Defending champion Rafael Nadal failed to win a single game in the opening set of his US Open quarter-final against Dominic Thiem but fought back to beat the Austrian 0-6 6-4 7-5 6-7 (7-4) 7-6 (7-5) in a match that ended after 2am.
Nadal had a horror start to the match, with Thiem racing through the first set 6-0 in 23 minutes, just the second time in his US Open career that the Spaniard has lost a set 6-0. Unfortunately for Thiem, he's going to have to remember the fact that, after running, fighting, swinging, and sweating for 4 hours and 49 minutes, he came up two points short of victory.
It was the fourth win for Nadal in four Grand Slam matches against Thiem, the most recent coming in May's French Open Final.
"A great battle", Nadal told ESPN. "The conditions were tough and very humid", he said. "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.
Up next is a semi-final clash with the resurgent giant that is Juan Martin del Potro and Nadal has less than 48 hours to recover for his clash with the Argentine.
"I am very sorry for Dominic, he's a close friend on tour, a great guy and a great player".
Nadal was on the receiving end of an embarrassing first-set bagel against Thiem.
The 2009 champion won 6-7 (5), 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2 and will face top-ranked Rafael Nadal or No. 9 Dominic Thiem in the semifinals. "Not insane, but tough", Nadal said. And, yes, I played against a great opponent. "Tennis is cruel sometimes because I think this match didn't really deserve a loser".
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The policy is a rule on the women's tour, but not the men's. "This is a good sign for Millman that he's got him breathing heavy". The break proved less useful in week one to players toiling on outside courts - far away from the sanctuary of a locker room.
Asked about that at his news conference, Thiem said with a chuckle: "Well, I don't think he's really sorry".
The momentum was with Nadal but Thiem regrouped in the third set and began to again blast winners into the corners. But the last time, against Philipp Kohlschreiber in Miami last spring, he fought back to win the match.
In the fourth set, Thiem once again took control early, breaking Nadal to take a 2-1 lead. But Nadal, after letting the 25-second serve clock expire, rallied to win the point and hold for a 5-4 lead.
Perhaps Thiem, after a change of socks and shoes, looked the fresher going into the decider but he needed to save two break points at 2-2, one with an ace, to maintain parity.
"It's good to have now two days that probably give me the chance to be on my 100 per cent in the semi-finals".
These two have faced one another 10 total includes including three times this year, though no previous meetings were during the US Open. Del Potro, who has been the most dominant men's player this year, will have to go full throttle if he has to release Nadal's stranglehold over him.
Williams, seeded 17th, meets the last player to beat her at the U.S. Open.