Nadal won 40 percent of his first serves in the
opener as he struggled with the high humidity on Arthur Ashe
Stadium court, with Thiem becoming the first player to 'bagel'
the Spaniard at Flushing Meadows since Andy Roddick 14 years
"It's been a great battle," an exhausted Nadal said. "The
conditions were tough, very humid for me."
Thiem, who lost to Nadal in the French Open final but had beaten
the Spaniard three times in 10 previous meetings, struck 74
winners, including 24 with his stylish single-handed backhand,
to keep the champion under constant pressure.
"I'm very sorry for Dominic," Nadal added. "He's a close friend
on tour, a great guy and I wish him the very best ... He is
young and has plenty of time to win tournaments."
After Nadal roared back to take a 2-1 lead, the fourth set went
to a tiebreak. Thiem raced to a 3-0 lead before Nadal fought
back, but the Austrian held his nerve to level the match.
There were no breaks of serve in the deciding set and a second
tiebreak ensued. The two were neck-in-neck at 5-5 when Nadal
carved out a match point with his forehand.
Thiem's wayward overhead smash handed the match to Nadal, who
stood midcourt with his head thrown back and arms raised in the
air in celebration.
"It's going to be stuck in my mind forever," Thiem said.
"I'm going to remember this match, for sure. It's cruel
sometimes tennis, because I think this match didn't really
deserve a loser. But there has to be one.
"If we skip the first set, it was a really open match from
beginning to the end. The way it ended up in the fifth set
tiebreaker, from there it's 50-50. He made one more point than
Nadal paid tribute to the crowd for hanging on until the early
hours of Wednesday morning.
"Thank you very much everybody for staying here tonight," Nadal
said after the four hour, 49 minute marathon.
"It's been an amazing feeling. I'm playing a lot of hours this
year at this beautiful stadium."
Next up for the top seed is a semi-final clash with big-serving
Argentine and third seed Juan Martin del Potro.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)
[© 2018 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2018 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Thompson Reuters is solely responsible for this content.