Juan Martin Del Potro not 100% fit to face Rafael Nadal in US Open semi-final

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Juan Martin del Potro

Juan Martin Del Potro admits he will not be physically 100 percent fit to face world number one Rafael Nadal in Friday’s potentially blockbuster US Open semi-final.

The 28-year-old Argentine has been plagued by injuries since he won his only Grand Slam title in New York in 2009, beating Roger Federer in the final and Nadal in the semi-finals.

He gatecrashed the tournament again on Wednesday when he defeated Federer in a gripping quarter-final 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (10/8), 6-4 to reach his fourth Grand Slam semi-final.

“Against Rafa, it will be a much harder match. I am not in good condition,” said Del Potro, who had needed five exhausting sets and saved two match points to beat Dominic Thiem in the fourth round.

“But it’s a semi-final so anything can happen. I have to be ready to face Rafa in my favorite tournament.

“I will try to exploit the atmosphere and if I play my best I can be a danger to him.”

Del Potro’s 2009 US Open final five-set win ended Federer’s five-year reign as champion and his 40-match win streak.

He had also crushed Nadal in straight sets in the semi-finals, losing just six games. He was just 20 at his time and had the world at his feet.

Rafael Nadal

Nadal cruised through in his last eight clash.

However, he went on to undergo four wrist surgeries, missed 10 Grand Slams and, at one stage last year, his world ranking slumped to 1,045.

That left him even contemplating retirement before a run to the Olympic final in Rio — beating Nadal in the semi-finals — helped reinvigorate his passion for the sport.

Despite his doubts, he is used to playing exhausting semi-final epics – at Wimbledon in 2013, he lost to Novak Djokovic in 4hr 43min, the longest Slam semi-final ever played.

His Roland Garros semi-final defeat to Federer in 2009 was also a five-setter.

“Against Rafa, he is a lefty so he will come after my forehand,” added Del Potro.

Nadal will take an 8-5 record over Del Potro into the semi-final, where the winner will face either Kevin Anderson or Pablo Carreno Busta for the title.

“Juan Martin is a top player. When he’s playing well, it’s difficult to stop him. Probably the forehand is maybe the fastest on the tour,” said Nadal, who is chasing his second major of the year to add to his French Open.

Federer, who raced into the interview room after his defeat, praised Del Potro, saying, “Juan Martin fought like a lion.”

“I feel like the way I’m playing right now it’s not good enough to win this tournament. It’s better I’m out and somebody else gets a chance to win.”

Provided by AFP Sport

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Rafa Nadal blitzes Andrey Rublev to reach US Open semi-finals

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Rafael Nadal demolished Andrey Rublev on Wednesday to reach a sixth US Open semi-final, setting up a first-time New York showdown against Roger Federer if the Swiss legend can down Argentine giant Juan Martin del Potro.

World number one Nadal, the 2010 and 2013 champion, brushed aside Russian 19-year-old Rublev 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 in just 97 minutes.

Rublev, ranked 53 and playing in his first Slam quarter-final, was broken seven times and committed 43 unforced errors.

Nadal and Federer have come close to facing off on Arthur Ashe Stadium on five previous occasions when they were just one match away, only for one of the two to lose.

Back in 2008, legendary boxing promoter Don King, never short of hyperbole, even dubbed the potential clash as “Grapple in the Apple.”

“It would be more special if Roger and I met in the final this year, so we will have to try and come back and make it happen,” said 31-year-old Nadal, who has reached his 26th Grand Slam semi-final.

The reigning French Open champion and 15-time major winner added that he might not watch all of the Federer-Del Potro match as it clashes with his dinner time.

“We are from Spain and we always eat very late but of course I will be paying attention to it,” Nadal said. “They are two great players and will be a good show.”

If Nadal and Federer, the Australian Open and Wimbledon champion, do meet on Friday, it will also be a duel for the world number one spot.

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The staggering numbers and records behind Venus Williams' dream 2017

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Can she go all the way? Venus is in the last four.

Venus Williams has once again been rolling back the years at the US Open and is one match away from her first final in New York since 2002.

Standing in her way, on Thursday, is fellow American Sloane Stephens – 13 years her junior – who is vying to reach her very first Grand Slam final.

While it will be intriguing to see if the 37-year-old can win two more matches to become the oldest champion of the Open Era – it has already been a superb season for Queen Vee.

Here, we look at some of the amazing stats and figures surrounding a stellar nine months so far for the seven-time Grand Slam champion.

