Defending champion Rafa Nadal failed to win a single game in the opening set of his U.S. Open quarter-final against Dominic Thiem on Tuesday but fought back to beat the Austrian 0-6 6-4 7-5 6-7 (4) 7-6 (5) in a match that ended after 2 a.m.in NY.
The opening set was only the fourth time in 282 career Grand Slam matches that Nadal lost a set 6-0 and this was the first time he had been victorious after doing so. For even though Thiem had won more points, been ahead in three of the five sets, powered 74 winners, he froze in the big moments while Nadal flew.
The match see-sawed throughout, eventually decided by a fifth set tie-breaker, with Nadal taking out the match 0-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-7, 7-6.
The two had battled it out for the French Open title earlier this year, but that match at Rolland Garros was a damp squib compared to this one for on the crimson surface, Nadal steamrolled his opponent in straight sets.
"It's been a great battle, the conditions were tough, a lot of humidity".
Nadal moves forward to a clash with Juan Martin del Potro, who defeated John Isner, in a rematch of last year's semi-final.
"I'm very sorry for Dominic", Nadal added.
"He is a very well educated guy and a top person".
Thiem held on for the tie-break, where another unexpected Nadal error, this time a short forehand into the net, sent the match into a deciding set.More news: Colton Underwood, Next ‘Bachelor,’ Played For These Three NFL Teams
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True to form, the defending champion improved significantly in the second set and things went with serve until game eight as Nadal broke for a 5-3 advantage.
"He did all the things well to win the match", Nadal said. "But in few days I will look back and will remember how great it was to play in front of a packed Arthur Ashe - this great match".
A 10-minute break will be allowed between the second and third sets of women's singles matches if either player requests one.
"I would say the first really epic match I played". But the last time, against Philipp Kohlschreiber in Miami last spring, he fought back to win the match.
Breaking Thiem at a crucial juncture, the World No.1 quickly closed out the set but then found himself in trouble early on in the second. "But I just keep going".
It looked like the Austrian, a day past his 25th birthday, had cracked at 5-5 in the fifth but he fought back from 0-40 with one of the points of the match coming at deuce when took three overheads away.
"It's going to be stuck in my mind", he said. The giant American was presented with the US Open sportsmanship award following the quarter-final to recognise his conduct during the tournament and the warm-up events.
"To play John in these kind of matches, it's like an epic". 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.