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Juan Martin del Potro and Novak Djokovic to clash for 2018 U.S. Open title

Andrew Hendrie in ATP Tour 8 Sep 2018
  • Juan Martin del Potro will face Novak Djokovic for the 2018 U.S. Open title
  • Del Potro reached his first major final since 2009 after Rafael Nadal retired down two sets in Saturday's first semi-final
  • Djokovic went on to ease past Kei Nishikori in straight sets later on Saturday night
Juan Martin del Potro (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Juan Martin del Potro and Novak Djokovic will square off in a Grand Slam final for the first time after the pair advanced into the U.S. Open championship match on Saturday without dropping a set.

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Nine years after winning his only Grand Slam title to date at the U.S. Open, del Potro will finally have a second opportunity to double his major tally after he progressed into the final in New York after Rafael Nadal was forced to retire with knee tendinitis while trailing two-sets-to-love in the first semi-final inside Arthur Ashe Stadium on Saturday.

Ranked as low as No. 1045 less than three years ago after undergoing four wrist operations throughout the course of his career, del Potro arrived at Flushing Meadows at a career-high No. 3 after a stellar last 12 months - and now the popular Argentine has scaled even greater heights by reaching his second U.S. Open final.

Juan Martin del Potro and Rafael Nadal embrace after the Spaniard retired (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
"I cannot believe that I will have a chance to play another Grand Slam final here, which is my favourite tournament," Del Potro said after the win. "I've been fighting with many, many problems to get in this moment. I'm here now. It will be a difficult match, of course. But anyway, I think I've been doing a good tournament. And in the finals, anything can happen. If I win, great. If not, I've been playing a great tournament and I will be happy."

Del Potro has now defeated a World No. 1 ten times in his career - the most out of any man who hasn’t been ranked No. 1 themselves. The ‘Tower of Tandil’ was at his dominant best against Nadal and refused to let up as the Spaniard showed his first signs of discomfort at 4-3 in the first set as he got his right knee taped up. Perhaps Nadal would have soldiered on for longer if he had been able to claim the first set, but del Potro produced a superb tiebreak before proceeding to sprint through the second set - and from there Nadal couldn’t continue.

"I waited as much as I can. You could imagine [it's] very difficult for me to say good-bye before the match finishes. But at some point you have to take a decision," Nadal said. "It was so difficult for me to keep playing at the same time that way, having too much pain. That was not a tennis match at the end. It was just one player playing, the other one staying on the other side of the court. I hate to retire, but staying one more set out there playing like this would be too much for me."

Novak Djokovic (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)


Meanwhile, Djokovic produced a clinic and continued his extraordinary resurgence from the last couple of months to make his second straight Grand Slam final, meticulously picking apart Kei Nishikori 6-3 6-4 6-2 to avenge his 2014 U.S. Open semi-final loss to the Japanese in emphatic fashion.

Looking to replicate Nadal and Roger Federer’s resurgent seasons of 2017 where they each picked up two major titles after serious injury problems, Djokovic was almost unplayable as he gradually wore Nishikori down from the baseline throughout the course of the match. There simply wasn’t anything Nishikori could do to trouble the Serbian, and even though he tried to be more aggressive than usual in a bid to take the match to Djokovic, he came unstuck by a whopping 51 unforced errors.

“I felt great. I don’t know how it looked,” Djokovic said in his on-court interview. “I thought I came in right out of the blocks with great intensity and great focus…. I thought I played really, really well.”

Djokovic leads his head-to-head with del Potro 14-4 and has won all four of their previous meetings at Grand Slams - although their last clash at a major came all the way back at Wimbledon in 2013.

“I have tremendous respect for him as a person and a player,” Djokovic added when asked about del Potro. “He’s a great guy. He works hard … I’m sure it’s going to be a thrilling match.”


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Juan Martin del Potro and Novak Djokovic to clash for 2018 U.S. Open title

Juan Martin del Potro and Novak Djokovic will square off in a Grand Slam final for the first time after the pair advanced into the U.S. Open championship match on Saturday without dropping a set.

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