10 September, 2018
Top seed Rafael Nadal has been pushed all the way in his US Open quarter final, needing five sets and almost five hours to overcome Austria's Dominic Thiem, in a match that finished after 2am NY time.
Thiem became the first player since Andy Roddick in 2004 to win a love set against Nadal in NY but the Spaniard once again dug deep to come out on top of a gruelling battle played in more punishing humidity.
Nadal was clearly rattled and lost the first three points of the tiebreak that Thiem won 7-4 to force a fourth set.
The match see-sawed throughout, eventually decided by a fifth set tie-breaker, with Nadal taking out the match 0-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-7, 7-6.
After an epic US Open quarter-final that lasted nearly five hours, Rafael Nadal paid tribute to his opponent, Dominic Thiem.
"A great battle", Nadal told ESPN. "But in some way, being honest, I had a very tough injury in 2005".
"The only thing I was thinking was to finish the first set and try to forget about the start and stay in the match in the second set".
The clocked ticked past 2am at Arthur Ashe Stadium, where fans stood on their feet and applauded every point as 17-time major champion Nadal surpassed his four hour and 23-minute contest with Karen Khachanov in round three to earn a semi-final showdown with Juan Martin del Potro.
"I would say the first really epic match that I played. I just wish him all the very, very best".
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Nadal said that losing the first set by 6-0 was not in his plan but he accepted it with "humility", while in the fifth he had "more options" than Thiem.
The popular third seed will now attempt to take a step he has not managed since winning his only grand slam title here nine years ago and reach another final.
Each player held serve in the second set until Nadal earned his first break in the eighth game to take a 5-3 lead.
"I am the guy to look at myself", Nadal said.
A 10-minute break will be allowed between the second and third sets of women's singles matches if either player requests one. "I don't think he's really sorry", said the 25-year-old. "He is young and has plenty of time to win tournaments".
But she trailed by a break in the opening set, and then was a point from being behind 4-1, before turning things around. "It's good to have now two days [without a match] that probably give me the chance to be 100 per cent in the semi-finals". "Forever I'm going to remember this match, for sure".
The Austrian was heartbroken but proud, saying: "It's going to be stuck in my mind forever".
At this point, Thiem had to ask for a new pair of shoes and socks because his were waterlogged from sweating so much. Del Potro, who has been the most dominant men's player this year, will have to go full throttle if he has to release Nadal's stranglehold over him. "Beating John in these kind of matches is like an epic, an epic match".