Popular Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro admitted he came close to retiring before battling back from two sets down and saving match points against Dominic Thiem at the US Open.
Del Potro, who won the title at Flushing Meadows in 2009, appeared down and out after winning just three games in the opening two sets, and later revealed he had been struggling with a virus ahead of the fourth round clash.
Yet, roared on by a raucous Argentine contingent on the Grandstand Court, the ‘tower from Tandil’ fought back to record an unlikely 1-6 2-6 6-1 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 victory and set up a mouthwatering quarter-final clash with Roger Federer.
"It was an unbelievable atmosphere"
"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,” said Del Potro after the match.
“I saw the crowd waiting for more tennis and waiting for my good forehand and good serve. I used that energy to change in a good way. It was an unbelievable atmosphere.”
The crowd was certainly reminiscent of a Davis Cup throng, as the chants of “Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole Delpo, Delpo” rung around the 8,000 seater stadium.
Del Potro not himself early on
Del Potro, 28, was visibly hindered at the start of the match and seemed to be struggling with dizziness.
The Argentine’s potent forehand was all over the place in the early stages, and Thiem, the sixth seed, took full advantage with a couple of dazzling winners from the baseline.
However, after racing through the first two sets in an hour and 13 minutes, the Austrian’s groundstrokes began to misfire, opening the door for a Del Potro comeback.
Thiem responded admirably after losing the third set, though, and had a 30-0 lead when serving for the match at 5-3.
He would have earned triple match point if Del Potro hadn’t produced an unlikely backhand pass on the run, which drew an eruption of noise from the partisan crowd.
Theim then coughed up a couple of forehand errors and a double fault to throw his opponent a lifeline.
Match points come and go for Thiem
Still, the Austrian had two match points in the following game at 15-40, but Del Potro held on with two thundering serves - both of which were aces.
More erratic play from Thiem allowed Del Potro to power through the tie break and level the match a set apiece.
By that stage, the Argentine's forehand was at its devastating best and fifth set turned into a classic.
Theim played his part, repelling Del Potro’s immense power with some phenomenal defensive play.
With Del Potro serving first in the decider, there were no breaks until the decisive game at 5-4.
Theim saved one match point when the Argentinian smacked a forehand into the net.
However when a second arrose moments later, Thiem double faulted, sealing a memorable victory for Del Potro.
Federer through after medical timeout
Del Potro will now meet Federer in the last eight - a rematch of the 2009 final when the Argentine won his only Grand Slam to date.
The Swiss swept aside German Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4 6-2 7-5 in the night session on the Arthur Ashe Stadium, though he did leave the court at the end of the second set to recieve a medical timeout.
Federer later said: "I just felt something, sort of my muscle being tight at the back. Sort of my quad, I guess.
"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."