Print Edition - 2018-09-06 | Sports
Nadal survives epic Thiem battle
- The Spaniard sets up semi-final clash with Del Potro
- Serena ousts Pliskova in the quarter-finals
-, NEW YORK
Sep 6, 2018-
Defending champion Rafael Nadal survived an epic US Open 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, 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. 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.” Nadal had defeated Thiem in the French Open final in June but this was their first meeting away from a clay court. “He has a great attitude and is a great fighter,” added Nadal.
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 74 winners. “It’s going to be stuck in my mind forever. Forever I’m going to remember this match, for sure,” said Thiem after his first ever hard court match against Nadal. “Tennis is cruel sometimes because I think this match didn’t really deserve a loser. But there has to be one.”
The semi-final will pit Nadal against third seed and 2009 US Open champion 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 on Tuesday, handing Nadal just his third ‘bagel’ at a Grand Slam. The top seed won just seven points in the opener.
Nadal recovered from being broken as he served for the second set in the ninth game with an immediate break back to level the tie. Thiem then grabbed a 4-3 lead in the third which he stretched to 5-3 but then it was his turn to crack as Nadal raced away with three games to claim a two sets to one lead. Thiem was 4-2 ahead in the fourth set before he was again reeled in and he was two points from defeat in the 12th game. But he took the tiebreaker before Nadal just proved the steadier of the two in the final set decider.
Del Potro reached the semi-finals for the third time, defeating John Isner 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 and ending American hopes of a first men’s champion at the event since 2003.
Del Potro dropped his first set of the tournament against 11th seed Isner. Despite that, the 29-year-old was never broken in the 3 hour 31 minute match where Isner unleashed 26 aces but was undone by 52 unforced errors compared to Del Potro’s 14.
On the women’s side, six-time champion Serena Williams shook off a sluggish start to power past eighth-seeded Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 6-3 in the quarter-finals. The US superstar, chasing a record-equalling 24th major title, surrendered an early break to Pliskova, but she roared back with a streak of eight straight games to put away the opening set and take a 4-0 lead in the second against the woman who beat her in the semi-finals at Flushing Meadows in 2016.
Williams finished the match with 13 aces and will take on Anastasija Sevastova for a place in the final after the 19th-seeded Latvian toppled defending champion Sloane Stephens 6-2, 6-3. Pliskova, who managed to convert just two of 12 break point chances in the contest, said Williams was simply too good in the important moments.
If Williams captures the title, she would break out of a tie with Chris Evert for most US Open titles, and equal Margaret Court’s all-time record for Grand Slams.
Men’s Singles Quarter-finals
R Nadal (ESP x1) bt D Thiem (AUT x9) 0-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/5);
J Del Potro (ARG x3) bt J Isner (USA x11) 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2
Women’s Singles Quarter-finals
S Williams (USA x17) bt K Pliskova (CZE x8) 6-4, 6-3; A Sevastova (LAT x19) bt S Stephens (USA x3) 6-2, 6-3
Published: 06-09-2018 08:11