US Open 2018: Rafael Nadal outlasts Dominic Thiem in 5-set epic

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Defending champion Rafael Nadal survived an epic US Open quarter-final confrontation to defeat battling ninth seed Dominic Thiem 0-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/5) and reach the semi-finals for the seventh time. Thiem's power off both flanks is what had ultimately undone Nadal on clay on those two occasions and seemed like it would prevail in their first hard-court meeting on Tuesday evening as the Austrian stormed to 6-0 in the opening set in mere 24 minutes.

Rafael Nadal, of Spain, sits during a changeover in his match against Dominic Thiem, of Austria, during the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open tennis tournament early Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018, in NY.

Nadal, the defending champion, needed almost five hours to defeat ninth seed Thiem in a deciding tie-break after losing the opening set 6-0.

Remarkably, Thiem was the first top-20 player Nadal has faced at Flushing Meadows since his final win over Novak Djokovic in 2013, with last year's title seeing him take on a succession of unexpected opponents.

Nadal said: "It was very demanding in all aspects".

Rafael Nadal vs. Dominic Thiem went on long into the small hours, with Nadal eventually prevailing in a pulsating deciding-set tiebreak.

Most players would have been left deflated after falling behind in such a manner but Thiem was not in that category - the former world number four raising his game another level to take out the tie-break, having surrendered 3-1 and 4-2 leads against Nadal, who saved six break points in the set.

Thiem got off to a dream start, breaking Nadal three times in succession as he handed Nadal the dreaded bagel in a first set that lasted just 25 minutes. "I'm playing a lot of hours this year at this attractive stadium". "But I just keep going". "Not insane, but tough", Nadal said. But he took the tiebreaker before Nadal just proved the steadier of the two in the final set decider. "The only true is that you have to be able to do things better to be able to fight for the point and fight for the match, no?"

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"He's young, he has plenty of time to win big tournaments".

Instead Nadal is facing Dominic Thiem who already has an upset under his belt. "But in a few days I will look back and will remember how great it was to play in front of a packed Arthur Ashe this great match".

But when he came out to serve for the set at 5-4, the Austrian was visibly hesitant, Nadal bounded behind the baseline. "A question of a little bit of luck at the end".

Asked about that at his news conference, Thiem said with a chuckle: "Well, I don't think he's really sorry".

"Tennis is sometimes cruel, this game didn't deserve a loser but there has to be one and, if we skip the first set, we were well matched from start to finish", he noted.

He'll face 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro next.

"To play John in these kind of matches, it's like an epic".

The third set was another grind.

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