ESPN captures epic shot of Rafael Nadal after marathon match

Iron man Dominic Thiem celebrates after beating Kevin Anderson

Top seed Rafael Nadal has been pushed all the way in his US Open quarter final, needing five sets and almost five hours to overcome Austria's Dominic Thiem, in a match that finished after 2am NY time.

Thiem - with his girlfriend and fellow tennis player Kristina Mladenovic watching from the stands where Hollywood star Ben Stiller was also present - played well, however, Nadal was just too good as he executed the third of three set points on his opponent's serve to claim the momentum.

The last time Nadal failed to get on the scoreboard in an opening set was against Philipp Kohlschreiber at the Miami Open previous year, though he went on to win the other sets 6-2 and 6-3.

After suffering a first set "bagel", Nadal had to battle back from breaks in the third and fourth sets before seeing off the first top 20 player he had faced at the US Open since 2013.

Eventually, the world No 1 persevered to keep his challenge for an 18th Grand Slam alive. Law and Whitaker say it feels like there's an irresistible force behind del Potro that's pushing him to the title.

Nadal met the Austrian in the quarter-finals of the U.S. open, a tournament the Spaniard has won four times.

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.

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No. 1 Rafael Nadal defeated Dominic Thiem 0-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (7-5) in a four-hour, 49-minute marathon that ended at 2:03 a.m. Wednesday. Thiem has never won a major tournament. That was the first set dropped by del Potro in the tournament. He saved 12 break points, including three while serving at 5-5, 0-40 in the fifth set. Nadal was sweating so much in the 90-degree heat and 50-per cent humidity that a mountain of white towels formed next to his changeover bench.

Nadal won the third set 7-5, and seemed to be on the verge of winning the fourth.

Thiem is looking to reach the semi-finals, having reached his first last-eight match outside of the French Open as Nadal seeks a fourth title at Flushing Meadows.

If ever there was a reminder that fans should appreciate the game's largest figures while they can, Tuesday night at the U.S. Open was it. I tried to stay in the match some way in the second set. It means a lot to me. That win should build confidence for Thiem as he takes on the tournament's number one ranked player. She broke Stephens twice in the opening set, including at love in the final game.

Nadal had to regroup again for the fifth set. "Forever I'm going to remember this match, for sure". U.S. Open officials began putting it in play last week, when temperatures first soared into the mid-90s. How did Sevastova "bamboozle" the defending champion? But it was the way Federer lost - exhausted, irritated and unable to find a new gear (or, at times, even second gear) - that made his loss so stunning.

Williams and Stephens first have to win quarterfinal matches Tuesday.

Elsewhere, there was a big surprise in the opening match of the day when Sloane Stephens was beaten in straight-sets by Anastasija Sevastova. "Beating John in these kind of matches is like an epic, an epic match".

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