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Defending champion Rafael Nadal defeated ninth-seeded Dominic Thiem in the quarterfinal battle and advanced to the semifinals of the US Open 2018 Championship in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Wednesday.

But the 17-time grand slam champion battled back to win the second and third sets before Thiem came out on top of an 81-minute fourth set to take the match into a nerve-wracking decider.

The fourth set was a wild 81-minute ride that began with Thiem facing break points, saw the Austrian threaten a double break before being pegged back and then a tired Nadal miss a chance to win the match.

The Spaniard had appeared the more tired of the two but he roused himself for one final effort and emerged victorious when Thiem sent a final smash long after four hours and 49 minutes.

Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating Dominic Thiem during the quarter-finals of the U.S. Open tennis tournament on September 5, 2018, in NY. "Had been a very tough start for me".

'I had a tough start and then I stayed in the match in some way.

Facing his semi-final against Argentine Juan Martin del Potro, Nadal hopes to rest before the challenge against an opponent who plays well on all surfaces.

"I'm very sorry for Dominic", Nadal added. "He's a close friend on tour, a great guy and I wish him the very best ..."

It was only the fourth time in 282 career Grand Slam matches that Nadal lost a set by a 6-0 score.

The popular third seed will now attempt to take a step he has not managed since winning his only grand slam title here nine years ago and reach another final.

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The Spaniard was able to bounce back and win the next two sets 6-4, 7-5, but not without a fight from Thiem.

He said: "I have my trophy at home". And, yes, I played against a great opponent.

A 10-minute break will be allowed between the second and third sets of women's singles matches if either player requests one.

"Being honest I am just very, very sorry for Dominic".

The fourth was another evenly matched affair, Thiem threatening the Nadal serve in game five before snatching a break two games later. Until the fifth-set tiebreaker, the first contested so far this tournament, it was truly any man's game to win. "That's one more today", he said after his 0-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/5) win. But when he came out to serve for the set at 5-4, the Austrian was visibly hesitant, Nadal bounded behind the baseline.

Isner did not end the tournament empty-handed despite his loss to Del Potro.

In the fourth set, Thiem was a point away from going a double break up at 3-1.

"It's going to be stuck in my mind forever", Thiem said. "It's good to have now two days [without a match] that probably give me the chance to be 100 per cent in the semi-finals". It means a lot to me.

Williams, seeded 17th, meets the last player to beat her at the U.S. Open.

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