Young Frenchman Lucas Pouille scored a stunning, five-set upset over 14-times grand slam singles champion Rafa Nadal, winning a climactic tiebreak 8-6 to reach the U.S. Open quarter-finals.
Displaying poise beyond his years, the 22-year-old Pouille took charge early and led two sets to one.
Playing his third consecutive five-set match, 24th seed Pouille, still looking for his first ATP Tour title, showed that his quarter-final advance earlier this season at Wimbledon was no fluke.
The see-saw battle carried all the way into the fifth-set tiebreak, reached after Pouille answered Nadal’s opening game service break with one of his own in the eighth game.
In the tension-packed decider, the Frenchman rushed out to a 4-1 lead. Double US Open winner Nadal drew within 4-3 but a forehand winner by Pouille made it 6-3 for triple match point.
Nadal, who has made an extraordinary comeback from a wrist injury that forced him to retire before his third-round match at Roland Garros and withdraw from Wimbledon, fought them all off to make it 6-6.
The Spaniard looked poised to reach match point himself when he came in on a short ball and looked set to unleash a winner, but his forehand found the net and Pouille made no such mistake on his big swing that finished the match.
Pouille will play 10th-seeded compatriot Gael Monfils, who is yet to lose a set in the tournament, in the last eight.
Meanwhile, top seed Novak Djokovic, starved for competitive action, feasted against unseeded Briton Kyle Edmund, gobbling up a large serving of points in a 6-2 6-1 6-4 romp that put him into the quarter-finals.
Djokovic had a second-round walkover as Czech Jiri Vesely withdrew due to injury, and was leading 4-2 in his third-round match when Russian Mikhail Youzhny retired with a leg ailment making it six days since his last full match.
The Serb kept himself busy on practice courts but looked elated to cut loose against an actual opponent, making Edmund the target of his arsenal of rifled groundstroke, angled volleys, pinpoint passing shots, lobs and drop shots.
After the first two lopsided sets, Edmund made the third set competitive and was on serve at 4-4 before the Serb closed out the set to end the match.
Djokovic’s victory put him into the last eight against ninth-seeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
In the women’s draw, Angelique Kerber won the battle of grand slam champions when the second seed powered her way into the quarter-finals with a 6-3 7-5 win over Petra Kvitova.
By reaching the last eight Kerber has put herself in position to end Serena Williams’ long reign as world number one.
Kerber’s victory sets up an intriguing last eight clash with Italy’s Roberta Vinci, last year’s surprise runner-up advancing with a 7-6(5) 6-2 win over Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko.