When Juan Martin Del Potro fell to the court in agony in the opening game, no one could have predicted that more than two hours later the Argentine would be falling to the grass once more in celebration, including the man himself.
Hyperextending his left knee, Del Potro looked a broken man and was “really close” to retiring. It is just as well he did not. What followed was a remarkable display of ball-striking and aggression as Del Potro beat the No.4 seed David Ferrer 6-2, 6-4, 7-6(5) to book a place in the Wimbledon semi-finals for the first time.
Del Potro, the No.8 seed, had already hurt his knee in a bad fall against Grega Zemlja in the third round and had it heavily taped as he took to Centre Court. With two break points on Ferrer’s serve at 15-40, Del Potro took a nasty-looking fall, for which he required lengthy treatment.
Overcoming the dogged and ever consistent Ferrer after such a fall looked beyond him at this point. But we should all know by now that the script is not quite being followed in this year’s Championships.
Del Potro has never been shy to smack his forehand but knowing that his movement would be restricted by the pain in his knee, he revved up his strokes even more in an effort to keep the points shorter. It worked.
After storming his way to the first two sets, the third set was a tighter affair and went to a tie-break, in which the last two points were as good as it gets. Del Potro hit a stunning cross-court running forehand to set up match point at 6-5 and then prevailed in quite possibly the finest match point of the Championships, hitting a stunning forehand down the line after a lengthy rally.
Del Potro collapsed to the ground, in both elation and relief. “I was worried because it was the same movements like four days ago,” he said. “The doctor says they can't do any more with my knee. I had the tape, a very tight tape, and that helped me to move a little bit, but nothing more.
“I didn’t want to retire in the quarters for the first time at Wimbledon against Ferrer. And that's the reason for continuing play. The doctors give me good anti-inflammatories. I survived my serve in the beginning of the match. I broke his serve early, and that give me confidence to take advantage in the beginning of the match.
“Then I played [with] confidence, was careful all the time with my movements. But in the end I did 100% and I'm so glad to go through.”
The straight-sets win means that Del Potro is into the semi-finals without losing a set during the tournament, and has not dropped serve in his last three matches.
He will need to keep that form up if he is to have a chance against world No.1 Novak Djokovic, who has also won all of his matches in straights. Although the Serb may be the clear favourite, Del Potro beat him for the bronze medal at the London 2012 Olympics here at the All England Club and also won their most recent encounter in Indian Wells in March.
“I will need to be 100% or 110% against him,” said Del Potro. “He's the No.1. He's a former champion here. It's going to be a more difficult match for me like today. But if I'm okay, if I do everything good to be ready for my next match, I will be excited to play against him.
“I remember the match during the Olympics last year on the same surface. But this time the pressure is different, I know. But I will try to be ready and do my best.”
20:24...But boy, it was a barrow-load of fun. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did. Thank you for all your messages throughout, you've been the glue holding us together as the edges frayed amid the madness. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for us Brits to raise a toast to Andy Murray and Fred Perry. British sporting legends both.
20:19It was the wackiest of Wimbledons with the most unlikely of headline-makers: Sergiy Stakhovsky, Steve Darcis, Michelle Larcher de Brito, Kimiko-Date Krumm, Jerzy Janowicz, Sabine Lisicki, Marion Bartoli...View all