By Martyn Herman
LONDON, July 10 : Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro earned himself a chance to set the record straight against Rafael Nadal after sealing a place in the Wimbledon quarter-finals on Tuesday.
He completed a 7-6(1) 7-6(5) 5-7 7-6(5) win over Frenchman Gilles Simon after fading light interrupted their last-16 clash the previous evening with the fifth seed up two sets to one.
Del Potro was in danger of being dragged into a fifth set when he squandered four match points, one with a double-fault, at 5-4 having hit back from 1-3 down.
He eventually finished off world number 53 Simon in the match’s third tiebreak to move into his second Wimbledon quarter-final where twice champion Nadal is waiting.
Del Potro was thrashed by the Spaniard in the French Open semi-final last month but feels his game matches up better against the world number one on grass despite losing their only two meetings on the surface.
“It will be a different match that we played in Paris a few weeks ago,” Del Potro told reporters.
“I will try to hold my service games most of the time. If I want to beat him, I have to come to the net very often and play hard with my forehands, with my backhands.” Del Potro trails Nadal 10-5 in head-to-head meetings — his five wins all coming on hardcourts.
With the Wimbledon lawns baked and playing more bouncy than usual after a long spell of hot weather in London, it could be the 29-year-old’s best chance to stop Nadal’s impressive run.
Del Potro will have to be firing on all cylinders though — something he was clearly not doing against Simon in cooler conditions on Tuesday as he made a meal of the fourth set.
He looked flat as he was broken to trail 1-3 but he clawed his way back to lead 5-4 with his serve to come.
He led 40-15 but both match points went begging. Simon failed to convert a break point, then a third match point for Del Potro ended with him netting a forehand.
Simon saved a fourth match point when he threw the kitchen sink at a forehand return and he eventually took his fourth break point to level at 5-5.
The next two games went with serve and the match was well into its fifth hour when the tiebreak began.
Del Potro trailed 1-3 but at 5-5 he fired down an ace to reach match point number five and this time Simon cracked, netting a backhand to the relief of the Argentine who roared his approval, happy to conserve energy before taking on Nadal.
“I think I will be in good condition. My body feels okay. It’s a big chance for me to face Rafa tomorrow.”