The so-called dream final, a repeat of the Federer-Nadal clash of 2008, may be gone but the world No1 is now just two wins from his first Wimbledon title since 2010.
Del Potro’s best Grand Slam runs since his return from wrist problems have all been ended by Nadal.
Spaniard Nadal beat the Argentinian in last year’s US Open semi-finals and at the same stage of the French Open a few weeks ago.
And this 7-5 6-7 4-6 6-4 6-4 win that took nearly five hours set up a 52nd meeting with Novak Djokovic, extending their record for clashes in the Open era.
Nadal said: “It was a very emotional match.
“I’m sorry for Juan Martin. He’s an amazing opponent. In some ways, he deserved to win it.
“There was a great quality of tennis, especially in the last set.
“There were great points, great rallies. He was hitting the ball crazy with the forehand. I just tried to resist.
“I’m very happy. It’s a very important achievement for me to be back in the semi-finals here.”
It was the second classic of the day in a tournament which had been crying out for them. Nadal went right to the other end of the court to embrace Del Potro when it ended.
The first set went with serve to the 12th game when Nadal broke.
He then held three set points in the second set but the Argentinian somehow managed to win it 9-7.
It went with serve again in the third until the tenth game when Del Potro let rip, breaking Nadal to love.
But something told you this one would be going to five sets and Nadal did indeed take the match to a decider.
And, with the Argie unable to take his chances in the fifth, he finally prevailed.
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