Rafael Nadal outlasts Thiem in 5-set US Open thriller

Dean Simpson
September 5, 2018

"I said to Dominic: 'I'm very sorry and keep going.' He has plenty of time to win".

"It ended up in the fifth set tiebreaker, there it's 50/50".

"It's been a great battle, the conditions were tough, a lot of humidity".

The semi-final will pit Nadal against third seed Juan Martin del Potro for the second successive Grand Slam.

Nadal stole a break to stay in the set, held quickly for 6-5 and cashed his third set point on the Thiem serve with a missile of a forehand victor.

The two players combined for 129 winners-74 for Thiem, 55 for Nadal-and Thiem actually won six more points overall than Nadal did.

After suffering a first set "bagel", Nadal had to battle back from breaks in the third and fourth sets before seeing off the first top 20 player he had faced at the US Open since 2013.

"I'm going to remember this match, for sure".

Ninth seed Thiem became the first player since Andy Roddick in 2004 to win a love set against Nadal in NY but the defending champion once again dug deep to come out on top of a gruelling battle played in more punishing humidity. Thiem raced to a 3-0 lead before Nadal fought back, but the Austrian held his nerve to level the match.

The fourth set followed a similar playbook, Thiem taking the early lead and a resolute Nadal (on his fifth break point of the frame) finally drawing even. "I hope that we have many more in the future - with a different end".

Thiem, the only man to beat Nadal on clay for the last two seasons, set about showing his opponent he meant serious business in his first grand slam quarter-final outside of the French Open. "Without that energy it (would) be impossible to win the match". The Spaniard finally found his range in the second set, he couldn't dictate the points but he at least started to win points on his serve easily, getting broken once but scoring two breaks for a 6-4.

The pure quality of the tennis peaked in the third set, both players whaling away from the baseline: Nadal unfurling his signature dipping forehand and stepping into his backhand, Thiem hitting the flatter, harder forehand and uncorking a picturesque one-handed backhand.

With Thiem serving at 5-6 30-30, a desperate lunging forehand looked to be easy pickings for Nadal only for the 32-year-old to net it.

After holding at love in game 11, Rafa converted the third set point with a forehand down the line victor for four games in a row and 7-5, moving a set away from the place in the semi-final. But Thiem saved all three break points before denying Nadal a fourth opportunity with a stunning volley at the end of a remarkable point. The Spaniard saved a break point in games nine and 11 but he stood no chance in the tie break, losing it 7-4 following a routine forehand that he sent into the net, handing the set to his rival and setting up a decider after more than three and a half hours of fantastic battle! There was no let-up in the tie-break and, after four hours and 49 minutes, it was Nadal who claimed victory when Thiem sent a smash long.

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