US Open | Rafa retires – DelPo and the Djocker reach final
When Rafa Nadal called for the trainer during his third-round marathon match to have strapping on his right knee, fans feared the worst. Those fears were allayed in the subsequent five-set matches as Nadal himself confirmed there were no problems.
Having made the semi-finals the problem reappeared and this time forced him to retire at the end of the second set thereby relinquishing his title and handing Juan Martin de Potro a chance to pick up the second major of his career.
That was not a tennis match at the end, no? It was just one player playing, the other one staying on the other side of the court. I hate to retire, but stay one more set out there playing like this will be too much for me. Rafa Nadal
He first showed signs of distress towards the end of the opening set when he saved two break points in the tenth game before going on to force the tie-break which he lost 7-3.
That set took some 69-minutes and grimacing, the defending champion called for the trainer during the changeover after the third game of the second. It was massaged and re-taped and he picked himself to continue the match but it proved rather one-sided, resulting in him throwing in the towel at the end of the set with the score line standing 7-6(3) 6-2 in the Argentine’s favour.
“I think it was two-all in the first, 15-love, something like this in the first set, that I felt (something),” explained Nadal. “I said to my box immediately that I felt something on the knee.
“After that, I was just trying to see if in some moment the thing can improve during the match. But no, was not the day.
“I waited as much as I can. You could imagine very difficult for me to say goodbye before the match finish but at some point, you have to take a decision.”
It was the second time this year that Nadal has retired from a slam as he also quit during his quarter-final against Marin Cilic at the Australian Open in January.
“This year have been a fantastic year until this moment,” said Nadal. “I lost four matches. Two of them I had to retire … in quarter-finals and semi-finals of a grand slam.”
Nadal added: “That was not a tennis match at the end, no? It was just one player playing, the other one staying on the other side of the court. I hate to retire, but stay one more set out there playing like this will be too much for me.”
Del Potro, who has also had his career disrupted by injuries, was not happy to get the victory the way he did.
“It’s not the best way to win a match,” said the big Argentine, a former US Open champion. “I love to play against Rafa because he’s the biggest fighter in this sport. I’m sad for him.”
Nonetheless he was delighted to be in the final and be given the opportunity to add another major title to the one he won in 2009 before his career suffered through those various wrist injuries.
“Of course because I won my only Grand Slam here,” he said recollecting his victory over Roger Federer. “When I was a kid, I mix watching soccer and the US Open, that’s it. That’s what I say that this could be my favourite tournament.
“Then I came here, playing every year. I played well. I got too much energy from the crowd. I have a lot of fans who came specifically to this tournament. That’s why it is my favourite one on tour.”
But he will have his work cut out as he faces Novak Djokovic who has a similar goal following his own injury blip in his career.
The Serb, a two-time US Open champion, is keen to re-establish himself back at the top of the game and he is certainly on track to achieve that having just dropped two sets during the fortnight,
He reached his eighth final in New York by sweeping aside Kei Nishikori 6-3 6-4 6-2 who was unable to break the Serbian’s serve.
Nishikori, a finalist at Flushing Meadows in 2014, had beaten Djokovic during that run but failed to make an impression this time.
“It felt great. I thought I came out of the blocks with great intensity and focus,” Djokovic said after his win.
“Kei Nishikori is one of the quickest movers on the court. He takes away a lot of your time but I thought I took the points and played really well.
“The majors are the biggest events we have in tennis and obviously every player wants to perform their best in Grand Slams.
“I have lost some big finals but also won some. Every time I come back to Arthur Ashe stadium I relive these memories and they give me a lot of strength.
“It means the world to me. I am trying to be the best that I can be. I am working hard every day and I am trying to reach certain heights that I visualise every time I accomplish something big. I don’t see any limits. I keep on going and hopefully, you are enjoying my tennis.”