The match lasted four hours and 49 minutes and did not conclude until 2:04 a.m. Wednesday morning. Nadal held serve to win his first game of the match to start the second set and dug deep in a grueling back-and-forth classic to advance to the semifinals, 0-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-7, 7-6.
Number one seed Nadal said his legs were feeling the strain at the end of the marathon session, which see-sawed back and forth between the Spaniard and his younger Austrian opponent, before a nerve-wracking fifth set ended even to send it to a tiebreak. "Had been a very tough start for me. Tough match against a great opponent".
"It was physically demanding because the conditions were tough out there, too".
The pair are close friends and Thiem is widely expected to be Nadal's heir on clay. "Beating John in these kind of matches is like an epic, an epic match". [I am] sorry for him.
"I'm sad for him because when this moment arrived, he did all the things well to win the match. I hope that we have many more in the future - with a different end". I'm happy, of course, to be in the semifinals again.
Remarkably, Thiem was the first top-20 player Nadal has faced at Flushing Meadows since his final win over Novak Djokovic in 2013.
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Nadal, who registered his 12th consecutive victory in the tournament, managed to maintain his record of not losing a single US Open quarter-final since his first last-eight appearance in 2006.
In the first Nadal was all over the place, totally unable to find any rhythm and a set down after just 26 minutes when he won just seven points. The win was sealed when Thiem missed a hard overhead smash long, and Nadal looked to the sky, equal parts overjoyed and relieved. But after Nadal came within two points of victory, Thiem wound up taking the fourth set 7-6 (4).
Perhaps Thiem, after a change of socks and shoes, looked the fresher going into the decider but he needed to save two break points at 2-2, one with an ace, to maintain parity.
"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.
"I'm going to remember this match, for sure".
Instead, after a subdued celebration, he briskly walked to the other side of the net to console his vanquished rival and offer a word of encouragement in a friendly embrace. But I have to say, the last two sets the level of tennis was incredible. "But he's a great guy".
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"I had a shower, lay on the table and I didn't want to come back again". I told him I was sorry and that he is good, he is a fighter.
'I think from the third set he moved a little bit up.
At this point, Thiem had to ask for a new pair of shoes and socks because his were waterlogged from sweating so much.
The semi-final will pit Nadal against third seed Juan Martin del Potro for the second successive Grand Slam.
He said: "I have my trophy at home. He's one of the best guys on tour".
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