Read & Watch: Nadal Sets Thiem Clash In New York
After winning the longest match of the tournament two days ago, Rafael Nadal once again needed four sets to progress to the US Open quarter-finals on Sunday, beating Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-3, 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-4 on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The three-time champion, making his 10th Round of 16 appearance in Flushing Meadows, advanced after three hours and 18 minutes. He saved five of seven break points en route to the victory. Nadal improves to 57-10 at the year's final Grand Slam and has now won 26 of his past 27 matches, dating back to the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in May.
The 32-year-old, who was two points from a straight-sets victory at 6/6 in the third set tie-break, has now reached the US Open quarter-finals on eight occasions. Nadal has won his past six matches at the last-eight stage in New York (6-1), with his lone loss coming on his quarter-final debut at the event in 2006 (l. to Youzhny).
For the first time on a hard-court, Nadal will face ninth seed Dominic Thiem, who defeated 2017 finalist Kevin Anderson 7-5, 6-2, 7-6(2). Each of their 10 previous meetings have been contested on clay.
"It is a different kind of match than on clay," said Nadal. "But it is still a tennis match. It is a different thing, but in some way, I know how he plays. He knows how I am playing. [It is] going to be an interesting one, tough one, hopefully for both of us."
"He's a fantastic player. He's a very powerful player. He's a great guy. Very good relationship with him. Happy for him that he's in quarter-finals here. Last year he lost a very tough match against Del Potro here... [It is] going to be a tough one," said Nadal.
"He is a very powerful player and he knows how to play these kind of matches. I need to play my best match of the tournament if I want to keep having chances to stay in the tournament."
Nadal used a mixture of height and depth off his return to neutralise rallies in the eighth game. That tactic, paired with consistent forehand aggression, paid dividends as the Spaniard earned his first break of the match before serving out the set to 15 in the following game.
Nadal carried the momentum into the second set, as Basilashvili struggled to find the court with a series of errors in the opening game. After saving his first three break points of the match at 2-1, Nadal used great court coverage to extract further errors from the Georgian in the ninth game. Nadal took a two-set lead on his second set point as Basilashvili misfired on his backhand side.
After trading breaks early in the third set, a tie-break was needed to split the two men. Nadal was forced to save set point at 5/6 with a rifled backhand up the line, and appeared to be heading towards match point, before narrowly missing the target on his signature down-the-line forehand. With a second opportunity to force a fourth set, Basilashvili successfully charged to the net, jabbing a backhand volley past Nadal to extend the match.
But Nadal quickly halted the Hamburg titlist's flow, snatching an immediate break in the fourth set after playing into his opponent's backhand wing. Basilashvili, running out of time to rebalance the scores, went for broke in the sixth game. The World No. 37 took his game to Nadal, ripping forehand returns before pushing Nadal into errors, with depth off the ground, to reach 3-3.
Nadal soon replied, mixing up his attack with increased advances up the line on his forehand to unsettle Basilashvili. When the Georgian approached the net at 15/40 down, there was only one target in Nadal's mind, which he struck with pinpoint accuracy to regain his advantage. The Spaniard soon arrived at match point, converting his first opportunity with his seventh ace of the match.
Basilashvili, the first Georgian to reach the fourth round at a Grand Slam since Irakli Labadze at 2006 Wimbledon, was bidding to record his third Top 10 win in seven matches (2-5). The Tbilisi native recently reached a career-high No. 35 in the ATP Rankings after capturing his maiden tour-level trophy at the German Tennis Championships 2018 presented by Kampmann.