournament, in front of a great crowd,” the Argentine said.
“I was thinking to retire in the middle of second set because I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t move well, and Dominic was dominating the match so easy.”
The 28-year-old was broken in the first game and seemed to be struggling with his eyesight.
Having lost the first set in 36 minutes, and after receiving medical treatment, the former champion trailed 6-1 3-0 and finally hit his first winner in the 12th game, but then wasted three break point opportunities.
“I would like to have the trophy after these five matches,” said Del Potro with a smile. “I’m so happy to go through after playing this great match. I enjoyed it a lot. I think it’s enough for me but maybe I have the chance to play Roger again, which is special for me, and I would like to play my best tennis.”
Del Potro looked exhausted at the start of the match and called for the doctor, who gave him some pills. They finally seemed to kick in for the third set, when Del Potro found his heavyweight punch of a forehand and began to land some blows on Thiem.
The Argentinian broke early in the fourth set but back came Thiem and, when he led 30-0 serving for the match at 5-3, the comeback seemed over. But Del Potro threaded a backhand pass down the line to give himself hope and with that Thiem blew his chance, hitting two wild errors and a double fault.
It was tough on the young Austrian, who must have felt as if he was playing an away Davis Cup tie, but he dug in and had two match points at 6-5 only for Del Potro to send down aces. The 28-year-old ran with his momentum in the tie-break, ending it with a forehand cross-court bullet that took the breath away.
Del Potro looked like he might have missed his chance when Thiem bravely saved three break points at 3-3 but, serving to stay in the match, his resistance ran out. It was a story of two HawkEye challenges; the one Thiem was unable to make because he had run out on the penultimate point when a forehand was called wide, and the one Del Potro successfully made on Thiem’s second serve.