World number 1 and defending US Open champion Rafael Nadal has survived one of the toughest tests ever at Majors, ousting the 27th seed Karen Khachanov 5-7 7-5 7-6 7-6 in four hours and 28 minutes to reach the fourth round in New York for the 10th times. Rafa won all four previous matches against Karen and all nine sets they played but he had to give his 120% today to overpower the youngster and stay on the title defense course, notching his 245th Grand Slam win and improving his score in 2018 to 43-3.
Khachanov never lost his serve in the opening two matches and he made Nadal run for his money, hitting bombs from serve and forehand to keep the points on his racquet and keep the Spaniard under pressure all the time. Like a true champion, Rafa managed to overcome a deficit in the second set to gain a huge momentum that helped him in the third set as well when he claimed a tight tie break to turn the scoreboard around and seal the deal in the fourth set to avoid further struggle and spending more time on the court.
As always, Nadal brought passion and devotion and he needed everything he had in the arsenal to overcome the motivated rival and book his place in the last 16, finding his forehand from the second part of the second set to at least stay in touch with Karen in the winners department.
Nadal broke in the third game of the fourth set to serve for the win at 5-4, only to lose serve at love and prolong the match until the tie break (Rafa saved a set point at 5-6) where he toppled Karen 7-4 to emerge as a winner in what will be one of the best matches of the entire season! Karen had 22 aces but Nadal had better percentages on both the first and second serve, creating 13 break points and converting five.
Karen also scored five breaks from 11 opportunities, finishing the match with 66 winners and 55 unforced errors while Rafa stood on a 49-38 ratio, doing just enough to notch a win in the longest four-setter in the US Open history.
The Russian saved two break points in the second game of the match and he broke Nadal in the next game to open up an early lead that made him hit even harder. The Spaniard started to serve better after that and he got the break back in game eight to level the score at 4-4, becoming the favorite for the opener.
Instead of that, Karen broke him in game 11 again and he saved a break point a few minutes later, converting the fourth set point to clinch the opener 7-5, his first ever against Nadal. Things went from bad to worse for Rafa who suffered a break at love in the third game of the second set, wasting two break chances in the following game to fall 4-2 behind, having to raise his level in order to avoid a huge deficit.
He broke back in the eighth game but Khachanov moved ahead again instantly with another break of serve in game nine, serving for the set at 5-4. He was two points from two sets to love lead but he couldn't bring it home, allowing Rafa to break back and move 6-5 ahead with a hold at love.
Karen looked good in game 12 but he squandered three game points before losing serve for the third time in a row, handing the set to his opponent in one of the pivotal moments of the match and maybe of the entire tournament.
Nadal fends off three break points at the start of the third set and Karen repelled one at 2-3, with both serving well in the rest of the set to set up a tie break. Rafa moved 6-3 ahead but he needed five set points to grab it 9-7, with Karen being two points away from the set twice at 6-6 and 7-7.
The Spaniard looked much better than in the opening part of the match, hitting with more intensity and energy and he earned a break in the third game of the fourth set, sailing through the opening four service games to open a 5-3 lead and have a chance to close the match on own serve in game 10.
In the meanwhile, Karen recovered from the break he suffered and he made one last push to break Nadal at love and make the result even at 5-5, giving the crowd more drama and excitement. Rafa even had to save a set point on serve in game 12 and this gave him a huge boost before the tie break where he won all five points on serve, scoring two mini-breaks for a 7-3, sealing the deal with a service winner in the 10th point for one of his most hard-fought wins in recent years. Third round result: