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

Kristopher Nichols
September 8, 2018

After dropping the first set, 6-0, in a lackadaisical performance, Nadal fought back throughout the 4-hour 49-minute match to ultimately win, 0-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5). Nadal trailed by a break in the third set before taking it. I know he's playing well.

The reigning US Open champion will meet another veteran, the Argentine 2009 victor Juan Martin del Potro, in the next round. The two had played 10 times, but all previous meetings came on the clay courts preferred by both.

"Very demanding in all aspects", Nadal said of the match.

"I think last three sets I improved". "Normally he doesn't lose to nobody 6-0". But still, it was great. It was a question of a little bit of luck at the end. Even like this, I had a very lucky first set.

More than most at the top of men's tennis, Thiem's tactic rarely shifts from its core: a barrelling barrage of baseline bashing.

Thiem, who had also tasted defeat against Nadal in this year's French Open, is a rising star of the game who has been on the wrong side of the Spaniard's warrior-like tenacity.

"'Wake up, '" Nadal said he told himself. "Had been a very tough start for me. I did it sometime against him, but it's a risky game style because it can happen that I make too many mistake, and then it looks black".

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There were no breaks of serve in the deciding set and a second tiebreak ensued.

Nadal holds an 11-5 record against Del Potro.

Nadal's play typically leaned on his forehand, which produced 29 winners compared with 9 from his backhand. He hit 19 winners in the fourth set-which was an 81-minute mini-classic all by itself-and won it in a tiebreaker. Nadal climbed over the net to hug his opponent, then whisper an apology and words of encouragement.

"He's young, he has plenty of time to win big tournaments".

Rafael Nadal in action against Dominic Thiem at the US Open. "The only thing which was uncomfortable was the sweating I couldn't run any more in the fourth set because the shoes were completely wet", Thiem said. "That's the most important thing".

"I would say [this is] the first really epic match I played".

"But, no, he's a great guy", Thiem said. Despite opening the season with a title in Melbourne, his 20th major win, the image of Federer struggling against Millman on Ashe - and later admitting to the media he was just happy the match had ended - is what will stick in the minds of fans until he gives them reason to believe Monday was nothing more than an off day at work and not a signpost for the future. "I mean, it's cruel sometimes tennis, because I think this match didn't really deserve a loser". I fought until the end. "Forever I'm going to remember this match, for sure", said Thiem after his first ever hard court match against Nadal.

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