Rafael Nadal outlasted Dominic Thiem in an epic five-setter that lasted almost five hours and didn't finish until after 2 a.m. local time. The match lasted four hours and 49 minutes and did not conclude until 2:04 a.m. Wednesday morning.
Thiem, who lost to Nadal in the French Open final but had beaten the Spaniard three times in 10 previous meetings, struck 74 winners, including 24 with his stylish single-handed backhand, to keep the champion under constant pressure. On Monday night, Roger Federer fell to unseeded John Millman, ending the world No. 2's dreams of capturing a title he hasn't won in a decade. He also has wins over the Austrian at all three of the clay court Masters, including in the final in Madrid past year. There are the matches he actually loses - as the past and present world No. 1, a 17-time major victor, these are rare - but not before leaving behind a Mediterranean Sea's worth of sweat and tears. "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.
With the heat rule in effect and junior matches on the outside courts suspended earlier in the day, Williams made 22 unforced errors in the opening set but showed all of her big-match pedigree to battle back and close out the set by winning the last four games. It means a lot to me.
"It's going to be stuck in my mind forever..."
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.
But at one point, the 2016 Olympic Games star looked tense as she stood up to applaud her beau.
In a gripping 4-hour 49-minute contest which concluded at 2.04 a.m. on Wednesday, world number one Nadal won through to keep his bid for a fourth title in NY and 18th Grand Slam crown on track. "I hope that we have many more in the future with a different end". It was a very tough start for me. But once again Nadal stepped up the level, saved two break points in the game and then went on to claw back to 4-4. "I'm going to remember this match, for sure", Thiem said.
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"Dominic is an exemplary player on the circuit, and when you get to 5-5 in the fifth set, the tie-break is really on the toss of a coin".
"Wake up", Nadal said he told himself. And I played against a great opponent.
"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.
Asked about the match, the three-time US Open champion added: 'Suffering is the right word.
"(I am) sad for him because when [he arrived at] this moment, he did all the things well to win the match.
Nadal seemed to be on the verge of cracking the code when he broke back in the fourth and came within two points of winning the match.