US Open 2018 has finally cooled down at but Novak Djokovic brought the heat to Kei Nishikori in Friday night’s second men’s semifinal, wearing down 2014 runner-up with his stellar defense make his 23rd Grand Slam final. Djokovic a two-time US Open champ, was just that much better that Nishikori in a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 win.
It was a stark contrast from just a year ago, when the 13-time Grand Slam winner was absent from the final major of the season while trying rehab a nagging elbow injury.
Djokovic will meet Juan Martin Del Potro, who is advancing to the US Open final for the first time since winning the tournament in 2009, on Sunday at Arthur Ashe Stadium. The No. 3-seeded Argentinian defeated Rafael Nadal by retirement in Friday’s first semifinal after going up two sets to none. Nadal was clearly hobbled, and the overpowering game of del Potro ultimately proved to be too much. The final score was 7-6, 6-2.
The majority of the second set was largely played as a formality, with Nadal clearly not looking like himself after a hard-fought first set. He entered this match with over 16 hours of match time, including a marathon against Dominic Thiem in the quarterfinals. He was clearly frustrated that he had to retire, but the 32-year-old No. 1 seed looked uncomfortable all match.
Del Potro continued to dominate on his first serves, winning 70 percent of them. He also took advantage on a lack of power in Nadal’s serve, winning 61 percent of Nadal’s second serves.
Del Potro will go on to face the winner of Novak Djokovic and Kei Nishikori, who play Friday night. Against Djokovic, del Potro is 4-14 in his career, including 0-3 in majors. Against Nishikori, he’s 6-2, and 2-0 in Grand Slam play. Del Potro will seek out his second career Grand Slam on Sunday. A win would make this his best year in nearly a decade. He’s made the French Open semifinals, the Wimbledon quarterfinals, and now a US Open final this year. In 2009, he made the Australian Open quarterfinal, the French Open semifinal and he won the US Open.
It’s the 10th time del Potro has beaten the No. 1 player, so this isn’t new ground for him. Even though it didn’t come in an ideal way — no one ever wants to see a player retire — del Potro has more than earned his spot.