Top seed Rafael Nadal set up an intriguing US Open quarter-final showdown with Dominic Thiem after snuffing out a comeback attempt by Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili with a 6-3 6-3 6-7(6) 6-4 win on Sunday.
The world number one looked like he would cruise to an easy win after pocketing the first two sets but the Georgian stepped up his game to take the third.
The US Open champion would not be denied, however, and fired his seventh ace on match point to end the three hour, 20-minute tussle.
“Two matches in the row that were very tough ones,” said Nadal, who had to battle back against Russian Karen Khachanov two days ago.
Nadal praised the 26-year-old Basilashvili, who will break into the top 30 for the first time when the new rankings are released after the tournament.
“He played fantastic. A lot of credit to him. He was playing great, hitting the ball very, very strong,” the Spaniard said.
“I’m very happy to be through,” added Nadal after setting up a rematch of June’s French Open final, when he crushed Thiem in straight sets to win his 17th major.
Basilashvili only managed to convert two of his seven break point opportunities and committed 59 unforced errors to Nadal’s 19 on a partly cloudy day at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Despite Sunday’s loss the result is big step forward for Basilashvili, who suffered a 6-0 6-1 6-0 drubbing by the claycourt king when they met at the French Open in June.
Nadal said he will need to raise his game to get past the red-hot Thiem, who reached his first US Open quarter-final when he defeated 2017 US Open runner-up Kevin Anderson in straight sets.
“He’s a fantastic player. He’s a very powerful player. He’s a great guy,” Nadal told reporters.
“I have a very good relationship with him. Happy for him that he’s in quarter-finals here,” he said.
“I’ll need to play my best match of the tournament.”
Juan Martin Del Potro crushes Borna Coric
Third seed Juan Martin del Potro crushed Croatia’s Borna Coric 6-4 6-3 6-1 to set up a quarter-final clash with American John Isner.
The Argentine sent down nine aces and 33 winners to seal a one-sided victory over the 20th seed in just over two hours, with Coric making 30 unforced errors to undermine his own cause.
The Croatian needed a medical timeout in the second set and was then blown away by Del Potro’s booming forehand in the third, surrendering the set in just 30 minutes.
Del Potro, champion in 2009, got an early break to go 3-1 up in the first before Coric fought back to level at 4-4, converting the only break point he carved out in the match.
The opener looked to be heading for a tiebreak before Del Potro dispatched a backhand volley to earn himself two more break points in the 10th game.
Coric rallied for deuce but double faulted to give Del Potro another break point opportunity and conceded the set with an unforced error.
“I think that moment was the key of the match,” Del Potro said in an on-court interview. “It gave me confidence.”
Both players suffered in the humid conditions under the floodlights at Arthur Ashe Stadium, but Del Potro fed off the energy of the crowd, including a group of his friends who have travelled from his hometown Tandil to cheer him on.
“They are crazy,” he added with a smile. “They have to go back to Argentina and work again after this tournament. I would like to keep them singing.”
Next up for Del Potro is 11th seed Isner, who won his second five-setter of the tournament to see off Canada’s Milos Raonic earlier in the day.
“John is a friend of mine and he deserves to be in the quarters as well,” said Del Potro, who has not dropped a set so far in New York.
“He has a big serve and I will try to return his serves if I can. With this crowd anything is possible and we will see what will happen.”
John Isner goes the distance in beating Milos Raonic
John Isner ground out yet another five-set win beating Milos Raonic 3-6 6-3 6-4 3-6 6-2 to advance to the quarter-finals of his home Grand Slam for the second time.
The American fired 56 winners and 20 aces to down the former world number three in front of a rowdy, elated crowd inside the refurbished Louis Armstrong Stadium.
Isner endured a five-set bout in the second round and a three-hour 26-minute slog in the third but the eleventh seed showed few signs of fatigue.
“This crowd kept me in it – it was fantastic,” Isner said in an on-court interview after another three hours of work against Raonic.
“This is why us tennis players train so hard … to be in a match like this in front of a crowd like this.”
The 6-ft 10-in (208 centimetres) Isner put his powerful serve on display, clocking a 141 mph (227 kph), but said he had finessed other parts of his game.
“There are some matches I’ve played where I only just rely on my serve. But I think more times than not this year I’ve shown some other ability,” he said.
“That comes from just being relaxed on the court.
“It’s not a product of more reps and more practice. The mental part of the game, being able to free up on the tennis court is much easier said than done.”
Raonic, who converted only two out of six break points, said Isner, particularly, had been a problem for him.
“I’ve definitely struggled with him specifically,” said the Canadian.
“There are other guys that are big servers that I’ve played better against. For me, I think the biggest thing is there are not guys that make me hit returns above my shoulders. That’s sort of the hardest part for me.”
Isner next meets third seed Juan Martin del Potro.