"And of course beating John in this kind of match, it's like an epic match".
"What is important about this match is the level of tennis, the dramatic match", Nadal said.
Such was the quality of tennis presented that the crowd gave a standing ovation every other point.
Nadal evened the match by breaking in the final game of the second set. The quarterfinal between Nadal and Thiem had night-match classic written all over it, and the Spaniard and the Austrian delivered.
A key for Nadal, who should have beaten Thiem in four sets, has been to manage his various ailments such as his knees, and the groin problem that hindered him in the early part of the season. "It's going to be stuck in my mind", he said.
Forever I'm going to remember this match, for sure. But there has to be one.
Speaking after the match, del Potro joked that during the 10-minute interval after the third set he showered, re-strapped his ankle, lay on the physio's table... and then never wanted to return to the court.
"It was just one of those nights where I guess I felt I couldn't get air".
Del Potro, the third seed, beat Isner, the 11th seed, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2 on Tuesday.
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Thiem came out swinging, and connecting; he hit five aces, 13 winners, and handed Nadal a rare bagel in the first set.
Lengthy fifth sets naturally attract attention for their drama, although they are rarer than often perceived. Thiem is a top-10 player himself (he's now ranked No. 9), a star in his own right who some consider to be the heir apparent to Nadal.
Nadal won the third set 7-5, and seemed to be on the verge of winning the fourth.
Rafael Nadal watched as his opponent hit an overhead beyond the baseline on match point and then dropped his racket to his side.
Nadal, 32, is the only man to have reached the quarter-finals of all four Slams this year.
Thiem chuckled when he was asked about Nadal's apology but added that now that he was out of the tournament, he would love to see Nadal defend his title.
"I had to change my shirt 11 times in the match", said Isner. And it was the way Nadal won - with power and tireless energy, matching his younger opponent's athleticism and appearing to grow stronger with each monstrous forehand - that told the story of how the two best players in the world have fared in recent months. I don't want to lose against anybody.
Thiem admitted he was hoping the hard courts of Flushing Meadows would prove "more comfortable" but he'll still face an uphill battle against the 17-time Grand Slam champion whose stellar 2018 campaign also includes Masters titles in Monte Carlo, Rome and Toronto. "We will have time to have fun together". "Me, too. I fought until the end".