Djokovic aims to cut ‘gentle giant’ Del Potro down to size

Djokovic aims to cut ‘gentle giant’ Del Potro down to size

This contest started earlier than expected following Nadal's retirement and there was a worrying moment for Nishikori, whose left leg buckled as he came to the net trailing 5-3.

A dozen friends from del Potro's hometown of Tandil have gained fame in Flushing Meadows, their serenade of "Ole, ole, ole - Del-Po, Del-Po" an infectious accompaniment to his every match.

Back from career-threatening wrist problems, Del Potro has shone throughout this tournament, but will have his work cut out to deny former world number one Djokovic if the Serbian reproduces the form he showed on Friday.

Argentina's Del Potro will face a ruthless Novak Djokovic, who beat Kei Nishikori 6-3 6-4 6-2 in the other semi-final to reach his eighth final at Flushing Meadows.

It's the 10th time del Potro has beaten the No. 1 player, so this isn't new ground for him.

At the conclusion of his third round game at the US Open, Rafael Nadal was reluctant to talk about his knees, insisting that it was not the time for that conversation.

Del Potro, who has returned to the pinnacle of the sport after recovering from two wrist surgeries in 2010, had lost to Nadal the last three times the players had met in grand slams and had lost 11 times from 16 meetings against the Spaniard.

Twelve months ago, a worn out 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. "I will be proud if I (am) still playing tennis for more years".

"It wasn't easy to stay with him tonight".

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"I mean, he's a gentle giant", Djokovic said.

"I didn't know if I will be a tennis player again or not". Reaching finals, winning titles, having my highest ranking ever in this moment. The 2009 champion was two sets to love up on Rafael Nadal in the first last-four tie when the injured defending champion retired. That was the last thing Nadal needed. I didn't take any pleasure in watching Nadal go through the motions in that second set - especially in case he did more damage.

After dropping the first set 6-3, Nishikori battled on in the second - saving four break points in his opening service game.

"It felt great. I thought I came in today from the first point with a great intensity, great focus".

"He was playing very solid everything: serve, return, groundstrokes", Nishikori said.

But in the middle of the first, the trainer taped up his right knee.

"I waited as much as I can", he said. "But at the same time, I felt like the six months off served me very well to find new motivation, inspiration, to recharge my batteries, and also to understand how I want to continue playing tennis, in which way, whether there are certain changes that I want to make with my racket and my game itself", he continued.

Nadal already had the admiration of tennis fans for his relentless approach and unyielding competitive spirit. Del Potro, I argued, should be around a [2.32]-shot against any of them in a head-to-head. He and Nadal have developed a respect for each other.

"It will be a hard match, of course".

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