Del Potro’s second chance

Juan Martin del Potro was aching for a second crack at a Grand Slam semifinal, a second chance to prove he has what it takes to win at that stage.

Juan Martin del Potro beat Marin Cilic

NEW YORK — Juan Martin del Potro was aching for a second crack at a Grand Slam semifinal, a second chance to prove he has what it takes to win at that stage.

By early Thursday evening, he knew he’d get that opportunity at the U.S. Open, thanks to a wind-swept 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 quarter-final victory over 16th-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia.

What the sixth-seeded del Potro still did not know by the end of the night, however, as rain washed over Flushing Meadows: The opponent he will have to beat to reach his first Grand Slam final.

That’s because the quarterfinal between six-time major champion Rafael Nadal and 2007 Australian Open runner-up Fernando Gonzalez was postponed by showers during the second set.

The first rain delay, of about 75 minutes, came at 2-2 in the second set, after Nadal won the opening set in a tiebreaker. The second interruption came at about 10:20 p.m., with Nadal holding a 3-2 lead in the second-set tiebreaker.

At midnight, tournament officials suspended play for the night, sending Nadal and Gonzalez home.

And leaving del Potro still waiting.

The Nadal-Gonzalez match was scheduled to resume today, not before noon — following the first women’s semifinal, between Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters, which was to begin at 10:30 a.m.

The breaks might have been helpful to Nadal, who called for a trainer after the first set. It appeared Nadal was being checked for a flare-up of a stomach muscle problem that bothered him earlier in the tournament.

Organizers had hoped to conclude the match Thursday, because today’s forecast called for more rain.

Earlier in the day, del Potro did a much better job than Cilic of dealing with the conditions, which included swirling winds that reached 32 km/h.

They are quite similar: Both are six foot six, both have big serves, both have seemingly unlimited potential. And they were born five days apart in 1988, making them the two youngest players ranked in the top 20.

Cilic began brilliantly on this day, racing to a lead of a set and a break. But he started missing more and more, while del Potro stayed steady enough to claim 17 of the last 20 games.

Del Potro has been thinking about this year’s French Open, where he reached the semifinals and took a 2-1 lead in sets against Roger Federer.

Del Potro let that slip away.

He wasn’t about to have the same thing happen Thursday.

“Well, I learn many things. I was so close to beat him,” del Potro said, recalling that loss to Federer. “I have everything to learn, you know. I want to be a good player in the future.”

He finished with only 24 unforced errors — 29 fewer than Cilic.

“He was not missing,” said Cilic, who upset No. 2 Andy Murray on Tuesday.

“Andy, he doesn’t have as much power as del Potro has,” Cilic said.

In the other men’s semifinal Saturday, No. 1 Federer will face No. 4 Novak Djokovic. Federer beat Djokovic at the U.S. Open in the 2007 final and 2008 semifinals, part of an overall 8-4 head-to-head edge.

The women’s semifinals are today, when defending champion Williams will meet 2005 champion Clijsters, and Caroline Wozniacki faces Yanina Wickmayer in a matchup of 19-year-olds both playing in a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time.

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