Rafael Nadal retires from US Open semifinals match

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Novak Djokovic sat out last year's US Open to rest an elbow injury that eventually required surgery, but that pain and frustration felt like a distant memory on Friday when he made his march on the final at Flushing Meadows with authority. Djokovic also has won nine straight major semifinals and will play his 23rd final on Sunday - the third most in men's tennis history behind Roger Federer (30) and Rafael Nadal (24).

Del Potro's return to the top of the sport - he is ranked third in the world after Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer - is almost unimaginable for a man who missed 14 Grand Slams in the past nine years.

Del Potro, who has also had his career disrupted by injuries, was not happy to get the victory the way he did.

The two that preceded the Wimbledon classic were easier victories, a semi-final rout en route to the French Open title and a four-set victory in last year's U.S. Open semi-finals, when Nadal dominated the final three sets.

He won his biggest career trophy, after the 2009 US Open, when he ended Federer's unbeaten streak at Indian Wells in March. He rose after a quick chat, shook the chair umpire's hand and then told Del Potro.

"He was playing aggressive".

"I mean, he's a gentle giant", Djokovic said.

I know the things are going the right way. "Like thousands of other tennis players around the world I'm trying to be the best I can be".

Now they are set to face each other on Sunday for the first time in a grand slam final on the biggest stage in tennis, the US Open in NY.

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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.

"It was so hard for me to keep playing, having too much pain". "He's a dear friend, someone that I respect a lot". "But I think that is completely in the past, and now I'm having a good present, looking forward for the future".

World number one Nadal faces big-serving Argentine third seed Juan Martin del Potro while sixth seed Novak Djokovic meets Japanese 21st seed Kei Nishikori bidding to secure a seventh trip to the showcase match at Flushing Meadows.

Grimacing with every sudden move, the 17-time grand slam victor called for the trainer during the changeover on serve at 2-1 in the second.

The third seed could not take the opportunity as two set points went begging, but Nadal - who swiftly removed the tape from his knee - nevertheless found himself behind in another match as his rival's forehand strength came to the fore in a tie-break. I lost four matches.

"I'm here now", he said after advancing when defending champion Rafael Nadal quit after two sets in their semifinal because of right knee tendinitis. "I said to my box immediately that I felt something on the knee".

"I waited as much as I can".

Djokovic, who beat Nishikori in the Wimbledon quarters, said he expected a tough match against an opponent with a lethal two-handed backhand who is one of the fastest players on tour.

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