NEW YORK. — Defending champion Rafael Nadal survived an epic US Open tennis quarter-final confrontation to defeat battling ninth seed Dominic Thiem 0-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/5) and reach the semi-finals for the seventh time.
In a gripping 4-hour 49-minute contest which concluded at 2:04am yesterday, world No. 1 Nadal won through to keep his bid for a fourth title in New York and 18th Grand Slam crown on track.
However, the 32-year-old was fortunate to triumph on another hot and humid night at Flushing Meadows, 24 hours after Roger Federer had been dumped out of the tournament by John Millman.
In the women’s section, Serena Williams powered her way to within two victories of a seventh US Open title on Tuesday and while she refused to look ahead there are many willing to do it for her, and what they see is a suddenly open path to a 24th Grand Slam.
“I’d been a couple steps away at the last Grand Slam, so I’m definitely not ahead of myself,” said Williams, the memory of a 6-3 6-3 loss to Angelique Kerber in the Wimbledon final still fresh.
“I still know that no matter whether I’m in the semi-finals or the finals, I have a really long way to go to win that.
“Again, that proved to be true at Wimbledon.”
Williams’s 6-4, 6-3 quarter-final win over Czech eighth seed Karolina Pliskova on Tuesday was her first over a top 10 ranked opponent since returning to the WTA Tour in March following the birth of her first child.
“That’s a really big step for me. Shocking, my first top-10 win,” said Williams. “I’m here to do my best.
“I don’t think I have another 10 years of having opportunities to be able to play and win championships.
“Every match really means a lot to me. I kind of go out there and I just do the best that I can.”
Meanwhile, After suffering a first set “bagel”, Nadal had to battle back from breaks in the third and fourth sets before seeing off the first top 20 player he had faced at the US Open since 2013.
“I suffered, that’s the right word,” said Nadal after playing his longest ever match at the tournament.
“I said to Dominic I am sorry. He’s a great guy, a close friend who will have many more opportunities to win the big titles.
“He has a great attitude and is a great fighter.”
In a dramatic final set, Nadal saw five break points come and go before Thiem went long with a smash on the first match point.
It was his 58th unforced error on a night when he sent down 18 aces and fired 58 winners.
The semi-final will pit Nadal against third seed Juan Martin del Potro for the second successive Grand Slam.
At Wimbledon, Nadal came back from two sets to one down to win in five in a quarter-final which stretched to almost five hours.
Thiem broke three times in a 24-minute first set, handing Nadal just his third ‘bagel’ at a Grand Slam.
The top seed won just seven points in the opener.