NEW YORK • Rafael Nadal said that he was sorry to Dominic Thiem after surviving an epic US Open clash to triumph 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 4hr 49min contest which started on Tuesday and concluded at 2.04am (2.04pm in Singapore) yesterday, world No. 1 and defending champion Nadal had to toil to keep his bid for a fourth title in New York and 18th Grand Slam crown on track.
"I suffered, that's the right word," said the Spaniard 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."
The 32-year-old Nadal was fortunate to triumph on another hot and humid night at Flushing Meadows, 24 hours after five-time US Open champion Roger Federer had been dumped out of the tournament by Australia's John Millman.
After suffering a first-set bagel in which he won only seven points, he 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.
Thiem broke three times in a 24-minute first set, handing Nadal just his third 'bagel' at a Grand Slam. He also became the first player to 'bagel' Nadal at Flushing Meadows since Andy Roddick 14 years ago.
"When these things happen, normally I am not the guy that looks at the string or looks at the box or looks at the racquet," Nadal said.
"I am the guy to look at myself. I needed to move forward, to change that dynamic, and I did.
"But the first step to change that dynamic is not to find an excuse... The only truth is that you have to do things better to be able to fight for the point and fight for the match."
LITTLE TO CHOOSE BETWEEN THEM
It's going to be stuck in my mind forever. Forever I'm going to remember this match. Tennis is cruel sometimes because I think this match didn't really deserve a loser. But there has to be one.
DOMINIC THIEM, after losing the five-set quarter-final in New York in 4hr 49min.
Nadal had defeated the 25-year-old in the Roland Garros final in June but this was their first meeting away from a clay court.
Thiem was understandably devastated following his epic defeat.
"It's going to be stuck in my mind forever. Forever I'm going to remember this match," said the Austrian. "Tennis is cruel sometimes because I think this match didn't really deserve a loser.
"But there has to be one."
Nadal will face third seed Juan Martin del Potro for a place in the final for the second successive Grand Slam. The Argentinian triumphed 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2 over American John Isner, who said he used 11 shirts during the match owing to the heat and humidity.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS