Novak Djokovic sets up US Open final against Juan Martin del Potro

Arnold Nichols
September 8, 2018

A tired and wounded world number one Rafael Nadal retired from his U.S. Open semi-final while trailing Juan Martin del Potro 7-6 (3) 6-2 on Friday, sending the Argentine back to the Flushing Meadows final for the first time since his 2009 triumph.

Nadal showed signs of distress nearly from the start as he limped noticeably after a gruelling 69-minute opening set. He has previously called for medics on the court after suffering with his injury, and had his knee massaged and re-taped before bravely continuing.

If he beats Del Potro to equal Sampras, only Roger Federer (20) and Nadal (17) stand above him in the all-time list.

"I feel that this tournament, Juan Martin is hitting a little bit bigger off his backhand".

The world number one had spent more almost 16 hours on court in reaching the last four, averaging more than four hours a match during the last three rounds, and that took its toll here.

The popular Argentinian, whose career has been blighted by serious wrist problems since that maiden grand slam success, will face Novak Djokovic or Kei Nishikori in the final.

"I didn't expect to get to another Grand Slam final in my favourite tournament". It was just one player playing, the other one staying on the other side of the court. "I hate to retire, but to stay one more set out there playing like this will be too much for me".

Nadal had had his right knee taped during his gruelling third-round clash against Karen Khachanov but insisted afterwards it was not a big issue and he appeared in good shape for his next two matches.

Djokovic looked well in command taking the first set before they then settled down to a string of close rallies until he broke again in the fifth game of the second, serving out the frame.

While Djokovic has been able to routinely beat Nishikori in their previous meetings, Nadal and Del Potro have only met on four occasions since 2013. I have tremendous respect for him as a person and a player.

After failing to make much attempt to reach a dropshot he summoned the physio and took a medical timeout at 2-1 down in the second.

Only Ivan Lendl and Pete Sampras have been to the NY decider as often as the remarkable Serb, who lost on his last visit two years ago, to Stan Wawrinka, and has won twice, against Roger Federer in 2015 and Nadal in 2011, the best season of his career. This was the first retirement for Nadal since the Australian Open, bothered with his right knee after playing with no energy after spending so much time on the court in the previous rounds.

Djokovic has now won nine-straight major semi-finals in a row and he is through to his 23rd career Grand Slam final.

Still, he retains the No. 1 ranking no matter if del Potro or Djokovic lifts the U.S. Open trophy Sunday. The big question now is how much is left in the tank of the 32-year-old's legs, especially after his mammoth quarter-final with Dominic Thiem.

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