Del Potro’s classy tribute to ‘fighter’ Rafael Nadal

Del Potro’s classy tribute to ‘fighter’ Rafael Nadal

Nadal, who was bidding to win his 18th Grand Slam title, faced similar issues during his third-round match against Russia's Karen Khachanov.

Although Nadal has the edge when it comes to head-to-head meetings, all five of Del Potro's victories have come on hard courts where his flat forehands are at their most effective and he will look to utilise that weapon as much as possible.

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

It was Nadal who succeeded Del Potro as the US Open champion in 2010.

"That was not a tennis match at the end, no?"

Nadal, the world's No. 1 player and the defending champion in NY, retired against Juan Martin del Potro, trailing 7-6 (7-3), 6-2 about two hours into the first semifinal of the day in Flushing Meadows.

"When you win or when you lose like this", Nadal said, "you come back home with the feeling that you did all the things that you can do". He's made the French Open semifinals, the Wimbledon quarterfinals, and now a US Open final this year.

"It's tough, these moments, but on the other hand I'm going to keep going and I'm going to keep working hard to keep having opportunities".

The Wimbledon champion, who ended a two-year grand slam drought by winning at the All England Club, has now won 13 sets in a row in NY. Yes, it is bitterly disappointing but he has added another Grand Slam title in 2018 and he is world number one.

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But he took a medical time-out after three games of the second set and, as he limped around the court, it became increasingly clear that he was in serious trouble.

The top-ranked Spaniard plays third-seeded del Potro, and No. 6 seed Djokovic meets No. 21 Kei Nishikori in Friday's other semifinal.

"Of course it's not the best way to win a match", Del Potro said during his on-court interview.

After edging a 69-minute set, Del Potro applied pressure early in the second, thundering winners off both wings to get to 15-40 in game two.

Rafael Nadal insists he remains determined to fight for titles at the "highest level" after his US Open defence ended in retirement.

In true Nadal style, the world No.1 played the remainder of the second set out of respect for his opponent before he called it quits.

He has resurrected his career impressively after minor surgery on his long-term elbow injury, which kept him out of the game for six months past year.

He needed his right knee strapped after the seventh game before gallantly fighting off two set points in the 10th game, breaking Del Potro who was serving for the set. Initially able only to hit slice backhands, Del Potro began to trust his two-hander more and, with it, the 29-year-old again became a major force. In the final when I beat Rafa and then Roger I was a kid then, but now I am much older'.

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