He couldn't defend his title in 2010 with a wrist injury, that would go on to require four surgeries, change his style of play, make him nearly give up the sport and define his career for the next eight years. Seven months down the road, Djokovic has not only fully recovered from the injury but also become a dominant force he was once winning 21 of his last 22 matches claiming titles in Wimbledon and Cincinnati enroute to the finals of the US Open. We've never faced each other in a Grand Slam final, so that's something new.
While a victory for Del Potro, nine years after he won his sole major trophy at the same venue, is undoubtedly the feelgood moment that most tennis purists will be hoping for. But that degree of wastefulness could be punished by del Potro.
"I can't believe that I will have the chance to play another Grand Slam final here, which is my favourite tournament", del Potro said after reaching the final when defending champion Rafael Nadal quit their semi-final when trailing by two sets because of a knee injury.
Both players missed the 2017 U.S. Open with injuries, but were on the cusp of returning to the finals.
Loss of motivation after winning all there was to win, personal problems away from the court and an elbow injury that required surgery were all partly to blame for the decline of the then world No 1, who lost the spot to Andy Murray in November 2016 and has not had it back since.
"I thought in the important moments I came up with some good second serves, some good first serves".
Nadal vs del Potro, Djokovic vs Nishikori in US Open semis
He will play the victor of last night's second semifinal between No. 6 seed Novak Djokovic and No. 21 Kei Nishikori . Don't miss out on the latest news and information.
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That's what I try to do tomorrow, with the ice bath, then massage, then came for hit the ball a little bit also. Negative thing is two of them have been in quarterfinals and semifinals of a Grand Slam, close to fight for titles.
"You could imagine it was very hard for me to say goodbye before the match finishes", Nadal said.
"It means a lot to be back in the final", added Del Potro after his sixth win over Nadal, all on hard court. But Nadal was so distraught after he pulled out of the match that he had difficulty saying he was pleased to see del Potro advance. "I know how tough is this thing". A straight-sets win is not out of the question for the two-time champion, whose incredible consistency at the US Open is set to continue.
"Yeah, for sure it's going to give me good confidence", Nishikori said, "even though I (don't) remember".
Djokovic is now placed to benefit - and has the chance to match Pete Sampras' mark of 14 Grand Slam titles. So no, no. I know what I have.
Del Potro, a man far too familiar with his body letting him down, is probably the last person who would have wanted to progress in such a manner but surely no player deserves a kind break more. "I got depressed for a couple of months also".
"I think I was just exhausted from last couple matches".