Novak Djokovic cruises to his eighth US Open men's final

Juan Martin del Potro’s friends cheer from a suite box at the U.S. Open

He said the discomfort surfaced in the first set, with him serving at 2-2, 15-0, and he told his coaches and supporters in his box about it.

The Spaniard had tape applied here after seven games only to take it off two games later. Djokovic often gets lost in the adoration given to Federer and Nadal, but his accomplishments should not be underplayed.

Djokovic broke Nishikori's next serve and, with Nishikori unable to break any of the Serbian's serves, the second set went to Djokovic's name at 6-4. Nadal didn't at that point.

The 28-year-old was looking to make his second appearance in a Grand Slam final.

When he swept to the 2009 title in NY, he was just 20 years old and expected to establish himself as a permanent rival to Djokovic, Federer and Nadal. After the second match, he was asked about the group wearing his old kits - the multi-coloured one from US Open 2017, the striped polo from Roland Garros.

Twelve months ago, a worn out 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.

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are on course to face off in the US Open final. When did you realize you were having difficulty out there as far as your health? "That is all", Nadal said in a post-match press conference. 'I can not compare between this tournaments with Davis Cup. But no, was not the day. We all knew that he had a capacity and a quality to get to the point where he is at the moment. "I hate to retire, but to stay one more set out there playing like this will be too much for me".

"That was not a tennis match at the end".

The Spaniard has spent more time on court than any other player in the tournament and faced question marks over whether he would be at a physical disadvantage today.

Five sets of tennis. "That was the bad moment for me".

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Knee pain and a stress overload lasted throughout the month of December, conditioning his pre-season and forced him to remove himself from the Abu Dhabi exhibition and the Brisbane Open. "This time it was a little bit more aggressive with my movement", Nadal added. Was not something progressive. What do you mean?

"That's frustrating. Is tough for me". "But I don't know". Similar thing than always.

He knows there is lots to look forward to and he has the patience to keep going. Then is a decision about yourself, about if you want to wait till you feel nearly nothing or you want to keep going with pain, so... His struggle has been very long. He said one day that he flew a group of his closest childhood friends to the U.S. Open so they could finally understand his unique lifestyle. "I will not lie to you".

Loss of motivation after winning all there was to win, personal problems away from the court and an elbow injury that required surgery were all partly to blame for the decline of the then world No 1, who lost the spot to Andy Murray in November 2016 and has not had it back since. Djokovic regained the physical strength and confidence necessary to play at tennis's top level and won Wimbledon last month, ousting Kevin Anderson in the final. Yeah, wish him all the best. Soon enough, he did just that. But here, it's like I can not describe the difference. Is just my work. If I win, great. Yeah, last year was a fantastic year.

"I can't really say he's a great match-up for me", said the Serb.

This has been the Serbian's most consistent slam - aside from a year ago, when he was sidelined by an elbow problem, he has not lost before the semi-finals since 2006 - but he has only won the title twice.

"It's not about losing, it's about not having the chance to fight for it", he said. But the other hand, I won a lot.

"I still have a passion for the game so I will keep fighting and working hard".

Feel the pain: Rafael Nadal courtside suffering from a right knee injury. I am playing well. I am enjoying on court.

"That's why I'm also very happy for him". "I can not say I am happy, because I am not", he said. "But I think that is completely in the past". I still have the passion for the game.

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