Nadal through after five-set thriller

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

There was no let-up in the tie-break and, after four hours and 49 minutes, it was Nadal who claimed victory when Thiem sent a smash long.

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

(AAP )Dominic Thiem pushed Rafael Nadal to five sets in their US Open quarter final.

Under the lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium, Nadal and Thiem delivered the NY crowd another memorable marathon, this time for a spot in the US Open semifinals.

Nadal never looked as physically spent as Federer did in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday night, but in a rematch of this year's French Open final, Thiem had him on the ropes.

"I'm very, very sorry", Nadal revealed he'd said to Thiem as they embraced.

This was only the fourth time in 282 career Grand Slam matches that Nadal has been bagelled in a set - on the three previous occasions, he lost. The world No 1 and three-time victor at Flushing Meadows came within two points of victory, but Thiem wound up taking the fourth set on a tiebreak. "I'm playing a lot of hours this year at this attractive stadium".

"I just wish him all the very very best".

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"I am the guy to look at myself", Nadal said. But, as in the second set, when the time came to keep his foot on Nadal's throat, he instead loosened the pressure and lived to regret it. "He has a great attitude and is a great fighter", added Nadal.

The Austrian was heartbroken but proud, saying: "It's going to be stuck in my mind forever". He's a great guy, a close friend who will have many more opportunities to win the big titles.

"I would say the first really epic match I played". Yeah, it was [a] question of little bit of luck at the end.

With a heat wave striking NY and temperatures crossing 27 degrees at night, it appeared that Nadal would see off the tie with a four-set victory but Thiem's seemed to have found his mojo once again.

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. I think we nearly all the time have great matches.

The third set was another grind.

That said, you don't win 17 Grand Slams without being able to dig deep in the face of adversity and after hanging in there, the top seed took advantage of a poor service game from the 25-year-old to earn the chance to serve out the second.

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.

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

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