REUTERS – It was a case of down but definitely not out as a Rafael Nadal kept picking himself off a slippery and dusty Centre Court surface to storm into the Wimbledon semi-finals with a pulsating 7-5 6-7(7) 4-6 6-4 6-4 over Juan Martin del Potro.
Just 90 minutes after defending champion Roger Federer was sensationally knocked out by South African Kevin Anderson on Wednesday, it seemed as if the grasscourt major would lose its top two seeds as Argentine Del Potro took a two-sets-to-one lead.
It was not as if Nadal was playing badly as he had lost only nine points on serve before heading into the ninth game of the second set.
But just before that game started, Federer’s shock demise was flashed up on the giant on-court scoreboard and it was as if that threw the Spaniard off his stride and he fluffed his lines to drop his serve.
After Nadal squandered four set points in the third set tiebreak, with a double fault on one of them, Del Potro made him pay as he pounced on his first chance to raise the prospect of another astonishing upset on day nine of the championships.
But the second seed stayed alive by taking the fourth set before the gripping drama continued in an electrifying deciding set in which both players were left diving after volleys and slipping over as they chased after blinding winners.
Nadal ended the four hours and 48-minute thriller with a backhand volley winner past a lunging Del Potro who ended the contest lying flat on his stomach.