US Open: Rafael Nadal sets the Thiem!
Nadal battles back after first set bagel to clinch an epic US Open quarter-final contest against ninth seed Dominic
Rafael Nadal was delighted, relieved — and sorry — after winning one of the great US Open night-session matches against Dominic Thiem. Twenty-four hours after Roger Federer fell to John Millman, his old rival avoided following him out of the tournament, but only just, completing a 0-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/5) victory at 2.03am [local time].
Ninth seed Thiem became the first player since Andy Roddick in 2004 to win a love set against Nadal in New York but the defending champion once again dug deep to come out on top of a gruelling battle played in more punishing humidity. Nadal said: "It was very demanding in all aspects. It was a very tough start for me. After that first set, then the match became more normal. A tough match against a great opponent.
"It was physically demanding because the conditions were tough out there, too. And I played against a great opponent. He played a good match. Sorry for him. He's a top guy. "I'm sad for him because when this moment arrived, he did all the things well to win the match. Me, too, I think. I fought until the end. I'm happy, of course, to be in the semi-finals again. It means a lot to me. It's good to have now two days that probably give me the chance to be 100 per cent in the semi-finals."
Remarkably, Thiem was the first top-20 player Nadal has faced at Flushing Meadows since his final win over Novak Djokovic in 2013. And the 25-year-old, 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. The Austrian blasted 13 winners, made only two unforced errors and allowed Nadal just seven points in winning an extraordinary opening set.
The Spaniard had appeared the more weary of the two but he roused himself for one final effort and emerged victorious when Thiem sent a final smash long after four hours and 49 minutes. As Thiem hung his head, Nadal walked round the net to embrace his opponent, telling him he was sorry. Nadal moves forward to a clash with Juan Martin del Potro, who defeated John Isner 6-7 (5/7) 6-3 7-6 (7/4) 6-2.
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