New York | Lucas Pouille outlasted 14-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal in a five-set classic to lead a trio of French men into the quarter-finals of the US Open.
Pouille, 22 and ranked 25th in the world, lived up to the promise of his quarter-final run at Wimbledon, emerging from a roller-coaster ride with a 6-1, 2-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (8/6) triumph over the Spanish superstar yesterday.
The defeat leaves Nadal — forced out of the French Open third round with a wrist injury that also saw him miss Wimbledon — without at least one Grand Slam quarter-final appearance for the first time since he was a teenaged tour newcomer in 2004.
Pouille came out firing, pushing Nadal back with an array of deep groundstrokes and angled shots.
Fifty-two winners from Nadal — whose attacking response saw him come out a winner on 35 of 48 forays to the net — weren’t enough.
The taut battle came down to the fifth-set tiebreaker and Nadal, trailing 3-6, showed his mettle by saving three match points — the third on Pouille’s serve.
Then he smacked a forehand into the net to give Pouille one more chance and the French player pounced on it with a blazing forehand that kissed the sideline.
“It was a very close match, anything could have happened,” said Nadal, who opened the fifth set with a break but couldn’t hold onto it, dropping his own serve in the eighth to make it 4-4 and set the stage for the tiebreaker.
“I fought until the end,” Nadal said. “There’s things I could do better, but I had the right attitude. I needed something more — it was not there today.” The four-hour, seven-minute contest entranced the crowd in Arthur Ashe stadium, where Pouille recalled admiring Nadal as a youngster.
“When I was younger I used to watch all his matches on (Ashe) and now it’s me,” said Pouille, who has won three successive five-setters to reach the last eight.
He next tackles 10th-seeded compatriot Gael Monfils, a 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 winner over Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis.
Ninth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga also advanced, downing Jack Sock, the last American man left in the draw, 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (7/9), 6-2.
It’s the first time since 1947 that three French men have reached the quarter-finals of one Grand Slam.
The 23-year-old Sock, seeded 26th, hadn’t faced a break point in surprising 2014 champion Marin Cilic in the third round.
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