Del Potro Argentina's hero

2012-04-08 18:26

Buenos Aires - Juan Martin del Potro put Argentina into their third straight Davis Cup semi-final with a three-set victory over Croatia's Marin Cilic on Sunday.

Del Potro won 6-1, 6-2, 6-1, to give Argentina an insurmountable 3-1 lead in the best-of-five quarter-finals.

Argentina will face the Czech Republic in Buenos Aires in the semi-final on September 14-16. Argentina lost last year's final against Spain in Seville and has been in the Davis Cup final four times without winning.

Del Potro put the match away with his seventh ace, then reached skyward with both arms to celebrate as the 14 000 sellout responded with cheers of "ole, ole, ole."

Del Potro set the tone on clay from the start. He broke Cilic in the first game, and two more times to win the set in 48 minutes. The former US Open champion closed the set when Cilic returned a forehand into the net.

Del Potro was a fan favourite - for more than just his tennis.

Late in the first set he leaned over and kissed a butterfly, which hovered and then landed on the frame of his racket, prompting loud applause from the crowd at Parque Roca on the outskirts of the Argentine capital.

Cilic was clearly weary. He played a five-hour marathon on Friday in beating David Nalbandian, and then another five-hour match on Saturday in losing to Nalbandian and Eduardo Schwank in doubles.

The second set was much of the same. Del Potro broke Cilic in the fourth game and, and did it again to close out the set.

The third set was merely a formality. With a commanding leading, Del Potro played to the crowd, with the crowd responding, "Vamos, vamos Argentina."

Del Potro's performance bordered on the heroic. He vomited before Friday's singles, battling a touch of the flu, and captain Martin Jaite called him "less than 100 percent" before Sunday's match. Jaite said Del Potro ate with the team on Saturday and went to bed early.