Can Venus win the US Open?

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BLAST FROM PAST IN BIG APPLE

You have to go back seven years, to 2010, for the last time in which the two-time New York champion (2000 and 2001) reached the last four on US soil.

Indeed, in four of her last six visits to Flushing Meadows, she had failed to pass the third round.

That’s all changed this year though and she will be hoping to go one better than her 2010 defeat to eventual champion Kim Clijsters.

Aside from her title wins at the start of the last decade, Venus has failed to win any of her four other semi-finals outings in Manhattan, as well as two other finals (1997 and 2002).

VENUS HAS BEEN IN-FORM FOR A WHILE

Amazingly, entering New York, Venus was the only player on the women’s tour to have reached or gone beyond the fourth round stage at her last six Grand Slams – beginning with a last-16 appearance at the 2016 French Open.

This year, the current world No.9, became the third-oldest player to return to the top ten after reaching the Wimbledon final (37 years, 29 days) – behind legends Billie Jean King (39 years, 322 days) and Martina Navratilova (38 years, 75 days).

Simply put, Venus has been playing her best tennis in years.

Her win over then world No.1 Angelique Kerber in the Miami quarter-finals in April – made her the oldest player of all time (36 years, nine months) to topple a player in top spot.

Additionally, ahead of this year’s US Open, only Garbine Muguruza ($4,394,182) and Simona Halep ($3,670,662) had won more prize money than her $3,496,842 haul.

Quids in.

TOPSHOT - Venus Williams of the US returns the ball to Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova during their 2017 US Open Women's Singles Quarterfinal match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York on September 5, 2017. Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams became the oldest Grand Slam semi-finalist since 1994 at age 37 by defeating two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7/2). / AFP PHOTO / Don EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

VW is a popular draw for the home crowd in the Big Apple.

LONGEVITY THE KEY TO HER SUCCESS

Venus’ appearance at the 2017 edition of the US Open – her 76th in Grand Slams – is an Open Era record as she comfortably leads fellow American Amy Frazier (71), all-time great Navratilova (67), Italian Francesca Schiavone (67) and sister Serena Williams.

She has missed only eight major tournaments since debuting way back in 1997 and after reaching the final of Wimbledon in July, Williams now holds the record for the largest span of years of competing in Grand Slam finals (20).

Again, that puts her ahead of Navratilova (19 from 1975-1994) and sister Serena (1999-2017) – who will need to play on for at least two more years to match that.

A MAJOR-FUL YEAR

2017 started in the best way possible for the 37-year-old after she reached the Australian Open final – the first time she had contested a major final showdown since 2009 – only to lose to sister Serena.

The five-time Wimbledon champion also reached her first SW19 final in eight years – losing to Spaniard Muguruza – in a vintage run on the lawns of south-west London.

It was the first time she had reached the finals of two majors in the same year since 2003. In New York, she will be vying for her first Slam since Wimbledon 2008.

Without doubt, it has been Venus’ best season in slams for years and even she has found it hard to get to the bottom of the reasons behind her terrific form, when quizzed in press conferences.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 15: Runner-up Venus Williams of The United States walks with her trophy after the Ladies Singles final against Garbine Muguruza of Spain on day twelve of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club at Wimbledon on July 15, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Venus couldn’t quite produce her best in the Wimbledon final.

GOLDEN OLDIE

Aged 37 and three months, Venus is the oldest player to have advanced through to the semi-finals of a Grand Slam since 1994 – when Navratilova recorded that feat aged just two months older.

Could she become the oldest winner of them all come Saturday on Arthur Ashe Stadium?

We’ll soon find out but this has certainly been the year of the veteran with a certain 36-year-old Roger Federer winning two Grand Slams also.

It goes to show that with modern sports science techniques and recovery, players are being able to play on for much longer at a higher level.

RANKINGS WATCH

After reaching the semi-finals, Venus is guaranteed to return to the top five of the WTA rankings for the first time since January 2011 – and if she wins the title – she can climb as high as No.2 in the world, depending on other results.

QUICK STATS

4 — wins over top-10 opponents in 2017

6 — Venus’ current position in the Race to Singapore standings

19 — match wins and 3 losses for Venus in Grand Slams in 2017 so far

20 — years since Venus played her first US Open. She made the final on her debut

34 — wins and 10 losses for Venus so far this season

159 — aces struck so far in 2017

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