World No 1 becomes first male or female player to reach quarter-finals at all four Grand Slams this year
Last Updated: 02/09/18 9:08pm
Defending champion Rafael Nadal withstood a barrage of powerful hitting to defeat Nikoloz Basilashvili in four sets and set up a US Open quarter-final against Dominic Thiem.
The world No 1, who was pushed hard against Karen Khachanov in the third round, recovered from losing a third set tiebreak against Basilashvili to record a 6-3 6-3 6-7 (6-8) 6-4 victory over the impressive Georgian in three hours and 19 minutes.
Nadal, bidding to come the first back-to-back champion in New York since great rival Roger Federer in 2008, recovered from a break deficit in the third set to enjoy routine progress on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“Two matches in a row that were very tough ones. I had a chance at the beginning of the third set at 0-40 but if I had broken then it could have been different, but I didn’t,” Nadal said.
“I think I played a good tie-break but he played fantastic. Lots of credit to him, playing great and hitting the ball very strong! He was always able to come back.
“I think I improved my level at the end of the third even though I lost the set and again in the fourth, I was a little more aggressive, he was very very aggressive!
“First two sets were tough with no rhythm. It’s a big victory for me, after a very long one two days ago. I was ready, I fought well and I feel good.”
The 32-year-old traded service holds against his aggressive opponent in the opening stages before demonstrating his excellent court coverage to secure the opening break in the eighth game and serve out for the first set.
Nadal increased his command with a break at the start of the second set and after saving two break points in the fourth game he secured a two-sets-to-love advantage with a second break.
Basilashvili, who had only won one game in their previous meeting at the French Open last year, remained undeterred by his position on the scoreboard and, after saving five break points in the second game, broke for the first time to hold a 2-1 lead.
But Nadal hit back as the world No 37 handed back his advantage with a disappointing service game before both players held serve to bring up a tiebreak.
The quality of tennis remained high as they traded mini-breaks of serve and, despite seeing one set point saved, an inspired Basilashvili extended the match with his 23rd winner of the set.
Nadal saw two break points for a double break lead come and go in the fifth game of the fourth set and was then broken himself as Basilashvili continued to produce remarkable baseline hitting, but the three-time US Open champion raised his level to break again before serving out for the victory.
Thiem had earlier knocked out 2017 finalist Kevin Anderson in straight sets to reach his first Grand Slam quarter-final outside the French Open.
The Austrian ninth seed, who opted to play European clay court events after Wimbledon, defeated the big-serving South African 7-5 6-2 7-6 (7-2) and will now meet Nadal for the fourth time this year.
Thiem, who had two match points against Juan Martin del Potro in the fourth round last year, lost to Nadal at Monte Carlo and in his first Grand Slam final at Roland Garros in June, but did beat the Spaniard on his way to the Madrid final.
“One of my best matches ever,” said Thiem, who also spoke of the influence of playing on the new Louis Armstrong Stadium.
“The court, I think, made a big difference. It’s a huge court. I could go very far back like I do on clay usually. So there were some good advantages for me today.
“I also played really safe from the baseline, which is also a big part of the performance today. But against him, still, the most important is to put as many balls back into play as possible.”
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Tennis is back on Sky Sports screens with the Laver Cup in September while we will also have coverage of the ATP Finals in November with every match live on Sky Sports. But first, we will be across the final major of the year in New York as the US Open right through to the final with live blogs, reports, features and reaction.