World No. 1 and the defending champion at the US Open, Rafael Nadal on Saturday retired after “knee issues” during the semi-final match against Juan Martin del Potro in New York. Nadal gave away his best possible shot in what was a marathon of two sets after his knee came back to haunt him. Del Potro, who will now play his second Grand Slam final against Novak Djokovic after winning his first one back in 2009 gave a standing ovation to the Spaniard as he walked off the court in despair.
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"I hate to retire, but to stay one more set out there playing like this was too much for me. I had some issues during the tournament. Today at 2-all in the first I felt it again. I said to my box immediately that I felt something in the knee. After that, I was just trying to see if it could improve during the match. But no, it was not the day,” Nadal told the media after the match against Juan Martin del Potro
RESPECT 🤗Feel better soon, @RafaelNadal! #USOpen pic.twitter.com/kho1G073cM— ATP World Tour (@ATPWorldTour) September 7, 2018
"I waited as much as I can. You could imagine it was very difficult for me to say goodbye before the match finish. But at some point you have to make a decision. It was so difficult for me to keep playing that way, having so much pain. It was not a tennis match at the end. It was just one player playing, the other one staying on the other side," Nadal added.
A Mallorca native, Nadal was struggling after the first set as Del Potro’s powerful shots piled pressure on his knees that significantly blocked world no. 1’s movement.
This is the second time in 2018 that Nadal has retired from a Grand Slam match following his retirement following a right leg injury against Marin Cilic in the Australian Open quarter-final.
👏👏 for a champion...@delpotrojuan always showing respect...#USOpen pic.twitter.com/GaukdtprbL— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 7, 2018
"I cannot compare the knee with the other times because the pain is always very similar when I have it," Nadal said. "The problem is this time it was something a little more aggressive because [I felt it] in one movement. It was not something progressive. So I don't know what can happen in a couple of days or in a couple of weeks.
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However, Nadal was no short of praises for his Argentine counterpart Del Potro, who is now heading towards his second US Open final.
"He's a player that went through a lot of issues during his career, like me too. I know how tough it is. I know how much frustration can be when you can't do the thing that you want to do. He knows that very well.
"I'm happy for him that he's able to be back at his top level. I wish him all the best. For him, it will be huge if he's able to win a Grand Slam again."