So much for the first US Open meeting between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
The Swiss failed to live up to his end of the bargain.
Hours after Nadal did his part with an easy-as-can-be victory to get to the semi-finals at Flushing Meadows, Federer was unable to join him for what would have been the most-anticipated showdown of the entire two weeks.
He wasted chances to take control and made 41 unforced errors in a 7-5 3-6 7-6 (10-8) 6-4 loss to 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro on Wednesday night.
“I think I played my best match of the tournament, I did everything well,” the the 24th-seeded Argentine said.
“I served so good, I hit my forehand as hard as I could and I think we played a great match and I think I deserved to win.”
Del Potro will face Nadal in the final four on Friday with the winner to go into Sunday’s final a heavy favourite against the victor of the semi-final between 12th seed Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain and 28th seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa.
Nadal, who has won two of his 15 Grand Slam trophies in New York, overwhelmed 19-year-old Russian Andrey Rublev 6-1 6-2 6-2 and then had to wait hours to see what Federer would do under the lights.
Arthur Ashe Stadium was packed, and both men had loud groups of supporters.
Federer’s fans would cheer for Del Potro’s faults, considered bad etiquette in tennis.
Del Potro’s faction would break into raucous, soccer-style songs of “Ole, ole, ole, ole! Del-po! Del-po!”
“I think it’s my homecourt, too, you make me feel happy every time I play here and I love your support guys. I love to see you cheer for me,” he said in an on-court interview.
“After all my injuries and surgeries … New York is my favourite tournament, my favourite city to play tennis.”
The turning point in the near three-hour contest was the third-set tiebreaker, in which Federer failed to win despite four set points.
Nadal, meanwhile, strolled past the 53rd-ranked Rublev.
“He gave me a lesson,” acknowledged Rublev, the youngest US Open quarter-finalist since Andy Roddick in 2001.
Rublev didn’t put up much of a fight, with seven double-faults among his 43 unforced errors.
“It was a good match and obviously it was Andrey’s first quarter-finals and of course he played with some more mistakes than usual, but for me it was an important victory winning the last two matches in straight sets.”
Truth is, the way Nadal is playing at the moment, few would be able to offer much in the way of a challenge.
“He’s been playing better and better every day,” Carlos Moya, the 1998 French Open champion who is helping coach Nadal, said.
“The last couple of matches have been very good. He is confident.”