Juan Martin del Potro looked down and out in his fourth round match today against Dominic Thiem. Fighting an illness and an in-form No. 6 seed Dominic Thiem, a listless, ill and wilting del Potro quickly found himself behind two sets.
But somehow the Argentine picked himself up off the mat and started to climb his way back.
Thiem, who was in complete control, lost some form in the third as the crowd helped the 2009 champion back to life. But Thiem surged ahead 5-2 in the fourth, and twice was two points from the win. But nerves were setting in as the fans grew even more boisterous. After leveling, del Potro again found himself in trouble facing two match points serving 5-6, 15-40. Ace down the middle. Ace wide. And Thiem would never get that close again.
Del Potro took the game then rolled a disintegrating Thiem to force a decider.
Thiem finally found some footing in the fifth, but some shaky errors and then a final double fault in the 4-5 game sealed del Potro’s second career 0-2 comeback, 1-6, 2-6, 6-1, 7-6, 6-4 in 3 hours, 35 minutes.
“I play one of the epic match of my career here in the US Open, which is my favorite tournament, in front of a great crowd,” del Potro said. “I got exhausted after the last point of the match. That’s what I did with my hands, looking the sky. But I’m so glad to go through. I’m play a fantastic battle against one of the best players of the tour.
And deL Potro admitted, that if not for the crowd, he may have retired early in the match.
“I was thinking to retire in the middle of the second set because I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t move well. Dominic was dominating the match so easy,” he said.
“But then when we start the third set, I broke his serve very quick, and then I won the set in 20 minutes. Then the history change a lot. I starting to see the crowd. I took all the energy from the fans. That’s what I did in the end, just keep fighting. I don’t give ups any points from the third until the fifth set. I was ready to win the match in that moment.”
Thiem is now 0-3 against the Argentine who also beat him in the US Open fourth round last year when Thiem retired with a knee injury.
“I knew that it’s not going to go all the way like this because if he felt really bad, he would have retired for sure,” Thiem said. “So I knew I had to be there all the way.
“I wasn’t really affected by the easy first two sets. I knew that I have to maintain my level. Of course, the third set was bad. I mean, I played some really bad minutes. It was a great match I think, set four and set five. Obviously for the better end for him.”
In the quarters, the Argentine moves on to face Roger Federer Wednesday in a rematch of their 2009 US Open final. Federer ran his mark to 12-0 against Philipp Kohlschreiber with a routine 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 win.
Federer was all but untouched in the match, firing 11 aces with 39 winners. But the Swiss did leave the court after the second set to get a “rub on his bottom” for his back from the medical staff. Federer didn’t miss a beat upon return.
“I just felt something, sort of my muscle being tight at the back,” Federer said of the time out. “Sort of my quad, I guess. I don’t know what you call it. I just wanted to get it done really quickly after the set break. I said, Look, you know what, I need to go anyway off court for it. Normally you have to ask. They would have said anyway yes. I just ran straight to the physio. I was done in three minutes and back again.
“I just didn’t want Philipp to wait. It was more precaution. It’s all good. No problems there. I’m not worried about it. I’m sorry I had to do it.”
He stands 16-5 against the big Argentine.
“I’m really happy for him,” he said of Del Potro. “It’s a good match to look forward to. Reminds me clearly of the 2009 finals that we had, which was an epic, too. I hope we can produce another good one.”
But ahead for Federer could also be Rafael Nadal. The World No. 1 played his best match of the tournament crushing Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-2, 6-4, 6-1 to reach his 7th US open quarterfinal, first since he won the title in 2013.
“I think I played a solid match, not many mistakes,” said Nadal after his 50th US Open match win. “I feel that compared to other days, I feel more calm on court. Is true that I was able to have the break earlier, but really I felt more comfortable from the beginning.
“The most important thing is [the amount of] times I had the control of the time of the point. Not many balls surprised me. I didn’t hit a lot of balls earlier than what I thought or later than what I thought, something that happened in the first couple of days. That’s very good news. Because when that happens it is, of course, a step forward for me and today another one. So I’m playing a little bit better every day.
On Wednesday, Nadal will meet 19-year-old Andrey Rublev after the Russian dismissed an ailing David Goffin 7-5, 7-6(5), 6-3. A year ago Rublev lost in the first round of the US Open qualifying, now he’s into the final eight.
“Last year I changed all the team completely,” Rublev said of the changes he’s made from 2016. “I moved to Barcelona to practice with a new coach and new physio, a new fitness coach, all the new team. This is it.”
Rublev becomes the first of the “NextGen” players to make a Grand Slam quarterfinal, and the first teen to do it at the US Open since Andy Roddick in 2001.
In addition to Goffin, who was hampered by a left knee injury, Rublev also beat Grigor Dimitrov. And next is a meeting with his idol Nadal.
“I’m just going to try to enjoy, and that’s it,” Rublev said of facing Rafa. “This is going to be good challenge for me to see how far I am from top players, and how much more I need to work.”
On Tuesday, the quarterfinals commence with Pablo Carreno Busta meeting Argentine Diego Schwartzman. Both are playing in their first US Open fourth round.
In the night match, Sam Querrey tries to keep his run going against the big-serving Kevin Anderson.
None of the four have ever made a US Open semifinal, and only Querrey has been to a Slam semifinal.
TUESDAY US OPEN SCHEDULE
ARTHUR ASHE STADIUM 12:00 PM
Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP)  vs. Diego Schwartzman (ARG) 
Sloane Stephens (USA) vs. Anastasija Sevastova (LAT) 
Venus Williams (USA)  vs. Petra Kvitova (CZE) 
Sam Querrey (USA)  vs. Kevin Anderson (RSA) 
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