Sports

Del Potro, Djokovic in US Open final

NEW YORK, SEP 8 (AGENCIES) | Publish Date: 9/8/2018 12:04:38 PM IST

Juan Martin del Potro will face off against Novak Djokovic in Sunday’s US Open final, after a knee injury forced defending champion and world number one Rafael Nadal to quit his match against the Argentinian.

Del Potro, 29, was leading 7-6 (3), 6-2 after two hours of play when Nadal said he could not go on any longer. “Of course, it’s not the best way to win a match,” said Del Potro, who hugged Nadal after the game. “I love to play against Rafa because he’s the biggest fighter in this sport and I don’t like to see him suffering, so I’m sad for him.”

The Spaniard needed two medical breaks to have his right knee taped before calling it quits after the second set. It came after Nadal had played almost five hours to defeat Dominic Thiem in an epic quarter-final on Tuesday night through to the early hours of Wednesday morning.

“I hate to retire, but staying one more set out there, playing like this, would be too much for me,” Nadal said. “That was not a tennis match at the end. Just one player playing, the other staying on one side of the court.”

Djokovic breezed through to the final showdown with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 win against Japan’s Kei Nishikori that took just 2 hours and 23 minutes.

The match will be the 31-year-old Serb’s eighth final at the tournament and 23rd of his Grand Slam career, while for Del Potro it will be only his second Slam final.

“[Djokovic] was playing aggressive,” Nishikori told reporters. “I didn’t have [much] energy to stay with him. He was hitting side to side,” he added.

It will be the first time that Djokovic, who missed the 2017 US Open due to injury, meets Del Potro in a Grand Slam final.

“We have never met in a Grand Slam final. I have tremendous respect for him as a person and a player. He’s a great guy,” said Djokovic, adding that Del Potro has “had lots of injury problems in the past but he’s a big-match player.”

Serena issues warning ahead of final against Naomi
Having thrashed Anastasia Sevastova in a mere 66 minutes to reach her ninth US Open final, Serena Williams sent out a warning to any rivals who hoped her comeback would be brief. “This is just the beginning,” she told the on-court interviewer Tom Rinaldi. “I’m only a few months in and really looking forward to the rest of the year and next year.”
Nobody was quite sure what to expect when Williams made her return from the birth of Alexis Olympia, who arrived on Sept 1, 2017. Her play was patchy in her early tournaments, her movement sluggish. But on Thursday night, Williams rediscovered peak form in her most compelling display since she went away on maternity leave.
“It was tough for sure,” said Sevastova, who came out with a canny gameplan that involved slicing the ball back deep as often as possible and waiting for Williams to miss. This approach had worked for Roberta Vinci in the semi-final here three years ago, and it made early inroads when Williams was broken in her opening service game and soon found herself trailing 2-0.
But the Vinci experience – which ended the dream of a calendar slam – may have given Williams a sense of how to deal with these soft-balling opponents. Rather than hang back on the baseline and trade, she began moving forward and taking the ball out of the air. She finished with 28 net approaches on her scoresheet, and won the point a remarkable 24 times.
Rocked back by Williams’s aggressive tactics, Sevastova looked increasingly agitated, turning to her coaches and beating her hand on her chest. Her tennis fell away sharply, as she kept experimenting with drop shots that often failed to even reach the net.
“I’ve been working hard on my volleys,” Williams would tell Rinaldi after her 6-3, 6-0 victory.  I have won a few doubles championships, so I know how to volley. I just usually only come in only to shake hands.”
In fact, Williams has won 13 majors and three gold medals when partnered by sister Venus – another example of what a strong grip she has exerted over the game for the last 20 years. But it is her singles tally of 23 titles that will be one focus of Saturday’s final. Another victory, over Saturday’s opponent Naomi Osaka, would carry her level with Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24.
Osaka beat Madison Keys 6-2, 6-4 in the second semi-final on Thursday night, showing not only the heavy artillery that we already knew she possessed, but also huge mental poise. The break-point statistics were the key: Osaka had four chances and took three of them, while Keys went 0 for 13.
When Rinaldi asked Osaka how she had staved off all those threats, she replied “This is going to sound really bad, but I was just thinking ‘I really want to play Serena.’” She is the first Japanese woman to reach a grand-slam final.
 

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