The marathon tussle continued in the fifth and final set, Thiem fending off a triple break point by coming from love-40 down to make Nadal serve to stay in the championship and three-time U.S. Open victor did before prevailing in a do-or-die tie-breaker.
No. 1 Rafael Nadal defeated Dominic Thiem 0-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (7-5) in a four-hour, 49-minute marathon that ended at 2:03 a.m. Wednesday. It was only the third time in the Open era that a men's No. 1 seed won a match after being bageled in the opening set.
"I would say [this is] the first really epic match I played". "Had been a very tough start for me".
"I have had three very nice experiences and seven disgusting experiences", said Thiem, who has made the last-eight at a Slam other than Roland Garros for the first time.
"I just said "I am very sorry. I don't know if I can get a new one, but I'm doing all my best to try to get it again".
"Because he's young, he has plenty of time to win big tournaments". "When the things happen like this, the atmosphere and the crowd become more special". "He will have his chances in the future without a doubt", the Spanish tennis player said.
When Nadal makes it this far in NY, he usually doesn't stumble.
"Thank you for the all the support", he said, addressing the Arthur Ashe crowd. It is the first time he won a match after that kind of start.
Nadal met the Austrian in the quarter-finals of the United States open, a tournament the Spaniard has won four times. Early on, Nadal had no answer to Thiem's attack.
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When the ninth-seeded Thiem forced deuce in that game, Nadal rewarded his friend with a small clap from the other end of the court.
Nadal could easily have wrapped it up in the fourth set and missed five break points in the decider, but found a way to take one last opportunity against Thiem and his flowing single handed backhand.
"Being honest I am just very, very sorry for Dominic". The fourth was a wild 81-minute ride that began with Thiem facing break points, saw the Austrian threaten a double break before being pegged back and then a tired Nadal miss a chance to win the match.
"When I get to a grand slam, I feel I want to play really hard". I fought until the end.
"It's going to be stuck in my mind forever..." "Keep going always, you can a little bit more, and that's the only reason I can be where I am today".
The victory, which puts the defending champion through to his third consecutive Grand Slam semifinal, came hours after Williams booked her 12th U.S. Open semifinal and the night after Roger Federer was ousted by the unseeded Australian John Millman in the fourth round.
Del Potro's victory was no walk in the park either, the Argentinian battling through strength-sapping heat and humidity to win 6-7 (5/7) 6-3 7-6 (7/4) 6-2.
Thiem, who entered the match with a 3-7 record in the rivalry (all of those matches on Nadal's preferred clay), delivered an impeccable first set to bagel a listless Nadal in a mere 24 minutes.