Published: Tue, September 11, 2018
Sport | By Tony Jimenez

After nearly quitting, 'everything is almost perfect': Del Potro

After nearly quitting, 'everything is almost perfect': Del Potro

Djokovic missed the tournament a year ago because of an injured right elbow that eventually required surgery.

Djokovic and del Potro will face each other in the finals on Sunday. The defending champion retired down two sets against del Potro with an ailing knee.

Having fought through his own injury-ravaged years, Del Potro understood his opponent's pain and gave him a warm embrace before he left the court.

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal retired injured from his semi-final match against No. 3 Juan Martin del Potro.

As effective a returner as Djokovic is, he has struggled to convert break points with regularity all year and those struggles have continued at the US Open. Del Potro was sympathetic, but he could not hide a beaming smile.

"I was returning well", Djokovic said after the game.

When he swept to the 2009 title in NY, he was just 20 years old and expected to establish himself as a permanent rival to Djokovic, Federer and Nadal.

"One of the keys of the match will be [my] return, how well I can return, how many returns I can get back in play, but also try to have some depth in that return, and how accurately I can serve myself". In fact, it seemed like long overdue given how well he has played this season, this Slam and even in the first two sets of this match.

Djokovic is in his 11th US Open semi-final and enjoys a 14-2 head-to-head record against Nishikori.

The No. 1-seeded Nadal has a history of tendinitis in his knees and he said he felt a problem in the right one early in the first set.

Mike Bryan broke a tie for most major doubles titles with John Newcombe, and at 40 years, 4 months became the oldest Grand Slam doubles champion in the professional era. "You could imagine very hard for me to say goodbye before the match finish but at some point you have to take a decision". It's inspiring, actually. I don't think a lot of people really know how bad it was. He was also made to work hard for his Round of 16 win over Karen Khachanov that came in four sets on a similarly energy-sapping evening in the city.

"I can not compare the knee with other times because the pain on the knee is always very similar", he said. "But because he plays so fast he makes me more alert from the first point because I know I have to be at my best in order to compete with him from the baseline". "But he was always a top five player in the eyes I think of everyone", the two-time champion said.

In front of him on Sunday is a man who has beaten him 14 times in 18 contests and in all four of their slam matches.

Feel the pain: Rafael Nadal courtside suffering from a right knee injury. You never know what could happen in the future. "When I was a kid, I mix watching soccer and the US Open, that's it".

Twelve months ago, a tired Del Potro was essentially out of gas by the time he faced Nadal, but it was a different story on this occasion as his opponent was not at full fitness.

Djokovic went into cruise control in the third set, winning four consecutive games from 2-2 to win the match and book his spot in the final.

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