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Nadal ‘bagelled’ but reaches semifinal anyway

By Reuters - Sep 05,2018 - Last updated at Sep 05,2018

Spain’s Rafael Nadal hits a return to Austria’s Dominic Thiem during their men’s singles quarter-finals match at the 2018 US Open in New York City on Tuesday (AFP photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

NEW YORK — Defending champion Rafa Nadal failed to win a single game in the opening set of his US Open quarter-final against Dominic Thiem on Tuesday, but fought back to beat the Austrian 0-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-7(4), 7-6(5) in a match that ended after 2 am in New York.

Nadal won 40 per cent 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 ago.

“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 in 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 me.”

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 semifinal clash with big-serving Argentine and third seed Juan Martin del Potro.

Juan Martin Del Potro outslugged John Isner 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-2 to reach the semifinals of the US Open on Tuesday after a towering battle in a sweltering Arthur Ashe Stadium.

The three hour, 31 minute quarter-final was played in suffocating humidity so extreme that officials called a halt to junior matches on the outside courts for more than two hours.

Play continued on Arthur Ashe but with temperatures nudging 37.7ºC the stadium was turned into a sauna, leaving the 2.08m American Isner and 1.98m Argentine Del Potro, suffering.

“I weigh 108 kilogrammes, so I have always said it’s pretty difficult to play in hot conditions,” said Isner, who had 11 shirt changes during match. “I weigh a lot and I sweat a lot.” 

“It takes its toll on bigger guys, in my opinion.

“I don’t know what I weighed before the match. I did not weigh myself, but I can tell you I lost a lot of weight out there.”

Anyone looking for serve and volley came to the wrong place as the pair traded bombs from the baseline with Isner, bidding to become the first American since Andy Roddick in 2006 to reach US Open semifinals, belting 26 aces and Del Potro 14.

Break chances were few and far between, Isner managed just three and was unable to convert any, while Del Potro had 11, cashing in on three, including one to close out the match.

It was enough to see Del Potro, the 2009 US Open champion, through to the last four at Flushing Meadows for a third time where he will face either top seed Rafa Nadal or Austrian ninth seed Dominic Thiem, who were playing later on Tuesday.

“I think I played very solid this game,” said Del Potro. “In particular I made good returns every service game.

“I saw John a little bit tired also. That’s give me a little bit more energy to keep trying.

“I don’t know if I’m playing my best tennis ever but I’m feeling good. I reach another semi finals in this Grand Slam, which means something big to me.”

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