Rafael Nadal survives five-set Wimbledon epic against Juan Martin del Potro: Nadal to face Djokovic in mouth-watering semi-final

Leye Aduloju in Wimbledon 11 Jul 2018
  • Rafael Nadal moved into his sixth Wimbledon semi-final after coming through a five-set epic against Juan Martin del Potro
  • Nadal to face Novak Djokovic in Friday's semi-finals
  • Watch and bet on tennis live from Wimbledon at bet365 > live streaming > tennis (geo restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify)
Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro battled for almost five hours in their Wimbledon quarter final. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Rafael Nadal set up a Wimbledon semi-final showdown with Novak Djokovic after taking down Juan Martin del Potro in a five-set epic on Wednesday. 

Nadal fought back from a two-sets-to-one deficit to battle past del Potro, moving into the semi-finals for the first time since 2011, and the sixth time in his career. The 17-time Grand Slam champion had struggled at the All England Club in recent years, failing to go past the fourth round between 2012 and 2017, but the 31-year-old has enjoyed a renaissance in 2018, and with tournament favourite, Roger Federer now out of the tournament, his chances of claiming a third Wimbledon crown have been greatly improved, although a formidable obstacle, in the form of the rapidly improving three-time champion, Novak Djokovic still lurks in the semi-finals.

Nadal had progressed into the quarter finals without dropping a set, easing past Dudi Sela, Mikhail Kukushkin, Alex di Minaur and Jiri Vesely, but a last eight clash with the equally in-form Juan Martin del Potro represented a big step up from whatever Nadal had faced in the previous rounds, and was always going to be exceedingly difficult for the Spaniard- and so it proved.

When Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro step on spectacular winners are a given, and there were a multitude of them on Wednesday- del Potro fired 77 and Nadal 67- but what will define their sixteenth meeting was the heart and desire shown by both men, who put their bodies on the line for most of the four-hour 52-minute contest.

At one points, Nadal chased a ball so hard that he ended up in the arms of the crowd, while the usually frail del Potro threw caution to the wind and dived full-length around the net to retrieve lost courses. 

It was a match that neither man deserved to lose- and the post-match reactions were telling, as Nadal hopped around the net to help the vanquished del Potro up onto his feet. Nadal had just a little bit more than del Potro in the end, as the world number one emerged with a 7-5 6-7 4-6 6-4 6-4 victory. 

"I am very happy the way that I survived a lot of important points in that fifth set," said Nadal. "I think I did a lot of things well. I went to the net. In general terms, [it has] been a positive match. Only negative thing is I played almost five hours, and I had the chance maybe to play less winning that second set".   
"For the rest of the things, great news, semi-finals of Wimbledon again. Great match, emotional match for both of us and for the fans, too. Great feelings."

Nadal was the slightly more probing of the two during the early exchanges, and it was the Spaniard who carved out the first break points of the match in the eighth game. Del Potro served his way out of trouble but Nadal would eventually have his way. Nadal had del Potro under more pressure in the twelfth game, with the Argentine serving to stay in the set, and after missing a first set point via a wayward forehand, the Spaniard took the set when del Potro could only find the net on Nadal’s second set point.

While there wasn’t much to separate both players, Nadal appeared to be in control, but the Spaniard lost threw in an error-strewn game at 4-4 to drop his serve, gifting del Potro the chance to serve out the set. The Tower of Tandil faltered, as Nadal broke right back via a trademark forehand down-the-line. Nadal appeared to have regain the momentum at this point, but he then allowed del Potro back in again when he blew three set points in the second set tie break, the third via a double fault. Del Potro seized the opening, took the tie break to even at one-set all.

Both men held fairly comfortably for most of the third set, until del Potro manufactured a 0-40 lead almost out of nowhere as Nadal served to stay in the set at 4-5, and the Argentine needed just one bite at the cherry, scorching a forehand down the line to put himself one set away from the semi-final.

Nadal wasn’t one to panic- he had been in many a battle like this- and he dug in and earned the only break of the fourth set at 2-2, as del Potro’s forehand went amiss. After missing two set points on del Potro’s serve at 3-5, the great Spaniard rifled a backhand crosscourt winner on his fourth set point to send a high-quality contest into a deciding set, and what a final set it was!
Nadal got what turned out to be the decisive break of the set in the fifth game benefitting from a couple of drop shots, but del Potro, to his immense credit, Del Potro left it all out there in his search for parity. The forceful Argentine had two break points at 3-2 and another three at 4-3 as he ratcheted up the pressure on Nadal, but the world number one held firm to score his eleventh win in 16 attempts against del Potro.

"I think I played really good tennis today, but Rafa is Rafa, you know," del Potro said. "Sometimes you play your best tennis and it's not enough to beat him. But I'm glad with my tournament. Physically I'm okay. That gives me confidence to keep going in the future."

Excellent news from del Potro, who will certainly have more significant contributions to the season, but Nadal obviously isn’t finished for the week yet as he advances to another potential epic against Novak Djokovic, who he meets in a hugely-anticipated semi-final on Friday.

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Rafael Nadal survives five-set Wimbledon epic against Juan Martin del Potro: Nadal to face Djokovic in mouth-watering semi-final

Rafael Nadal survived a stern examination from Juan Martin del Potro to reach his sixth Wimbledon semi-final. He will face Novak Djokovic on Friday.

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