Top seed Rafael Nadal has been pushed all the way in his US Open quarter final, needing five sets and almost five hours to overcome Austria's Dominic Thiem, in a match that finished after 2am NY time.
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.
The 32-year-old managed to clinch a 0-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5) victory over his Austrian opponent in an epic five-set clash that lasted four hours and 49 minutes.
When that emblem of career longevity Serena Williams was asked Tuesday night following her win in the U.S. Open quarterfinals why the desire to win another Grand Slam title burns hotter in her than it did before she took time off to have her daughter, she gave an answer that made tennis fans a bit weepy. "You are very good", Nadal said. "But in some way, being honest, I had a very tough injury in 2005".
"I did a very bad set".
The reigning US Open champion will meet another veteran, the Argentine 2009 victor Juan Martin del Potro, in the next round.
"I'm very sorry for Dominic", Nadal added.
Find out how to watch Nadal vs Thiem live online streaming with or without cable when the match starts at approximately 9 pm EST, or when the previous match concludes.
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Defending champion Nadal suffered a "bagel" in the first set but still won 0-6 6-4 7-5 5-7 7-6 to avoid the same fate as Roger Federer. And, yes, I played against a great opponent. I think we nearly all the time have great matches. It's cruel sometimes tennis, because I think this match didn't really deserve a loser.
"He's young, he has plenty of time to win big tournaments".
Those choruses resonated in the arena after key points, such as each time del Potro erased one of Isner's break chances, three in all. But, as in the second set, when the time came to keep his foot on Nadal's throat, he instead loosened the pressure and lived to regret it.
Del Potro admitted the 33-degree temperatures proved a real challenge with the 10-minute heat rule allowing the players a welcome respite after the third set.
In the fourth set, Thiem once again took control early, breaking Nadal to take a 2-1 lead.
"Yeah, it's going to be stuck in my mind forever", Thiem said after the match.
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. "But in a 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". 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.
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