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US Open semifinal preview: Rafael Nadal vs Juan Martin del Potro

Defending champion, Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro will meet for a place in the final of the US Open.

Del Potro, ranked No.3 in the world, had not lost a set before his quarterfinal match against the big-serving John Isner. Against Isner, the Argentine responded brilliantly after losing the first set to come through with a 6-7, 6-3, 7-6, 6-2 victory and come within one match of a first Grand Slam final since 2009 when he won the US Open title.

After his triumph in 2009, del Potro was hit by series of wrist injuries. He missed nine months in 2010 and barely played in 2014 and 2015 because of left wrist issues. He returned in 2016 but was bedevilled by poor form. This year, however, has been good for the Argentinian.

Right now, the 29-year-old is playing devoid of pain once again; playing better than ever, he’s put together a better result that all other players in the men’s draw, having relinquished just a set so far.

Del Potro has dropped only one set so far in Flushing Meadows.

“I don’t know if I’m playing my best tennis ever,” del Potro said after his four-set quarterfinal win over John Isner, “but I’m feeling good.”

Can the man from Tandil now prove his mettle against Nadal and reach the final?

Rafael Nadal, the top seed, has scaled through tough tests with sheer determination in the Big Apple so far. In his quarterfinal match against Dominic Thiem, the Spaniard recovered from a disastrous start to win 0-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-7, 7-5. He was also tested by Karen Khachanov in the third round and Nikoloz Basilashvili in the fourth round where he ultimately proved superior. However, he will be facing his biggest test yet when he takes on Del Potro. Nadal has acknowledged how tough it will be and has said he will be going into the match full of momentum.

“Yeah, will be a very tough one [playing del Potro],” Nadal said. “Will be a big challenge. Is a match that we know each other very well. I know he’s playing well.

“I know that I will have to play at my highest level to keep having chances of success. I am focused on try to make that happen.

Rafael Nadal is bidding for a fourth US Open title.

“I think last three sets I improved. I increased my level. Was a step forward for me in the dynamic of the tournament. So I did it. I hope to continue that way.”

These two have played 17 times and Nadal has won 12 of those matches. The Spaniard has also won their last three encounters in a major: he beat del Potro in a four-set semifinal last year at the US Open. This year, at the French Open semis, he outclassed the Argentinian in straight sets. And the most recent being at that Wimbledon quarterfinal thriller in July, where he won in five sets.

The odds favour Nadal. But Del Potro is playing better than ever at the moment. What favours del Potro now is that Nadal has looked somewhat vulnerable so far.

With a formidable forehand (arguably the best on tour) and a powerful serve, this looks like del Potro’s best chance to reach his first major final in almost a decade. But then, against Nadal, you can only speculate.

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