Rafael Nadal nearly needed five hours to win this instant classic

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal

In a gripping 4-hour 49-minute contest which concluded at 2.04am on Wednesday, world number one Nadal won through to keep his bid for a fourth title in NY and 18th Grand Slam crown on track.

To celebrate his special day, the tennis star enjoyed a romantic night out in NY this week.

Said Nadal: "It's a different kind of match than clay but is still a tennis match". "It was a real battle".

"So the fact that I made it to the quarter-finals and played some really good matches and I just competed as hard as I could, I mean [there's] a lot to be proud of". For me it was... "Keep going", the victor said of the embrace.

It was a grueling and see-sawing battle in the third, but Nadal continued his comeback to take a two-sets-to-one lead, having been down a break at 5-4. "But I think he was also not on his top level in the first set - for sure not".

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"It was a very tough start and then I tried to stay in the match in some way in that second set and I did". For even though Thiem had won more points, been ahead in three of the five sets, powered 74 winners, he froze in the big moments while Nadal flew.

Nadal was on 55 winners and 49 unforced errors, winning six points less than his rival thanks to that bad first set but doing what he had to do in the end despite the fact he wasted five break points in the deciding set while Thiem had none. I didn't want to come back out'. He saved 12 break points, including three while serving at 5-5, 0-40 in the fifth set.

Nadal ultimately prevailed at 2:04 a.m., 0-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5). I fought until the end.

The opener looked to be heading for a tiebreak before Del Potro dispatched a backhand volley to earn himself two more break points in the 10th game. But this one went to a tiebreak, lost by a sloppy Nadal more than it was won by Thiem, dragging things to a fifth set.

"That's what I was preparing for", Thiem said.

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"I just play them instinctively, and that's how they work, or don't work sometimes."
I think we nearly all the time have great matches.

"After that first set", Nadal said, "the match became more normal". There are the matches he actually loses - as the past and present world No. 1, a 17-time major victor, these are rare - but not before leaving behind a Mediterranean Sea's worth of sweat and tears.

Though the match was played in the night session, allowing Nadal and Thiem to avoid the searing daytime temperatures that have had a significant impact on the tournament, the ninth seed still felt the conditions played their part.

"I am very sorry for Dominic, he's a close friend on tour, a great guy and a great player". "He will have his chances in the future without a doubt", the Spanish tennis player said.

Nadal will now face Juan Martin del Potro in a repeat of last year's semi-final.

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The Spaniard secured the break he wanted for 5-3 only to give it back but a sloppy game from Thiem, who turned 25 on Monday, handed him the set anyway.

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