New York, Sept 5: Lucas Pouille outlasted 14-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal in a five-set classic to lead a trio of French men into the quarterfinals of the US Open here Sunday at the Flushing Meadows . But then there was no problems for top seed Novak Djokovic who eased his way into the last eight with a 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 victory against 84th-ranked Briton Kyle Edmund.
Pouille, 22 and ranked 25th in the world, lived up to the promise of his quarterfinal run at Wimbledon, emerging from a roller-coaster ride with a 6-1, 2-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (8/6) triumph over the Spanish superstar.
The defeat leaves Nadal – forced out of the French Open third round with a wrist injury that also saw him miss Wimbledon – without at least one Grand Slam quarterfinal appearance for the first time since he was a teenaged tour newcomer in 2004.
Pouille came out firing, pushing Nadal back with an array of deep groundstrokes and angled shots. Fifty two winners from Nadal weren’t enough.
The taut battle came down to the fifth set tie-breaker and Nadal, trailing 3-6, showed his mettle by saving three match points – the third on Pouille’s serve.
Then he smacked a forehand into the net to give Pouille one more chance and the French player pounced on it with a blazing forehand that kissed the sideline.
The four-hour, seven-minute contest entranced the crowd in Arthur Ashe stadium, where Pouille recalled admiring Nadal as a youngster.
“When I was younger I used to watch all his matches on (Ashe) and now it’s me,” said Pouille, who has won three successive five-setters to reach the last eight.
He next tackles 10th-seeded compatriot Gael Monfils, a 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 winner over Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis.
Ninth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga also advanced, downing Jack Sock, the last American man left in the draw, 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (7/9), 6-2.
It’s the first time since 1947 that three French men have reached the quarterfinals of one Grand Slam.
The 23-year-old Sock, seeded 26th, hadn’t faced a break point in surprising 2014 champion Marin Cilic in the third round.
Against Tsonga however, he mustered only five aces and was broken six times by the 2008 Australian Open runner-up, who has reached at least the semifinals of every Grand Slam except this one.
Brit Edmund, playing in a Grand Slam fourth round for the first time, barely got a look-in during the first two sets against the World No.1 and the defending champion.
“Feels great to play a full match after a weird couple of days when I didn’t have too much tennis,” said Djokovic. Even with the extra rest, however, Djokovic required on-court treatment on his right arm – the same one he had treated during his scrappy first round victory over Jerzy Janowicz. AFP