Thursday, 20 September, 2018

US Open 2018: Nadal survives 5-set thriller against Thiem

Kevin Anderson of South Africa hits a return to Denis Shapovalov of Canada during their 2018 US Open men's round 3 match Nadal advances to face Thiem in U.S. Open quarterfinals
Chelsea Rogers | 05 September, 2018, 15:38

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. It was his 58th unforced error on a night when he sent down 18 aces and fired 74 winners. But he took the tiebreaker before Nadal just proved the steadier of the two in the final set decider.

I'm happy, of course, to be in the semifinals again. 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.

"It's been a great battle", an exhausted Nadal said. He has now won seven US Open quarterfinals in a row when he has made it that far; his only loss in that round came back in 2006.

And when quizzed on what he was thinking after being bageled in the opening set, Nadal said: "Wake up, that's all".

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.

There were no breaks of serve in the deciding set and a second tiebreak ensued.

Meanwhile, Thiem said his epic defeat to close friend Nadal i will "stay with me forever".

"It's going to be stuck in my mind forever", Thiem said. "Forever I'm going to remember this match".

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"Tennis is sometimes cruel, this game didn't deserve a loser but there has to be one and, if we skip the first set, we were well matched from start to finish", he noted. But there has to be one.

Twenty-four hours after Roger Federer fell to John Millman, his old rival avoided following him out of the tournament, but only just, completing a 0-6 6-4 7-5 6-7 (4/7) 7-6 (7/5) victory at 2.03am. The way it ended up in the fifth set tiebreaker, from there it's 50-50.

"I like people who try hard to achieve their goals and he is one of them". That was wrapped up in just 24 minutes with Nadal winning only seven points.

It took a while for the 32-year-old Spaniard to figure out what was wrong and become Thiem's equal in entertaining, body-punishing baseline exchanges that inspired loud gasps from spectators. I don't want to lose against anybody.

Remarkably, Thiem was the first top-20 player Nadal has faced at Flushing Meadows since his final win over Novak Djokovic in 2013, with last year's title seeing him take on a succession of unexpected opponents. "I mean, he's a great guy".

For the second night in a row, the end of The Tennis Podcast had to be recorded at past 2am in NY in order to cover the thrilling events of the US Open night session.

The semi-final will pit Nadal against third seed and 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro for the second successive Grand Slam tournament.

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