NEW YORK, September 5: Rafael Nadal began his US Open quarterfinal as poorly as possible, shut out in a set by a 6-0 score for only the fourth time in 282 career Grand Slam matches.
On the previous three such occasions, he’d lost. On this one, he managed to come back to win, although it took 4 hours, 49 minutes and never did get easy for him.
The defending champion and No. 1 seed at Flushing Meadows recovered from his disastrous start and other stumbles along the way to beat No. 9 Dominic Thiem 0-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5) for a semifinal berth at a third consecutive Grand Slam tournament, winning a physical, back-and-forth tussle that stretched across and concluded after 2 a.m. Wednesday.
How tense and tight was this one? Not only was Nadal two points from losing at 5-all in the closing tiebreaker, but he finished with fewer total points, 171-166.
He is bidding for a fourth title at Flushing Meadows and 18th Grand Slam trophy overall.
On Friday, Nadal will take on a familiar foe with a berth in the final on the line: 2009 champion and No. 3 seed Juan Martin del Potro, who defeated No. 11 John Isner 6-7 (5), 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2.
Earlier the 36-year-old Williams, who is bidding for a record seventh title at Flushing Meadows as well her 24th major singles crown, started sluggishly in the night session, allowing Pliskova to take a 3-1 lead in the opening set before rebounding to win 6-4, 6-3.
With the heat rule in effect and junior matches on the outside courts suspended earlier in the day, Williams made 22 unforced errors in the opening set but showed all of her big-match pedigree to battle back and close out the set by winning the last four games.
“The crowd was really rooting for me and I felt so bad because everyone out here was cheering and I wasn’t winning so I thought I had to try harder,” Williams said courtside.
Two successive breaks of serve allowed Williams to win her eighth game in a row and open up a 4-0 lead, and she saw off a brief fightback from Pliskova before sending down her 13th ace to seal the match in one hour and 26 minutes. (AP)