It would be his third US Open title and would bring his total grand slam haul up to 14, a sweet achievement after suffering an elbow injury past year that forced him to take about six months off.
"He's a dear friend", Djokovic said of Del Potro, who won the title in 2009. Since he first burst onto the seen as a lanky teenager who halted Roger Federer's 5 consecutive US Open title run in 2009 Del Porto was looked to as a great threat to Federer and Nadal and a future World Number 1. "When you play a big server like Del Potro, you feel pressure also on your service games".
Juan Martin del Potro, of Argentina, hit tennis ball to fans following a match against Rafael Nadal, of Spain, during the semifinals of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Friday, Sept. 7, 2018, in NY. He rose after a quick chat, shook the chair umpire's hand and then told Del Potro.
Nishikori said he was happy to have made it to the semi-finals.
Unfortunately for Nishikori, Djokovic has been the victor in all 13 meetings since that match and has generally dominated this rivalry, so the Japanese player knows he is up against it here.
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"I was (trying) to give 100 per cent, but he was playing very solid", he said. "You could imagine very hard for me to say goodbye before the match finish but at some point you have to take a decision".
Novak Djokovic sat out last year's U.S. Open to rest an elbow injury that eventually required surgery, but that pain and frustration felt like a distant memory on Friday when the Serb completed his march to the NY final with authority.
As well as going level with Sampras on Sunday, a win for Djokovic would put him just three majors behind Nadal and six back from Federer who is six years older.
He said: "Well, I personally like him very much, not just as a player but as a person. But I'm here. I'm excited to keep surprising the tennis world, as I did with myself". "So I'm sad for him".
Djokovic, who was beaten by Nishikori in NY in 2014, improved his head-to-head record to 15 wins from 17 meetings with the victory after just two hours and 23 minutes.
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"I think it was two-all in the first, 15-love, something like this, that I felt [something]. I was a kid then; now I am much older".
Djokovic, after winning the French Open in 2016 - his 12th major which also completed his career grand slam - dipped and suddenly became mortal.
The retirement automatically gives the Argentine the final berth, with the World No. 3 on the brink of what will be only his second ever Grand Slam title. del Potro will face the victor of the semi-final clash between Japan's Kei Nishikori and Serbia's Novak Djokovic, which is now underway. But at some point you have to take a decision. I lost four matches.
Maybe "the tennis of his life" will be enough to be crowned champion in NY again, nine years after his ground-breaking campaign. At 29 and back to near his best, the Argentinian attracts admiration throughout the game for the way he has fought back from almost quitting the sport in 2015 to a career-best No 3 world ranking, and now is on his favourite stage again.
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