Juan Martin del Potro had “magic pills” to thank as he reached the Wimbledon semi-finals for the first time to set up a clash with world No.1 Novak Djokovic.
The Argentinian eighth seed suffered a nasty fall in the opening game of his match with fellow wounded warrior David Ferrer, but recovered to post a 6-2 6-4 7-6 victory on Centre Court.
Del Potro admitted he was “really close” to having to pull out of the match, but his bravery paid off.
“I think it’s going to be dangerous if I’m not careful in the next few days,” he said.
“I think I played my best tennis of the tournament against David and I’m so happy to be in the semis.”
The 2009 US Open champion sustained the initial setback when beating Grega Zemlja in the third round, but put up with it and battled through a last-16 tussle with Andreas Seppi to set up yesterday’s contest with the Spanish fourth seed, who has been suffering with a sore big toe.
“I was really close to quitting because I felt a lot of pain. It was exactly what I did before,” Del Potro said.
“It’s really painful, I twisted my knee once again. The doctor gave me some magic pills.”
When 6ft 6in Del Potro took his tumble today, the outlook for him looked bleak.
He slipped awkwardly when chasing a ball to his left, and after several rolls on the grass he remained down clutching at the knee.
The doctor was called to assist, and asked if Del Potro was feeling pain in the same place as his original knee injury.
He went through a series of tests to determine the extent of the problem, but it was clear the pain was significant.
However, pulling out when he felt there was a chance he might run off the injury was not an action Del Potro wanted to take in front of a Royal Box seating former champions Rod Laver, Jan Kodes, Richard Krajicek and Manuel Santana.
And even though his movement was far from free, he managed to break Ferrer’s serve in the third and seventh games to take the opening set, and pave the way for a charge to victory that was secured by a terrific forehand on the run in the third-set tie-break.
“I think I played my best tennis in this match,” Del Potro said.
“I hit my forehand and my serves really well and hit my best forehand ever in this Wimbledon. I was lucky that ball was in and I won the match.
“It was a big performance. I’m so happy with my level at the moment. I beat one of the biggest players of the season.”
Djokovic came through his toughest test at SW19 so far, beating the hard-hitting Tomas Berdych in straight sets to make his 13th consecutive grand slam semi-final.