Juan Martin del Potro becomes lowest ranked US Open quarter-finalist in 25 years
New York: Former champion Juan Martin del Potro became the lowest ranked player in 25 years to reach the US Open quarter-finals when Dominic Thiem quit their last-16 tie through injury on Monday.
The 142nd-ranked Argentine was leading 6-3, 3-2 when the eighth-seeded Austrian retired with a right knee injury having received a medical timeout just moments earlier.
Del Potro, the 2009 champion who was pushed to the brink of retirement earlier this year after undergoing three surgeries on his left wrist, will face either Stan Wawrinka or Illya Marchenko for a semi-final place.
Jimmy Connors was ranked 174 when he went on to the US Open semi-finals in 1991.
"You never want to win a match like this. I wish Dominic a quick recovery as he has a great future," said 27-year-old del Potro.
The giant Argentine had required treatment himself on a right shoulder injury after dropping serve to go 2-1 down in the first set.
But he recovered to break back for 3-3 before edging ahead at 5-3 and taking the opener on an ace.
Del Potro was a break to the good again at 2-1 in the second set before Thiem began to flag.
The 23-year-old Austrian had needed five sets to beat Australia's John Millman in the first round and four to get past Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain in the last 32.
He was also playing in a season-leading 70th match of the season and 21st tournament, a gruelling schedule which finally caught up with him on Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday.
"I couldn't bend my knee too much in the last three days so I was handicapped," said Thiem who said he was also suffering blisters on his feet.
"You can't take too many risks with the knee."
Should del Potro make the semi-finals, he would be the lowest-ranked man to do so at a Grand Slam since 237-ranked Vladimir Voltchkov at Wimbledon in 2000.
No man ranked as low as del Potro has ever made the final of a major.
"It's amazing to play in New York. There's a great connection between the US fans and Argrentina fans," said del Potro who was handed a wildcard for the US Open after winning the silver medal at the Olympics.
"I don't know if I am playing better than I was in 2009 but I will try to keep winning."
History beckons for the Serb after victories at the Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon, with Djokovic seeking to emulate Steffi Graf's unrivalled achievement from 1988 when she swept all four majors and took gold in the women's singles in Seoul.
Minutes after Djokovic's win, Federer sent a congratulatory tweet saying: “Congrats Novak on your 20th major. I’m proud to have the opportunity to play in a special era of tennis champions. Wonderful performance, well done!”
Despite his achievements, however, Djokovic appears doomed never to be held in the same saintly esteem reserved for Federer or Nadal, the undisputed 'people's champions' and tennis' go-to good guys.