US Open 2018: Juan Martin del Potro & Novak Djokovic meet in final

Juan Martin del Potro
Juan Martin del Potro lost to Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon semi-finals the last time they met at a Grand Slam in 2013
2018 US Open
Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York Dates: 27 August-9 September Coverage: Live radio coverage on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra; live text commentaries on the BBC Sport website

Juan Martin del Potro is aiming to win his second Grand Slam title nine years after his first when he takes on Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic in Sunday's US Open final in New York.

Victory would cap the Argentine's most successful year, in which he has risen to a career-high third in the world.

The 29-year-old reached the final when world number one Rafael Nadal retired with a knee injury in their semi-final.

His first title came at the US Open in 2009 when he beat Roger Federer.

Del Potro has been in excellent form this year - reaching the Wimbledon quarter-finals and the French Open semi-finals.

He also won his first 12 sets in a row in New York and won his first two matches in under two hours.

"He's a big-time player. He's a Grand Slam winner," Djokovic said. "He's playing the tennis of his life, without a doubt, in the last 15 months. He's playing some really powerful tennis."

Djokovic is no stranger to big occasions, though, and will be playing in his eighth US Open final.

The 13-time Grand Slam champion has also won eight of his last 10 meetings with Del Potro, including their last three in 2017.

"He's playing so good. He will be the favourite to win on Sunday," Del Potro said. "But I don't know. When I played Roger [Federer] nine years ago, he was the favourite to win, as well.

"I will try to make the surprise again."

'I was close to quitting the sport'

Juan Martin del Potro injured
Juan Martin del Potro injured his wrist during the quarter-finals of the 2017 Shanghai Masters

Del Potro, one of the most respected and well-liked players on the Tour, has come back from a series of wrist injuries.

In 2015, he played just four ATP matches because of injury and Del Potro admitted he was "close to quitting the sport" before eventually forcing his way back up the world rankings.

At his lowest point, Del Potro was ranked world number 1,042 but will end the US Open in the top three.

"I couldn't find a way to fix my wrist problems," he said. "I got depressed for a couple of months also. That was the bad moment for me."

Del Potro's 10 career victories over number one-ranked players are the most by any player never to hold the top ranking.

He has always been admired by the New York faithful and can expect the support of the home crowd in the final of his "favourite tournament" on Sunday.

"I won my only Grand Slam here," Del Potro said. "When I was a kid, I mixed watching soccer and the US Open, that's it."

"I can't believe that I will have the chance to play another Grand Slam final here. It would be special to me. And in the finals, anything can happen.

"I didn't expect to get this kind of emotions playing tennis again. Reaching finals, winning titles, having my highest ranking ever in this moment, everything is almost perfect."

Timeline of Del Potro's career

  • 2006: Plays first Grand Slam at the French Open aged 17, finishes season as youngest player in the top 100.
  • 2009: Beats Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals and Roger Federer in the final to win his first Grand Slam title at the US Open.
  • 2010: Climbs to a career-high ranking of four but starts the year with right wrist problems. Has surgery in May and is unable to defend his title in New York.
  • 2011: Begins the season ranked world number 258 and finishes it 11th.
  • 2012: Climbs to seventh in the rankings and beats Djokovic to win the bronze medal at the London Olympics.
  • 2013: Reaches his first Slam semi-final at Wimbledon since his US Open win, losing narrowly to Djokovic. Returns to the top five.
  • 2014-15: Has problems in his left wrist and has surgery in March. The injury eventually requires two more operations and Del Potro fears his career is over.
  • 2016: He finally returns to the Tour in February ranked world number 1,042. He wins a silver medal at the Rio Olympics and a first Davis Cup title for Argentina. Ends the season ranked 38.
  • 2017: Makes his first Slam semi-final in four years at the US Open, losing to Rafael Nadal. Finishes the season ranked 11.
  • 2018: Returns to the top 10 in January and wins his first Masters title in Indian Wells. Reaches a career-high ranking of three in August after a semi-final appearance at the French Open and quarter-final at Wimbledon. Reaches US Open final.

Djokovic chasing Sampras' record

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic beat Kei Nishikori 6-3 6-4 6-2 to reach the US Open final

Sixth seed Djokovic can equal American Pete Sampras's tally of 14 Grand Slam titles if he wins on Arthur Ashe.

He has tasted victory in New York on two occasions - beating Nadal in 2011 and Federer in 2015 - but the 31-year-old has also had five defeats, including his most recent against Stan Wawrinka in 2016.

That defeat would kick-start a period of almost two years in which Djokovic failed to reach a Grand Slam final and an elbow injury forced him to skip last year's US Open.

But fresh from winning his fourth Wimbledon title in July, Djokovic is searching for his first back-to-back Grand Slam title since June 2016.

"We've never faced each other in a Grand Slam final, so that's something new," said Djokovic, who will be competing in his 23rd Grand Slam final.

"When you play a big server like Del Potro, you feel pressure also on your service games. There are few other things that I have in mind, knowing him from the matches we previously played against each other."

"I personally like him very much, not just as a player but as a person. He's a dear friend, someone that I respect a lot. We all felt for his struggles with injuries.

"But he was always a top-five player in the eyes, I think, of everyone. It was just a matter of time."

Novak Djokovic's Grand Slam titles
Australian Open2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016
French Open2016
Wimbledon2011, 2014, 2015, 2018
US Open2011, 2015

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