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He stormed into the Wimbledon semifinals in London on Wednesday with a pulsating 7-5 6-7(7) 4-6 6-4 6-4 over Juan Martin del Potro.
Just 90 minutes after defending champion Roger Federer was sensationally knocked out by South African Kevin Anderson 2-6 6-7(5) 7-5 6-4 13-11 in four hours, it seemed as if the grasscourt major would lose its top two seeds as Argentine Del Potro took a two-sets-to-one lead.
It was not as if Nadal was playing badly as he had lost only nine points on serve before heading into the ninth game of the second set.
But just before that game started, Federer's shock demise was flashed up on the giant on-court scoreboard and it was as if that threw the Spaniard off his stride and he fluffed his lines to drop his serve.
After Nadal squandered four set points in the third set tiebreak, with a double fault on one of them, Del Potro made him pay as he pounced on his first chance to raise the prospect of another astonishing upset on day nine of the championships.
But the second seed stayed alive by taking the fourth set before the gripping drama continued in an electrifying deciding set in which both players were left diving after volleys and slipping over as they chased after blinding winners.
Nadal ended the four hour and 48 minute thriller with a backhand volley winner past a lunging Del Potro who ended the contest lying flat on his stomach.
"Now is the moment to enjoy but start to recover, it was a tough physical battle," the Spaniard said. "The opponent that is coming one of the toughest. I am just excited to be in the semis. I need to recover to give my best."
DJOKOVIC 'MAN ON A MISSION'
Next up for Nadal is a blockbuster last four showdown with Serb Novak Djokovic, who returned to a Grand Slam semi-final for the first time since the 2016 U.S. Open, beating Japan's Kei Nishikori 6-3 3-6 6-2 6-2.
The three-time Wimbledon champion looked in impressive form, particularly when he closed out the final set in ruthless fashion to set up a blockbuster semi-final with Nadal.
"I feel like I'm peaking at the right moment," declared the 12th seeded Serb after joining Americans John McEnroe and Pete Sampras in fourth place on the list of most Wimbledon semi-final appearances in the Open Era.
Now ranked only 21st in the world, with his career stalling since his 12th Grand Slam title at the 2016 French Open, last year's Wimbledon saw him retire in the quarter-finals with a season-ending elbow injury.
Asked whether he was a "man on a mission" to get back to where he left off, the Serb could only agree: "Of course, that's why I'm here," he said.
South Africa's Kevin Anderson will next face American John Isner, who overcame Canada's Milos Raonic 6-7(5) 7-6(7) 6-4 6-3 in the battle of two of the biggest servers in the men's draw on Wednesday.
Isner saved two set points in the second set tiebreak to avoid going two sets down and then took control of the match to continue his dream run at the All England Club.
He has taken 41 Grand Slams to reach his first semi-final - one less than compatriot Sam Querrey who reached the milestone a year ago at Wimbledon.
Isner had never gone beyond the third round at Wimbledon in nine previous attempts but has been in sparkling form this time. He wobbled when serving at 5-4, a double-fault giving Raonic a rare break point, but salvaged the situation with a booming ace before moving a set from victory.