Nadal survives five set epic at US Open

Aubrey Yates
September 5, 2018

Seeking his 18th grand slam trophy, Nadal was stunned in a first set won to love by Thiem before the Spaniard came back to take the next two. "I'm playing a lot of hours this year at this lovely stadium".

After dropping the first set, 6-0, in a lackadaisical performance, Nadal fought back throughout the 4-hour 49-minute match to ultimately win, 0-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5).

Those choruses resonated in the arena after key points, such as each time del Potro erased one of Isner's break chances, three in all.

There was precious little to separate Nadal and Thiem, and in the fifth-set tiebreak, they remained within a point until the last ball.

"But he's a great guy".

Nadal has the best part of two days to recover before a semi-final against Juan Martin Del Potro, while the world No 9 left a stadium largely drained of spectators with nothing more than a reminder of his opponent's incredible fighting qualities.

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. "It was a very tough start, I tried to stay in the match in the second set", he said on court after securing passage to the semifinals.

Thiem has endured some tough moments in NY so far, including a come-from-behind five-set victory over Steve Johnson in the second round, but he put on a more assured performance in the fourth round when he steamrollered the risky Kevin Anderson in straight sets. Natural reaction from Nadal is to hope that your opponent gives you the third set.

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"After that first set", Nadal said, "the match became more normal". But Thiem has beaten Nadal in Buenos Aires, Rome and in Madrid earlier this year.

"On clay, I think it´s one of the biggest challenges in sports to beat this guy or to compete with this guy".

Hard to not think back to 24 hours earlier, when Nadal's great rival, No. 2 seed Roger Federer, was upset in the fourth round during similarly muggy conditions.

In a dramatic final set, Nadal saw five break points come and go before Thiem went long with a smash on the first match point. "Every match really means a lot to me".

Thiem didn´t face a single break point against Wimbledon finalist Anderson as he became the first Austrian in the last-eight in NY since Thomas Muster in 1996.

But while Isner was playing before what could count as a home crowd, del Potro got all manner of support throughout, from the blue-and-white flags or soccer jerseys dotting the stands to the repeated singsong chants of his nickname, "Delpo", punctuated by clapping.

Sevastova, who avenged last year's quarter-final loss to Stephens in NY to reach her first major semi-final, converted five of her eight break points and saved seven of the nine against her on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court.

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