But Djokovic made the key breakthrough in the fifth game and consolidated to take the second set 6-4.
Djokovic, a two-time champion in NY, will start as the favourite, despite trailing Del Potro by three places in the ATP rankings, which only confirms that all is not as it appears in tennis. Djokovic converted on four of them, breaking once in each of the first two sets and twice in the third, while Nishikori couldn't capitalize on the two that he earned.
"Today I couldn't play like myself", Nishikori said. He was visited by a trainer at the changeover after the match's seventh game and tape was applied below the joint.
The outcome was not too surprising after what Nadal went through in his quarterfinals match.
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Del Potro won his only Slam at the tournament in 2009, memorably defeating Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer back-to-back to achieve the goal.
Now ranked a career-high No. 3, del Potro would establish a professional-era record for most major appearances from a first to a second such title, 22, if he wins Sunday. He rose after a quick chat, shook the chair umpire's hand and then told Del Potro.
Djokovic is in his 11th US Open semi-final and enjoys a 14-2 head-to-head record against Nishikori.
Del Potro may be the higher seeded player at No 3, but Djokovic, the No 6 seed, is the favourite to be the victor in NY.
"I know things are going the right way". "I said to my box immediately that I felt something on the knee". It's inspiring, actually. I don't think a lot of people really know how bad it was.
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'It's definitely one of my favourite tournaments to play because of the conditions and because of the fact that I've played so well in each year that I keep on coming back to the US Open. "A big challenge because I've been fighting with many, many problems to get to this moment", he said.
"I had some issues during the tournament", he said, per The Metro.
It's the 10th time del Potro has beaten the No. 1 player, so this isn't new ground for him.
But despite having two set points on serve, Del Potro inexplicably blinked and Nadal broke back.
"I feel that I fought all my career against these kind of things too", added the 32-year-old, who has missed at least eight Grand Slams due to injury since his major debut at Wimbledon in 2003. Djokovic shut himself down for the last half of 2017, sitting out the U.S. Open among other events and, after a brief attempt to play at the start of this season, had an operation in February. You could imagine it was very hard for me to say goodbye before the match finish. However, his worries here have been induced by the extreme heat, rather than the strain on his limbs and he appreciated the significant drop in temperature for his routine straight-sets win over Kei Nishikori in the second semi-final.
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