Nadal's last 8 date with Thiem

AFP
Defending champion Rafael Nadal has reached the US Open quarterfinals for the eighth time where he will face Dominic Thiem, one of only three men to defeat him in 2018.
AFP

Defending champion Rafael Nadal has reached the US Open quarterfinals for the eighth time where he will face Dominic Thiem, one of only three men to defeat him in 2018.

World number one Nadal saw off a battling Nikoloz Basilashvili, the first Georgian in a fourth round in New York, 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (6), 6-4.

“It’s a big victory for me,” said the 32-year-old Nadal, the champion in 2010, 2013 and 2017. “He was hitting the ball very strong and when I thought I was in control of the points, he always came back with strong shots.”

Elsewhere, Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 champion, beat Borna Coric 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 to make the last-eight for a third successive year.

The third seeded Argentine will next face John Isner, the last American man standing, who defeated Milos Raonic 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, taking his tournament aces total past the 100-mark.

Thiem, who beat Nadal on clay in Madrid in the run-up to Paris, booked his place in the quarter-finals for the first time with a 7-5, 6-2, 7-6 (2) win over 2017 runner-up Kevin Anderson.

The ninth-seeded Austrian’s three other appearances in the last-eight of a Slam were all on Paris clay in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Nadal leads their head-to-head 7-3 with all of their matches coming on clay courts, including in the final of Roland Garros in June when he captured an 11th French Open.

Third-seeded del Potro made the last-eight for the sixth time against Croatian 20th seed Coric who was playing in his maiden last 16 of a Slam.

Coric, 21, saw his challenge undone by a right thigh injury which needed two visits by the trainer as well as general unhappiness with the humidity of the Arther Ashe court.

“To win in straight sets in every round is good for the body and physical condition,” said del Potro. “But every round is a battle. I just hope to keep my level high against John in the next match.”

Isner reached the quarter-finals for the first time in seven years and the 11th seed is attempting to become the first home winner since Andy Roddick in 2003.

Six-time champion Serena Williams survived a spirited challenge from unseeded Kaia Kanepi to triumph 6-0, 4-6, 6-3 on Sunday and reach the quarter-finals of the US Open.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion looked set to romp home when she seized the first set from Kanepi in just 18 minutes.

But the hard-hitting Estonian, who took out world number one Simona Halep in the first round, settled down in the second set, shaking off the partisan crowd in a jammed Arthur Ashe Stadium to push Williams the rest of the way.

“It wasn’t an easy match at all,” said Williams, who let out what she called a “Serena scream” after ripping a backhand cross court to hold serve in the opening game of the third set.

“Winning a big game and a very important game and a really tight game, I think it was just a relief.”

Williams, who took control with a break in the next game and maintained that advantage until she fired a forehand winner on her first match point.

Williams booked a quarterfinal date with Karolina Pliskova, the eighth-seeded Czech who beat Australian Ashleigh Barty 6-4, 6-4.

Defending champion Sloane Stephens, the third seed, eased past Elise Mertens 6-3, 6-3 to book a quarterfinal rematch with Latvian Anastasija Sevastova.

Sevastova toppled seventh-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-3, 1-6, 6-0, leaving just two of the top 10 women’s seeds remaining.

Stephens, runner-up to Halep at the French Open, was looking forward to taking on Sevastova again in her bid to push ahead in her title defense.

“Obviously it won’t be easy,” she said. “Quarterfinals of a Grand Slam is always really tough. A big opportunity for both of us.

“Being defending champion, being able to get to the quarter-finals again, is incredible. I’m just going to try to keep building on that and keep going.”

Stephens could be headed for a semifinal meeting with Williams, although Williams acknowledged that in Pliskova she’ll face a player with plenty of weapons in addition to her big serve.

“She has a really good forehand. In fact, she doesn’t do a lot of things bad,” Williams said.

Williams heads into the second week at Flushing Meadows tracking two milestones: A seventh US Open title would see her break out of a tie with Chris Evert for the Open Era record and also equal Australian Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 major titles.

She hasn’t won a major since the 2017 Australian Open. After returning to competition in March after the birth of daughter Olympia last September, Williams is trying to avoid her first season since 2011 without a Grand Slam title.

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