Juan Martin del Potro Advances to US Open Final As Rafael Nadal Retires; Novak Djokovic Reaches 8th US Open Final
(September 7, 2018) FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY- Juan Martin del Potro advanced into his second US Open final after defending champion Rafael Nadal was forced to retire with a right knee injury. The Argentine was leading 7-6(3), 6-2 when Nadal retired.
“I know what is going on with the knee,” Nadal said. “But the good thing is I know how I have to work to be better as soon as possible because we have a lot of experience on that.
“I am sure will not be the six months off. I was just making a comparison. Is not an injury like when you break something, something like this. It is an injury that is a tendinitis. Then is a decision about yourself, about if you want to wait till you feel almost nothing or you want to keep going with pain, so…”
“I love to play against Rafa because he is the biggest fighter in this sport,” Del Potro said on court after the match. “I don’t like to see him suffering on the court like he did today, so I’m sad for him.”
“I had some issues during the tournament,” Nadal said. “As everybody knows, I had an issue, it was in the second or third match. Then I think was little bit better.
“But, yeah, I think was 2-All in the first, 15-Love, something like this in the first set, that I felt. I said too my box immediately that I felt something on the knee. After that, I was just trying to see if in some moment the thing can improve during the match. But no, was not the day.
“Yeah, I waited as much as I can. You could imagine very difficult for me to say good-bye before the match finish. But at some point you have to take a decision. 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, no? It was just one player playing, the other one staying on the other side of the court.
“I hate to retired, but stay one more set out there playing like this will be too much for me.”
Both men opened the match breaking each other’s serve. Del Potro broke serve in the ninth game and served for the set at 5-4. Nadal broke back and held for a 6-5 lead, saving a set point. The Argentine held on to force a tiebreak and won it 7-3.
In the second set, Nadal had a medical time out to get his right knee rewrapped. His serve was broken in the fourth game. After Del Potro won the second set, 6-2, Nadal retired from match with a knee injury.
“I saw him suffering a lot during the second set,” said del Potro. “I was trying just to do my game. But, of course, I saw Rafa with some pains. I say to myself that just stay focus on my game, don’t look at him because you never know what could happen in that situations.
“But, of course, when I saw him with bad movements, I start to play aggressive, putting him running a lot. Then he decide to stop.”
“I’m having two great years,” said the world No. 1. “Yeah, last year was a fantastic year. This year have been a fantastic year until this moment.
“I lost four matches. Two of them I had to retired. Negative thing is two of them have been in quarterfinals and semifinals of a Grand Slam, close to fight for titles. That’s frustrating. Can’t tell you another thing. Is tough for me.
“Is not about losing. Is about don’t have the chance to fight for it. I feel that I fighted all my career against these kind of things, too. I missed lot of opportunities. But the other hand, I won a lot.
“Is tough, these moments, but at the same time, on the other hand, I going to keep going and I going to keep working hard to keep having opportunities.
“I know the things are going the right way. I am playing well. I am enjoying on court. I am having a lot of success. I am very competitive at the age of 32. Lot of people in this room, including myself, never will think that at the age of 32 I will be here fighting for titles, fighting for the first positions of the rankings.
“All my career everybody say that because of my style, I will have a short career. I still here. I still here because I love what I am doing. I still have the passion for the game. I going to keep fighting and working hard to keep enjoying this tour and keep having chances to compete at the highest level. So that’s all.”
It will be Del Potro’s first major final since he won the US Open in 2009.
“He’s a player that went through lot of issues during his career, like me too,” said Nadal. “I know how tough is this thing. I know how much frustration can be when you can’t do the thing that you want to do. He knows very well.
“Happy to him that he’s able to be back in his top level. Yeah, wish him all the best. For him will be huge if he’s able to win again a Grand Slam.”
Back in 2015, the 2009 US Open winner came close to quitting the sport.
“The worst moment was in 2015 when I was close to quit this sport because I couldn’t find a way to fix my wrist problems,” he said. “I been suffering a lot. I got depressed for couple of months also. I didn’t get the chance to feel better with myself, to do this again. That was the bad moment for me.
“But I think that is completely in the past, and now I’m having a good present, looking forward for the future. I didn’t expect to get this kind of emotions playing tennis again. Reaching finals, winning titles, having my highest ranking ever in this moment, everything is almost perfect.”
“I cannot believe that I will have a chance to play another Grand Slam finals in here, which is my favorite tournament,” del Potro said. “So it would be special to me. Would be a big challenge, as well, because 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 been playing a great tournament and I will be happy anyways.”
Del Potro will be playing Novak Djokovic in the final. The Serb, ranked No. 6 defeated No. 21 seed Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 to gain a berth in his 8th US Open final.
Asked about the possibility of playing Djokovic, del Potro said:
“Well, it will be a difficult match because we are close friends. For sure we both wants to win. But Novak has won the Wimbledon already. He’s playing so good. He will be the favorite to win on Sunday.
“But I don’t know. When I played Roger nine years ago, he was the favorite to win, as well. I will try to make the surprise again.”
“I’ve played him many times on different occasions,” Djokovic said about his next opponent. “We’ve never faced each other in a Grand Slam final, so that’s something new. But I know what’s expecting me. I’ll try to prepare myself as best as I can.
“One of the keys of the match will be return, how well can I 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. I think that’s very important. When you play a big server like del Potro, you feel pressure also on your service games.
“So, yeah, I mean, there are few other things that I have in mind, knowing him from the matches we previously played against each other. I’ll try to take that in consideration and get myself ready.”
“Well, I personally like him very much, not just as a player but as a person. He’s a dear friend, someone that I respect a lot. We all felt for his struggles with injuries that kept him away from the tour for two, three years.
“But he was always a top five player in the eyes I think of everyone. Even when he dropped his ranking and started to, you know, work his way up, but we all knew that he has a capacity and a quality to get to the point where he is at the moment. It was just a matter of time.
“I saw today before the match against Nadal a stat that he’s the player that made most wins against No. 1’s of the world. That shows the quality that he has, especially in the big matches. He’s a big-time player. He’s a big-match player. He’s a Grand Slam winner. He’s playing tennis of his life, without a doubt, in the last 15 months. I all kind of started with him in Rio, Olympic Games. That’s where he got, I feel like, a great confidence boost. Obviously he played ever since very consistent on the big tournaments. That’s what made him now No. 3 of the world.
“He’s working his way up. He’s playing really some powerful tennis.”
More to follow…