Rafael Nadal has insisted his career is not at risk after retiring hurt in his US Open semi-final. Picture: Julian Finney/Getty
Rafael Nadal has insisted his career is not at risk after retiring hurt in his US Open semi-final. Picture: Julian Finney/Getty

Ruthless Djokovic surges into US Open final

NOVAK Djokovic, the two-time champion, will face 2009 winner Juan Martin del Potro for the US Open title on Sunday (Monday AEST).

Djokovic, the 2011 and 2015 champion in New York, reached his eighth final at the tournament and 23rd of his Grand Slam career with a 6-3 6-4 6-2 win over Japan's Kei Nishikori.

Del Potro advanced when world No.1 and defending champion Rafael Nadal quit their semi-final with a knee injury after dropping the first two sets, 7-6 (7-3) 6-2.

"I hate to retire but to stay one more set out there playing like this will be too much for me," Nadal said.

Rafael Nadal was forced to retire after the second set. Picture: AP
Rafael Nadal was forced to retire after the second set. Picture: AP

Nadal, bidding for a fourth title in New York and 18th major, had spent the best part of 16 hours getting to the semi-finals.

That effort took its toll with the Spaniard twice needing to have his right knee bandaged before calling it a day after the conclusion of the second set.

Nadal's withdrawal robbed him of a golden opportunity to win his 18th grand slam title and move within two of Roger Federer's record of 20.

The Spaniard dismissed suggestions the end of his career was approaching. "I'm going to keep going," he said. "I still have the passion for the game."

Djokovic is now placed to benefit - and has the chance to match Pete Sampras' mark of 14 Grand Slam titles.

Djokovic boasts a 14-4 lead over Del Potro in a 10-year rivalry, including two wins without dropping a set at the US Open in 2007 and 2012.

"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 who missed the 2017 tournament through injury.

"He's had lots of injury problems in the past but he's a big-match player."

A nasty ankle roll late in the first set had fans fearing  Nishikori mighty be forced out of his semi.

After dropping the first set 6-3, Nishikori battled on in the second - saving four break points in his opening service game.

But Djokovic made the key breakthrough in the fifth game and consolidated to take the second set 6-4.

Djokovic grabbed the early break in the first set at the fifth opportunity.

Nishikori fought back from 0-40 to force deuce in his opening service game but couldn't find a way past the reigning Wimbledon champion.

Djokovic consolidated the break and took the set 6-3 in 37 minutes.

- with Jai Bednall

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