NEW YORK—“It’s going to be stuck in my mind forever,” Dominic Thiem said when his epic, five-set quarterfinal loss to Rafael Nadal was over. Unfortunately for Thiem, he’s going to have to remember the fact that, after running, fighting, swinging, and sweating for 4 hours and 49 minutes, he came up two points short of victory. For the rest of us who were watching in Ashe Stadium or on TV until 2:04 a.m. Wednesday morning, the memory will be just as long-lasting, but a lot happier. The quarterfinal between Nadal and Thiem had night-match classic written all over it, and the Spaniard and the Austrian delivered.
Here’s a look back at this battle royale in photos:
Thiem came out swinging, and connecting; he hit five aces, 13 winners, and handed Nadal a rare bagel in the first set. “I think he was also not on his top level in the first set, for sure not,” Thiem said. “Normally he doesn’t lose to nobody 6-0. But still, it was great.”
Nadal evened the match by breaking in the final game of the second set. “Very demanding in all aspects,” Nadal said of the match. “Have been a very tough start for me. After that first set, then the match became more normal. Tough match against a great opponent.”
Nadal won the third set 7-5, and seemed to be on the verge of winning the fourth. “The only true is that you have to be able to do things better to be able to fight for the point and fight for the match, no?”
But Thiem didn’t go away. He hit 19 winners in the fourth set—which was an 81-minute mini-classic all by itself—and won it in a tiebreaker.
“I would say the first really epic match that I played. I played some good ones before, but not that long, not that long against the great guys on the Grand Slam stage.”
Nadal had to regroup again for the fifth set. “Have been physically demanding because the conditions have been tough out there,” he said. “Not crazy, but tough.”
Nadal hit 15 winners in the fifth set, and 55 overall. As usual, he had to do it without the benefit of many cheap points; he hit just three aces, 15 fewer than Thiem.
In one of many memorable points, Nadal hit a nearly perfect half volley, only to see Thiem beat him with a perfect crosscourt pass.
“What is important about this match is the level of tennis, the dramatic match,” Nadal said. “When the things happens like this, the atmosphere and the crowd become more special. People get involved.”
Rafa’s look after the final point mixed celebration with pain.
“Sad for him because when arrive this moment, he did all the things well to win the match,” Nadal said of Thiem. “He’s a top guy, being honest. He’s one of the best guys on tour.”
“In some way when you give everything that you have, win or lose, it just that someone have to lose, someone have to win, that’s part of the game,” Nadal said. “But the personal satisfaction when you give everything and you play with the right attitude is the same.”
“Forever I’m going to remember this match, for sure,” Thiem said. “I mean, it’s cruel sometimes tennis, because I think this match didn’t really deserve a loser. But there has to be one.”
In his 0-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5) win, Nadal left it all on the court, including his shoes.
Photographs by Anita Aguilar; Captions by Steve Tignor