Rafael Nadal, of Spain, celebrates after defeating Dominic Thiem, of Austria, during the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open, early on Wednesday in NY. Despite the 6-0 first set, the match lasted four hours, 49 minutes, making it the eighth longest U.S. Open match on record.
Thiem, an Austrian who was in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open for the first time, blitzed Nadal at the onset of the match, hitting 13 winners in the opening set and just two unforced errors.
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By this time, both players were drenched in sweat playing on a muggy 85-degree NY night. Next up is No. 9 seed Dominic Thiem.
This story was first published on CNN.com, "Rafael Nadal outlasts Thiem in 5-set US Open thriller". "Of course, you know that your chances to play these kind of matches every time are less", Nadal said.
The fourth set 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.
But the 32-year-old rallied to win the next two sets before Thiem forced a decider by winning a tie-break. He has now won seven U.S. Open quarterfinals in a row when he's made it that far; his only loss in that round came back in 2006.
Eventually, the world No 1 persevered to keep his challenge for an 18th Grand Slam alive.
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Nadal beat Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (6), 6-4 on Sunday at Flushing Meadows.
During that earlier quarterfinal, Isner doubled over and rested his elbows on his knees.
"The conditions have been tough out there, too".
He walked quietly to the center of the court, then stepped over the net and embraced 25-year-old Dominic Thiem.
"He's maybe playing some of the best tennis ever right now for him", said the American. It's very humid. The air is pretty still for whatever reason. 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.
Thiem returned the favor, breaking Nadal again to cut the set to 5-4. Still, it was Isner who struck first, closing the opening tiebreaker with a 132 miles per hour (212 kph) ace down the middle.
He managed to take the next three, though, and now meets Nadal for the 17th time on tour.
And Thiem, the only man to beat Nadal on clay for the last two seasons, set about showing his opponent he meant serious business in his first Grand Glam quarter-final outside of the French Open.