By the end of the match, after they'd traded strokes for nearly four hours and day had turned into night, Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro looked like old pals.
The young stars put their arms around each other at the net after Murray reached his first Grand Slam semifinal, beating del Potro 7-6 (2), 7-6 (1), 4-6, 7-5 in the U.S. Open on Wednesday.
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Quite different than the scene they presented in Rome in May.
Tempers flared during that match, with Murray claiming del Potro insulted his mother – Judy Murray provided vocal support for her son from the stands. Del Potro nearly hit Murray in the head with a ball in the second set. The Argentine retired while trailing 5-7, 6-4, 1-0.
This time, the 21-year-old Murray and the 19-year-old del Potro kept their anger in check. Murray patted his rival on the chest when it ended, and del Potro managed a smile after his 23-match winning streak ended.
“Obviously, very relieved,” Murray said. “It was a great atmosphere.”
The match ended about a half-hour before Serena Williams was set to play sister Venus in the quarterfinals at Arthur Ashe Stadium and created quite a logjam. The stadium holds more than 20,000 fans, and they all had to exit from the final daytime action before the night matches began.
Thousands of fans with tickets to the evening session jammed the plaza in front of the main gate at Ashe, watching Murray and del Potro. Announcements played over and over on the public-address system, thanking the arriving crowd for its patience.
The sixth-seeded Murray didn't get his wish when he asked officials to turn off the giant video screens at Ashe with a first-set tiebreaker tied at 1. But if the moving images were a distraction, it didn't show. If anything, he played better afterward, winning six of the next seven points to clinch the set.
The No.17 del Potro had never advanced farther than the third round in a Grand Slam before this run. He had never won a tournament before July, then ripped off four straight titles to soar up the rankings.
Murray, playing in the quarterfinals for a second straight Grand Slam tournament, repeatedly won points with drop shots. His ranking, already a career high, will now climb to No. 4, matching the highest ever for a British man.
Murray's nerves showed at times. Serving for the second set, he lost the game at love. But he loosened back up to easily win the tiebreaker.
“I let it slip a little bit,” he said.
Del Potro had his left knee wrapped during the second set. With Murray up a break in the third set and del Potro dragging, the match seemed close to over. But a string of mistakes by Murray seemed to revive del Potro.