Rafael Nadal began his U.S. Open quarterfinal as poorly as possible, shut out in a set by a 6-0 score for only the fourth time in 282 career Grand Slam matches.
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.
It was a 4:49 marathon that wasn't decided until Nadal secured a 7-5 tiebreak in the fifth set that left both players exhausted, but only one satisfied.
The tournament and the city that never sleeps was kept up until 2.04am on Wednesday morning when Rafael Nadal finally toppled Dominic Thiem in an epic US Open quarter-final.
"A great battle", Nadal told ESPN. It was a very tough start for me.
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Top-seeded junior Cori "Coco" Gauff won her second round match in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2, over Romanian Selma Stefania Cadar, before juniors matches were suspended because of the heat.
Next up for the top seed is a semi-final clash with big-serving Argentine and third seed Juan Martin del Potro. But I have to say, the last two sets the level of tennis was incredible. "I played some good ones before, but not that long, not that long against the great guys on the Grand Slam stage", Thiem said. At Wimbledon, Nadal came back from two sets to one down to win in five in a quarter-final which stretched to nearly five hours.
The popular third seed will now attempt to take a step he has not managed since winning his only grand slam title here nine years ago and reach another final.
Thiem then grabbed a 4-3 lead in the third which he stretched to 5-3 but then it was his turn to crack as Nadal raced away with three games to claim a two sets to one lead.
"It will be a very tough one", Nadal added of his last-four tie. And, yes, I played against a great opponent.
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Passersby tried to similarly warn a woman not to enter the building, but she couldn't hear them over her headphones. He said one investigator said it could have been "a bloodbath beyond imagination". "After that I started running".
"To reach the semifinal again here in NY in my favourite tournament is very special to me", said Del Potro after his eighth win over Isner in 12 meetings.
The fourth was another evenly matched affair, Thiem threatening the Nadal serve in game five before snatching a break two games later.
Nadal evened the match by breaking in the final game of the second set. Thiem had an early 3-0 lead in the tie-breaker, and was able to close it out on his second set point.
"He's maybe playing some of the best tennis ever right now for him", said the American.
"Forever I'm going to remember this match, for sure", Thiem said. As usual, he had to do it without the benefit of many cheap points; he hit just three aces, 15 fewer than Thiem.
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The disappointment of failing to create a first match point seemed to weigh on him in the tiebreak and he played it dreadfully, showing rare confusion in going 0-3 down and then losing it 7-4. It means a lot to me.