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Rafael Nadal outlasts Dominic Thiem in 5-set US Open thriller

Tennis great Rafael Nadal outlasted Dominic Thiem in an epic, grueling five-set quarterfinal, turning around his performance from a disastrous opening set to clinch the match in dramatic style.

The match, which carried on until after 2 a.m. before ending 0-6 6-4 7-5 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (7-5), was Nadal’s longest at the US Open.

Number one seed Nadal said his legs were feeling the strain at the end of the marathon session, which see-sawed between the Spaniard and his younger Austrian opponent, before a nerve-wracking fifth set ended even to send it to a tiebreak.

Post-match Nadal said that “suffering” was the “right word” to describe the 4 hour, 48 minute match.

“It’s been a great battle, the conditions were tough, a lot of humidity. It was a very tough start, I tried to stay in the match in the second set,” he said on court after securing passage to the semifinals.

“I just (kept) going, I’m very sorry for Dominic, he’s a close friend on tour, a great guy, and I wish him all the very best.”

He revealed that he’d offered his condolences to ninth seed Thiem at the net, telling him that he was a good player and urging him to keep going.

“He’s young, he has plenty of time to win big tournaments,” he said on court. “He’s a fighter, he has a great attitude. I’m sure he will have his chances in the future.”

He paid tribute to the crowd, which kept up their vocal support of the three-time US Open champion despite the hours stretching into the early New York morning.

“Thank you for the all the support,” he said, addressing the Arthur Ashe crowd. “Without that energy it (would) be impossible to win the match.”

The reigning US Open champion will meet another veteran, the Argentine 2009 winner Juan Martin del Potro, in the next round.