Published: Sat, September 08, 2018
Sport | By Floyd Cook

Novak Djokovic handles Kei Nishikori to set up delicious Del Potro showdown

Novak Djokovic handles Kei Nishikori to set up delicious Del Potro showdown

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.

Top seed Nadal experienced problems with his troublesome right knee earlier in the tournament, but was nevertheless able to come through an epic five-setter with Dominic Thiem in the quarter-finals.

"That was not a tennis match at the end".

"I hate retiring but to stay one more set out there playing like that is too much for me", said Nadal.

Nadal continued but, after Del Potro won the second set to lead 7-6 (7/3) 6-2, Nadal had one last chat with the trainer, shook his head and offered his hand to his opponent.

"You could imagine very hard for me to say goodbye before the match finish".

"It's not the best way to win a match", said Del Potro, who also beat Nadal at the same stage of the 2009 U.S. Open to reach what had been his one and only Grand Slam final.

He also retired trailing in the fifth set of his Australian Open quarter-final against Marin Cilic in January. "It was so hard for me to keep playing at the same time that way, having too much pain".

He has won the last 13 although Nishikori defeated the Serb in NY in the 2014 semi-finals on his way to a runners-up spot against Marin Cilic.

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"We've never faced each other in a Grand Slam final so that will be something new for both of us", Djokovic said. A lot of people in this room, including me, didn't think I would be at this level at this age.

That didn't stop him losing the set, though, and he was forced to save five more break points at the beginning of the second in a 14-minute game.

Del Potro will face the victor of Friday's second semifinal between Kei Nishikori and Novak Djokovic on Sunday. "I love to play against Rafa because he's the biggest fighter in this sport".

The No. 6-seeded Djokovic missed last year's tournament with an injured right elbow.

Del Potro was playing so well though and there was no way back for Nadal.

Nadal, who had never before retired from a U.S. Open match, showed signs of distress nearly from the start as he limped noticeably after a grueling 69-minute opening set.

Nadal, who reached the last four in NY on the back of brilliant shot-making and incredible movement, looked out of sorts early against Del Potro and struggled to cover the court with his usual tenacity. Only Roger Federer (20) and Rafael Nadal (17) will have more titles than him.

Those pals helped del Potro get through the toughest times, as he would need to repeatedly return to have surgery.

Rafael Nadal tried to put a fearless face on it but the defending US Open champion could not hide his frustration after yet another physical setback denied him the chance to add to his haul of Grand Slam titles.

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