Lucas Pouille crowned a glorious French charge at the US Open on Sunday by ousting 14-time Grand Slam singles champion Rafael Nadal in a five-set thriller.
The 22-year-old Pouille, seeded 24th, won a deciding tiebreak 8-6 to complete a 6-1, 2-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (6) marathon victory and join compatriots Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils into the last eight at Flushing Meadows.
“I couldn’t dream better than this,” said Pouille.
Tenth seed Monfils motored into the quarters with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 dismissal of Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus to launch the French advance at the year’s last Grand Slam championship.
Ninth seed Tsonga followed Monfils’ lead and booked his quarter-finals berth 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (7), 6-2 over American 26th seed Jack Sock.
Playing his third consecutive five-set match, Pouille, still looking for his first ATP Tour title, showed that his quarter-final advance earlier this season at Wimbledon was no fluke.
After taking a two sets to one lead in the fourth-round match against fourth-seeded Nadal, Pouille slumped in the fourth set and was down an early break in the fifth but brought the match back on serve at 4-4.
In the climactic tiebreaker, Nadal fought off Pouille’s triple match point at 6-3, but the Frenchman won the final two points, the last coming on a blistering forehand winner.
“He’s young. He’s a player that has all the shots. He’s a potential top 10,” Nadal said of Pouille.
Tsonga advanced to a clash against either world number one Novak Djokovic, a 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 winner over unseeded Briton Kyle Edmund.
Pouille will next face compatriot Monfils, who has won 18 of his last 20 matches, winning the biggest ATP World Tour title of his career in Washington during that stretch.
“He’s in very good form. He has won so many matches for the last two months,” Pouille said about Monfils.
“But I’m playing well. I have good feelings on the court, so we’ll see.”