'Defeat will stay with me forever,' says devastated Thiem

World No.1 Rafa Nadal said his five-set win over ninth seed Dominic Thiem to reach the US Open semi-finals had been "very demanding in all aspects".

Ninth seed Thiem became the first player since Andy Roddick in 2004 to win a love set against Nadal in NY but the defending champion once again dug deep to come out on top of a gruelling battle played in more punishing humidity.

When Thiem finally broke down, with a botched smash on match point, the clock showed 2.04am in NY and the match duration was 4 hours 49 minutes, making it Nadal's longest ever match at Flushing Meadows.

He will play Argentine third seed Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 champion, in Friday's semi-finals.

To boot, Nadal and Thiem's epic ended at 2:04 am, the seventh U.S. Open match in history to finish after 2 am, 22 minutes shy of the all-time record.

"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", said Nadal, who absorbed a 6-0 loss of the opening set, winning just seven points as Thiem rode roughshod over him in 24 minutes.

It was only the fourth time in his long grand slam history that Nadal had lost a set 6-0 and just the third time at any level in almost seven years.

While that encounter was settled in straight sets, Thiem was agonisingly close to his first major victory over Nadal on this occasion, and seeing the opportunity slip from his grasp is something that he says will never leave him. The Austrian was up a break in the third set and had a chance to serve it out at 5-4, but wasn't able to convert.

Thiem, who lost to Nadal in the French Open final but who has 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. Yeah, it was [a] question of little bit of luck at the end.

"If we skip the first set, it was a really open match from beginning to the end".

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"He's young, he has plenty of time to win big tournaments, and he has everything, no?" "I was thinking, 'You know, I can play better.' So that was the good news".

"It's going to be stuck in my mind", he said.

"He has a great attitude and is a great fighter", added Nadal.

"I don't think he's really sorry", said the 25-year-old.

"I played a lot of long and tough matches in my career".

There were no breaks of serve in the deciding set and a second tiebreak ensued. I tried to stay in the match some way in the second set. I think we nearly all the time have great matches.

"I had a shower, lay on the table and I didn't want to come back again".

"To play John in these kind of matches, it's like an epic".

But while Isner was playing before what could count as a home crowd, del Potro got all manner of support throughout, from the blue-and-white flags or soccer jerseys dotting the stands to the repeated singsong chants of his nickname, "Delpo", punctuated by clapping.

  • Lawrence Cooper