On a night when Wimbledon was competing with England's World Cup semi-final for television air time, they couldn't have asked for a better sporting encounter as Nadal eventually won through to set up a semi-final meeting with Novak Djokovic on Friday.
"I didn't want to finish the match like that", said Del Potro, who hit 77 winners.
The fifth seed lost to Nadal in the Paris semi-finals last month, however. He picked himself up and dusted himself down to play on for another eight games, but it was a different story an hour later when there was nothing left to fight for.
"He deserved to win today". "I play Los Cabos in Mexico, the beach (smiling)", he said.
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The world number one then wasted four set points in the second.
"That double fault was a big mistake".
Del Potro took advantage of a loose game from Nadal to serve for the set in the second only for the Spaniard to break back, and he looked sure to move two sets ahead when he opened up his big lead in the tie-break.
Great match, an emotional match for both of us and for the fans, too. Del Potro let two break-back points slip in the sixth game and, although his cause looked doomed, he forced Nadal to save three times for 5-3. Only negative thing is I played nearly five hours, and I had the chance maybe to play less winning that second set. "I felt like I did some good business here in the past already". But maybe after tomorrow when I get home and I watch the match, I will be glad.
Roger Federer vowed to return to Wimbledon next year after a shock quarter-final defeat to Kevin Anderson denied him the chance of a ninth title.
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Nadal has 17 while Djokovic has stalled on 12 since completing the career Grand Slam at Roland Garros in 2016.
"Sorry to Juan Martin, he's an unbelievable opponent and player".
"Of course I was anxious when I lost the second set", said Nadal, who had reached the quarter-finals without dropping a set and might have continued that run had he not squandered four set points, including one with a double fault, in the tiebreak. World number 52 Giorgi dropped serve to love early in the decider but hung in gamely to at least make Williams serve to reach her 35th Grand Slam semi-final and 11th at Wimbledon.
"In the last set there was a little of everything, great points, great rallies, he was hitting insane with his forehands". I tried to resist, maintaining focus.
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