Del Potro Downs Simon, Sets Nadal QF Clash
With one spot in the quarter-final line-up remaining, Juan Martin del Potro and Gilles Simon returned to No. 2 Court on Tuesday with both men aiming to reach the last eight at Wimbledon for the second time.
Del Potro, who led Simon by two sets to one before play was suspended on Monday night, needed 70 minutes on Tuesday to advance at The All England Club, recovering from a break down in the fourth set to clinch a 7-6(1), 7-6(5), 5-7, 7-6(5) victory. The fifth seed fired 78 winners, including 27 aces, to become the third Argentine (also Guillermo Vilas and David Nalbandian) to reach the quarter-finals of each Grand Slam on multiple occasions.
"[Reaching the quarter-finals] is a good signal for myself," said Del Potro. "I'm having a good season already. I'm very proud to be in the last eight players of this tournament. Everybody wants to be there."
The BNP Paribas Open champion, who recently matched his career-high ATP Ranking of No. 4, is projected to rise to a career-best No. 3 on 16 July if he reaches the final four. Del Potro also reached the semi-finals at SW19 in 2013, falling in five sets to Novak Djokovic in the longest Wimbledon semi-final in history. Del Potro's four-hour, 24-minute victory over Simon also marks the longest match of the tournament.
The 29-year-old appeared to be heading towards a straight-sets victory on Monday, after he recovered from a 1-4 deficit to 4-4 in the third set with aggression on his forehand side. But, despite a third consecutive tie-break looking inevitable, Simon broke serve to send the match to a fourth set. The Frenchman converted a set point when Del Potro misjudged Simon's return of serve, which landed right on the chalk.
After a slow start to play upon the resumption, Del Potro found himself trailing by a break at 1-3. But the Agrentine immediately responded, breaking serve after forcing Simon into a forehand error, in a marathon fifth game, to reset the balance. Both men struggled to find their best form throughout the set, but Del Potro earned a potentially crucial break of serve in the ninth game as Simon fired wide on his backhand side.
A nervy tenth game followed, with neither player able to capitalise on their opportunities. The No. 5 seed watched as four match points passed him by, and despite saving one break point with a perfectly timed forehand up the line, the Argentine was unable to deny Simon on his fourth break point. The Frenchman gambled on his return, in the 18th point of the game, finding the baseline with aggression to level the score.
Once again, a tie-break was needed to decide the outcome of the set and Del Potro, as was the case on Monday, rose to the occasion. The 2013 semi-finalist recovered from a mini-break down at 1/3 before winning three consecutive points at 4/5 with steady play on his forehand and solid serving.
"After three sets, three hours of the match, you get frustration," admitted Del Potro. "But then we came back today and I played another tie-break. I was lucky that he made mistakes in important moments of the match. I think that was the key."
Simon was bidding to return to the quarter-finals at SW19 after a last-eight run in 2015. Only six Frenchmen have reached multiple Wimbledon quarter-finals in the Open Era.
"I had a couple of great results this season, so I feel competitive again," said Simon. "The problem is I still have the same problem [that I had] before. I need to believe a bit more that I will win [these] matches. It's too often that I lose to a player like him, even if he's super good. I always feel I have a chance... I have to believe a bit more in myself."
Del Potro improves to 5-3 over Simon in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, and has now triumphed in each of their four grass-court encounters. The Tower of Tandil will meet World No. 1 Rafael Nadal for a spot in the semi-finals on Wednesday. The Spaniard leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 10-5, which includes their past two encounters in the final four at Roland Garros in June and the 2017 US Open.
"It will be a different match [from the one] that we played in Paris a few weeks ago," said Del Potro. "I will try to hold my service games most of the time. If I want to beat [Nadal], I have to come to the net very often and play hard with my forehands, with my backhands, and try to take all the chances."
Did You Know?
Only Dominic Thiem (36), Alexander Zverev (36) and Rafael Nadal (34) have won more matches in 2018 than Juan Martin Del Potro. The BNP Paribas Open champion has reached the quarter-finals or better at six of his 10 tour-level events this season.