Rafael Nadal, of Spain, celebrates after defeating Dominic Thiem, of Austria, during the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open, early on Wednesday in NY. Thiem took a 5-4 lead before Nadal won both service points to set up his first match point.
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. This sport is tough, so it's so easy to get very frustrated out there on the court when things aren't going your way.
Thiem - who lost to Nadal in the French Open final in June - has had success on the red dirt against the world No 1.
"I don't think he's really sorry", said Thiem with a smile. "He's a close friend on tour, a great guy and I wish him the very best".
"He has plenty of time to win big tournaments and has everything".
Thiem - with his girlfriend and fellow tennis player Kristina Mladenovic watching from the stands where Hollywood star Ben Stiller was also present - played well, however, Nadal was just too good as he executed the third of three set points on his opponent's serve to claim the momentum.
He saved 12 break points, including three while serving at 5-5, 0-40 in the fifth set. Not only was Nadal two points from losing at 5-all in the closing tiebreaker, but he finished with fewer total points, 171-166.
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.More news: How Much Will The iPhone XS Max Cost?
"Being honest I am just very, very sorry for Dominic". But there has to be one. The World No.1, for the first time, started the match with such a worst beginning.
At this point, Thiem had to ask for a new pair of shoes and socks because his were waterlogged from sweating so much.
Nadal paid tribute to the crowd for hanging on until the early hours of Wednesday morning.
The Spaniard had appeared the more tired of the two but he roused himself for one final effort and emerged victorious when Thiem sent a final smash long after four hours and 49 minutes.
"It's been an unbelievable feeling. It means a lot to me".
Up next is a semi-final clash with the resurgent giant that is Juan Martin del Potro and Nadal has less than 48 hours to recover for his clash with the Argentine. "I told myself "wake up", said Nadal.
Del Potro dropped his first set of the tournament against 11th seed Isner, who was playing in his maiden quarter-final at his home Slam.
Despite lasting just short of five hours - the longest match of the tournament thus far - the quality never waned, and while the ninth seed appeared to have more left in the tank, Nadal's grit and determination dragged him through.