By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) -Canadian Denis Shapovalov produced a storming finish to beat Karen Khachanov in five sets and reach the Wimbledon semi-finals on Wednesday, his deepest run at a Grand Slam tournament.
The quarter-final was in danger of slipping away from the stylish 22-year-old left-hander when he trailed by two sets to one against but he hit back to win 6-4 3-6 5-7 6-1 6-4.
Shapovalov, who put out twice winner Andy Murray in the third round, will play defending champion and top seed Novak Djokovic on Friday when he will bid to become only the second Canadian man to reach a Grand Slam final.
"Obviously, he is the best player in the world but I think anything is possible and when the match starts on Friday the scoreboard will show zero zero," the popular Shapovalov, who will be guaranteed strong support, said on court.
Both 10th seed Shapovalov and 25th seed Khachanov were playing in a Grand Slam quarter-final for only the second time and they delivered a superb contest on a packed No.1 Court.
Shapovalov carried the form he showed in a fourth-round hammering of Spaniard Robert Bautista Agut into his second career clash with Khachanov and took the opening set courtesy of a single break of serve in the ninth game.
But rock-solid Russia Khachanov responded to go 4-0 ahead in the second set and although Shapovalov re-focused it was too late to save the set.
A high-quality third set was a fierce battle for supremacy and it was Khachanov who pounced on a Shapovalov lapse to break serve at 5-5, then saving a break point in the next game before taking the set as Shapovalov blazed a forehand long.
In days gone by, Shapovalov's game might have unravelled but he is made of tougher stuff now and got back to work in stunning fashion as he hit a purple patch in a dominant fourth set.
As the clash went into the decider, the 25-year-old Khachanov seemed to be feeling the pace after also going the distance in his previous match against American Sebastian Korda.
But he was still a formidable presence, hanging on grimly to scramble out of a hole when he fell 0-40 down on serve at 2-2.
Shapovalov dropped only four points on his serve in the deciding set, meaning he could play expansively on his return games and he piled on the pressure again at 4-4.
His frustration was mounting when three more break points went begging but he kept knocking at the door and eventually Khachanov could resist no more, sending a tired-looking forehand over the baseline on a fourth.
Serving for the biggest win of his career, Shapovalov overcame a nervy double-fault and brought up two match points with a fizzing forehand winner, before sealing victory when Khachanov dumped a backhand into the net.
"It was super tough, especially not converting 0-40 in the fifth set," Shapovalov said. "I told myself play every point as hard as you can in the fifth.
"Luck was a bit on my side but it was also a great week from Karen, we both deserved it today."
Racking up 59 winners in a fearless display, Shapovalov arguably deserved it a little more as he went one round further than at last year's U.S. Open.
A daunting obstacle awaits, but with his game in full flow, he will give five-times champion Djokovic plenty to think about.
"He makes also a lot of unforced errors, but that's why I think he's a tough player to play because, especially on grass, when he pulls the trigger, he can make it," Khachanov said.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond)