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

Marcus Newton
September 10, 2018

So much of that time had felt wasted. "Then he decide to stop", Del Potro said.

US Open defending champion, Rafael Nadal crashed out of the tournament due to a knee problem, losing 7-6 (7/3) 6-2, to Juan Martin del Porto in the semi-final on Friday night.

A danger for Del Potro, though, is that his serve does not bring him many free points - unusually for Djokovic, he faces a grand-slam final opponent here who he betters in the ace count - so, if the occasion is getting to Del Potro, a rapid collapse could follow; however, four of their last five hard-court encounters have gone to a deciding set, with the other needing two tie breaks to close both sets. I'm enjoying a lot the crowds like this. He rose after a quick chat, shook the chair umpire's hand and then told Del Potro. I think it's important to feel in these conditions. "Two of them I had to retire". "Everything is nearly flawless".

Del Potro looked headed for stardom when he beat Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in succession to win the 2009 US Open.

It was shortly after that triumph nine years ago in NY that del Potro's surgery on his dominant right wrist happened.

It was plain sailing for the 31-year-old Serb who is chasing a 14th Slam title to take him level with Pete Sampras on the all-time list.

When he returned, he had to rebuild his backhand, first by relying exclusively on a slice, and only recently able to strike meaningful two-handed shots with confidence.

"I've been fighting with many, many problems to get [to] this moment", del Potro said.

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Few would have predicted such a remarkable season for Djokovic, who lost in the fourth round of the Australian Open, underwent surgery on his right elbow and fell at the first hurdle in Indian Wells and Miami on his return. It was a familiar pain, one that he's dealt with off-and-on for years.

Del Potro will go on to face the victor of Novak Djokovic and Kei Nishikori, who play Friday night.

Djokovic needed just 2 hours and 23 minutes to record a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory at Flushing Meadows as Nishikori came off second best in every department.

"It absolutely gives me empathy".

"I didn't know if I will be a tennis player again or not. 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.

Where is Kei Nishikori vs Novak Djokovic taking place? .

Going into the final against Djokovic, though, Del Potro's status as a player-on-the-rise has solidified and my re-calculated Elo ratings suggest he might even deserve to be shorter than that [2.32]. "I was putting (constant) pressure on him, trying to move him around the court, take away the rhythm from him". I missed lot of opportunities.

"But he was always a top five player in the eyes I think of everyone", said Djokovic. 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", Djokovic said Friday.

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