First serveNo matter what Juan Martin del Potro does at the U.S. Open, he doesn't have the power to make Argentina feel too good about its sports right now, not with the national soccer team in danger of missing the World Cup.
Del Potro's impressive quarterfinal victory over Marin Cilic on Thursday, when he rallied from behind to win in four sets, was greeted more with relief than joy in his homeland – a welcome respite from the gloom surrounding the national sport.
Del Potro (pictured right) is still a symbol of hope across South America, and he's the only man from his region threatening to bust the total European stranglehold on men's tennis.
He's a different breed, a bona-fide outdoor hard-court specialist, instead of the clay dwellers normally associated with his nation. He burst onto the scene last summer, winning four straight ATP events and striding up the rankings. His progress has been steady ever since.
This represents his best chance in a major, with the Flushing Meadows courts being more to his liking than those of Melbourne, Paris or London.
A semifinal against Rafael Nadal, who was leading a rain-suspended quarterfinal with Fernando Gonzalez on Thursday night, should hold little fear for him, not after the way del Potro dismantled the Spaniard in Miami earlier this year and again in Montreal last month.
And while Cilic is ranked 16th, the giant Croatian had already torn apart world No. 2 Andy Murray before del Potro ground down his mind, body and game.
Del Potro has a great opportunity, but his path couldn't be tougher. He caught a break by avoiding Murray in the quarterfinals thanks to Cilic, but he will still most likely have to defeat two eternal greats in Nadal and Federer to claim his prize.
Such is the plight of the modern player, such is the call del Potro needs to answer.
The windy weather wreaked havoc on Thursday, making conditions tough to control for all players. More bad weather is scheduled for the weekend, with the finals likely to be affected by the elements.
American duo Travis Parrott and Carly Gullickson secured some home success at the U.S. Open with an emphatic victory in mixed doubles. The unseeded duo took out second seeds Leander Paes and Cara Black 6-2, 6-4, with 22-year-old Gullickson showing great maturity in closing out the contest.
Forget about Kim Clijsters upsetting Serena Williams in Friday's feature showdown, but her fellow Belgian, Yanina Wickmayer, could spring a surprise against Caroline Wozniacki. Wickmayer must be able to control her nerves in the semifinal, the biggest match in the career of both players.
Match of the day
The women's doubles semifinal between Venus and Serena Williams and Russian pair Alisa Kleybanova and Ekaterina Makarova was full of entertainment. Kleybanova and Makarova made life tough for tennis' top sister act before the Americans prevailed 7-6, 3-6, 6-2.
- Del Potro