Del Potro beats Cilic to reach first French Open semifinal since 2009

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Juan Martin del Potro will face Rafael Nadal in the French Open semifinals. (AP)

Things looked dicey at a set apiece and trailing 3-1 in the third, but Juan Martin del Potro found his range at just the right time to beat Marin Cilic and return to the French Open semifinals.

It was a match played over two days—del Potro and Cilic were deadlocked at 5-all in the first set tiebreaker on Wednesday when play was stopped for the night because of persistent rain.

The match resumed at noon on Thursday and after two quick points, del Potro had the opening set in his pocket. They stayed on serve through 4-all in the second set, and that’s when Cilic pounced, breaking serve for 5-4. While del Potro broke back for 5-all, Cilic reeled off five of the next six games to not only tuck away the second set, 7-5, but storm out to an early 3-1 lead in the third set.

“I felt that when I won the second set, the momentum was on my side,” Cilic said. “I was playing a little bit better. I started to be the one who was controlling the game. I had 2-0, 15-40 for a double break. Then at 3-1, another break point and a makeable return. I didn’t, and things turned around.”

The No. 5-seeded del Potro wouldn’t budge on his serve from then on, though, never getting broken again. All the while, he broke the No. 3-seeded Cilic three times to advance, 7-6 (5), 5-7, 6-3, 7-5.

WATCH—Match point from Del Potro's win over Cilic in the quarterfinals:

Del Potro raised his arms in triumph after beating the Croat for the eighth time in a row.

“It was very important to win the first set,” del Potro said. “It wasn’t a good night. I was thinking too much—where could I serve, T or wide? I made too many questions to myself. But then I got lucky to win the first set, playing two good points, and it was enough to replay a new match after the first set.”

“To me, getting to the semifinals in this tournament is incredible.”

The Argentine is now through to the fifth Grand Slam semifinal of his career, and his second at the French Open—he reached the final four here back in 2009, falling to Roger Federer in five sets.

Awaiting him in this year’s semifinals will be Rafael Nadal, a four-set winner over Diego Schwartzman earlier in the day. The world No. 1 is 9-5 in his career against del Potro, and 2-0 on clay.

“I believe Rafa’s lost two matches here his whole life—because of the way he is, his fitness and the way he plays, he’s the king of the tournament,” del Potro said. “But it’s always a pleasure playing him in a Grand Slam. These are unique moments, and many players would like to have this opportunity.

“I have to enjoy the moment, and I will try to enjoy it tomorrow.”

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