Del Potro into US Open final as Nadal quits with knee injury

Rafael Nadal moves ahead of Ivan Lendl on special Grand Slam list

Rafael Nadal tried to put a courageous face on it but the defending US Open champion could not hide his frustration after yet another physical setback denied him the chance to add to his haul of Grand Slam titles.

The warning signs were there from the moment when Nadal called the trainer on to the court to apply tape to his cranky right knee, which has been an issue since his third-round match against Karen Khachanov.

Nadal, a 17-time Grand Slam champion, mentioned retirement to the chair umpire midway through the second set, then threw in the towel after dropping the set.

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. "I love to play against Rafa because he's the biggest fighter in the sport", Del Potro said.

When Rafael Nadal finally finished a almost five-hour climb into the U.S. Open semifinals, he thought backward as much as ahead. It makes him prone to long matches, and his quarterfinal against Dominic Thiem (nearly five hours) was the longest match of the tournament.

Nadal's challenge looked doomed even as early as the first set, feeling the injury after just four games, he admitted.

After del Potro won the set, Nadal took off his headband, sat down and pulled off his wristbands while a trainer spoke to him. "I'm sad for him".

Djokovic, rejuvenated by a fourth title at the All England Club after a spell of struggles with form and confidence since wrapping up the career Grand Slam in Paris in 2016, was looking untouchable in cooler conditions under the bright lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium.

"I came out of the blocks with great intensity and focus", said Djokovic.

The third seed could not take the opportunity as two set points went begging, but Nadal - who swiftly removed the tape from his knee - nevertheless found himself behind in another match as his rival's forehand strength came to the fore in a tie-break. "But at some point you have to take a decision", Nadal told reporters. I know how much frustration there can be when you can't do the thing that you want to do.

"I can not compare the knee with other times because the pain on the knee is always very similar", he said. "It was one tennis player playing, the other standing at the side of the court". He gave what he had but Djokovic was pulling away at the end, winning 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.

The defending champion meets Del Potro for the second year in a row at the US Open semi-finals and he will draw upon the experience of having won that match and also having defeated the Argentine at both the French Open and Wimbledon this year. "I had my biggest memories on the tennis court playing on this court ... but I was a kid".

But six months later he was sidelined by right wrist problems and, having fought back to the top again, then missed the better part of two years when an injury to his left wrist required three operations.

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