Rafael Nadal kept making a stand, kept coming back, kept showing he would not depart quietly from this US Open.
Facing a much younger, much-less-accomplished opponent, Nadal twice erased a set deficit. Then he staved off a trio of match points.
And then, more than four hours into the toughest test he’s put his left wrist through since returning from injury, Nadal faltered.
He missed a short forehand, pushing it into the net. Nadal knew what he’d done and covered his eyes with both hands. One point later, the match was over.
Nadal was upset in the fourth round by 24th-seeded Lucas Pouille of France 6-1 2-6 6-4 3-6 7-6 (8-6) on Sunday, prolonging the 14-time Grand Slam title winner’s quarter-final drought at major tournaments.
“Every point was great,” Pouille said in his on-court interview.
“It’s just never over until the last point. I was a break down in the fifth; I came back. And then 6-3 in the tiebreak, he came back,” Pouille said.
“It’s never done until the last point is over.”
This was Pouille’s third career victory in a five-setter – and all have come in his past three matches.
Since losing in last year’s French Open quarter-finals, Nadal has failed to make it beyond the fourth round at a major.
When it did end, Pouille dropped on his back, his tongue sticking out. As he rose with eyes wide open – and tongue still wagging – 1983 French Open champion Yannick Noah of France, whose son Joakim recently joined the New York Knicks, spread around high-fives in the stands.
Pouille was joined in the quarter-finals by a pair of countrymen, No. 9 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and No.10 Gael Monfils, giving France three members of the men’s quarter-finals at the American Grand Slam tournament for the first time in 89 years.
He will face Monfils, a 6-3 6-2 6-3 winner over 2006 Australian Open runner-up Marcos Baghdatis, who received a warning for unsportsmanlike conduct for using his cellphone during a second-set changeover.
Baghdatis defended himself to the chair umpire by asking whether it was against the rules to check the time; later, speaking to a handful of reporters, he said he was trying to message his wife.
The other quarter-final on that side of the draw will feature Tsonga against No.1 Novak Djokovic or 84th-ranked Kyle Edmund of Britain.
Tsonga got there by eliminating the last US man in the field, No.26 Jack Sock, 6-3 6-3 6-7 (9-7) 6-2.