"I wanted to stay there", del Potro said afterward, "all night long".
Kei Nishikori overcame elbow trouble in the opening set to win a marathon match 4-6 7-6 (5) 7-6 (10) 6-1 against a limping Ernests Gulbis and reach his first Wimbledon quarter-final at the tenth attempt on Monday.
After two-and-a-half hours, Nadal and Del Potro were still a set-all and three-all.
The third set produced more high-quality tennis and Nadal was the first who crumbled under pressure, losing serve at love at 4-5 to drop another set and face an elimination.
The Spaniard, eyeing back-to-back major titles following his 11th French Open triumph, conceded only two points behind his serve in an opening set which he served out easily. It had a little of everything, great points, great rallies, he was hitting insane with his forehands. He saved another break point to inch closer to the semi-final, but just couldn't put Del Potroaway during a terrific and gruelling fifth set.
It was Del Potro who held sway early in the third, building a 3-2 lead. Later in that 14-point, four-deuce game, Nadal chased a ball to no avail, sprinting so hard he was carried all the way over to the seats.
Nadal slipped mid-court twice in the fifth game, but stayed upright to break with a cracking angled backhand.
Del Potro finished with 77 winners to Nadal's 67 but could not convert any of his five break points in the fifth set.
"In the end the court was a little bit slippery because the sun goes out and it was humid on the grass", Del Potro added. There were no service breaks until the tenth game where Del Porto beat Nadal with a forehand victor to get the service break and set, 6-4.
Nadal, whose 17 Grand Slam titles are eclipsed by Federer's 20 and the 23 owned by Williams, did not disappoint in the late afternoon sunshine as he dissected fellow left-hander Vesely with a typically rumbustious display. "Also, he has a fantastic game".
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