Nine years on Del Potro

ARGENTINE Juan Martin del Potro will compete in his first Grand Slam final for nine years after defending champion Rafael Nadal retired from their US Open semi-final.Third seed Del Potro, 29, was leading 7-6 (7-3) 6-2 when Nadal quit because of a knee problem.

Nadal, the top seed, twice needed medical attention before conceding.

“It was difficult for me to keep playing. I was in too much pain,” said the 32-year-old Spaniard.

“It was one player playing and one on the other side of the court. I hate retiring – but to stay one more set out there playing like that is too much for me.”

Del Potro, the 2009 champion, will face Serbia’s Novak Djokovic in tonight’s final after the 13-time Grand Slam winner beat Japan’s Kei Nishikori in straight sets.

Nadal had problems with his right knee during his third-round win over Russian Karen Khachanov.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion insisted it was not a major problem and won gruelling matches against Nikoloz Basilashvili and ninth seed Dominic Thiem to reach the last four. But the knee injury which has caused him problems throughout his career came back to ruin his seventh US Open semi-final.

Nadal said he was not feeling any issues during practice on Thursday nor before Friday’s match.

He started to feel pain at 2-2 in the first set, called for the trainer during the changeover at 4-3 and then again at 2-1 in the second.

Although the three-time US Open champion continued until the set was complete, the inevitable decision came after another chat with the medical man.

“I was trying to hope it would improve but it was not to be,” said Nadal.

“I waited as much as I could. It was very difficult for me to say goodbye before the match finished, but at some position you have to make a decision,” he added. — BBC

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