Del Potro sets up quarter-final showdown with Nadal

Juan Martin del Potro was made to work hard for his win against Gilles Simon

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.

Del Potro refused to surrender, breaking back in game 10 to level the score at 5-5 and he saved four set points in the tie break, climbing back from 3-6 down to steal the set 9-7 and make a huge roar of relief, ready to fight until the very last point.

"Sometimes you play your best tennis and it's not enough to beat him", said the teary-eyed Argentine, who has had the misfortune of running into Nadal at the French Open and Wimbledon championships over the past five weeks.

That came at a key moment in the third set, which was a tougher examination of Nadal than the initial two.

The Spaniard hit back immediately though and sealed victory on his third match point when Vesely served at 4-5.

Nadal carved out the crucial break in the opening set for a 6-5 lead and claimed the opener off a Del Potro backhand error.

Next up for the Spaniard is a blockbuster last four showdowns with Serb Novak Djokovic. Nadal took him to deuce but couldn't nail the break and they went to the shootout, where, against all likelihood, Nadal double-faulted on set point.

Just 90 minutes after defending champion Roger Federer was sensationally knocked out by South African Kevin Anderson, it seemed as if the grasscourt major would lose its top two seeds on the same day as Del Potro took a two-sets-to-one lead.

Nadal broke for 3-2 but had to save break points in the sixth and eighth games before securing a memorable victory.

"Rafa is a fighter". Eventually, things went to a tiebreak Del Potro won to capture the set. A blistering, nearly joyous whipped forehand sealed the set for Nadal and they went to a fifth.

"I think it was great quality tennis and in the final set there were some wonderful points", said 2008 and 2010 champion Nadal.

John Isner has reached his first Grand Slam semi-final on his 41st appearance.

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