ReutersNEW YORK (Reuters) — Kei Nishikori was run ragged by Novak Djokovic in their U.S. Open semifinal on Friday and conceded he had been overwhelmed by the Serb’s aggression and energy.
Djokovic needed just 2 hours and 23 minutes to record a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory at Flushing Meadows as Nishikori came off second best in every department.
“He was playing aggressive. Yeah, I didn’t have [much] energy to stay with him. He was hitting side to side,” Nishikori told reporters. “Wasn’t easy to stay with him tonight.”
Nishikori, beloved in his home country and among the world’s highest paid players thanks to a bevy of endorsement deals, entered with the odds stacked against him, trailing his Serbian foe 2-14 in their previous meetings.
Djokovic, who won Wimbledon in July, forced his opponent into 36 errors and kept him on the run.
“I think I was just tired from last couple matches. I was [trying] to give 100 percent, but he was playing very solid,” Nishikori said. “Maybe if he wasn’t Novak, I might have [a] chance to play little better.
“He’s playing better everything. He’s staying more solid and not giving me many free points,” said Nishikori, who reached the final at Flushing Meadows in 2014.
Knee forces Nadal out
Meanwhile, a weary and wounded world No. 1 Rafael Nadal retired from his U.S. Open semifinal while trailing Juan Martin del Potro 7-6 (7-3), 6-2, sending the Argentine back to the Flushing Meadows final for the first time since his 2009 triumph.
Nadal, who had never before retired from a U.S. Open match, showed signs of distress almost from the start as he limped after a grueling 69-minute opening set. Grimacing with every sudden move, the 17-time Grand Slam winner called for the trainer during the changeover on serve at 2-1 in the second.
The defending champion had his knee massaged and retaped and bravely continued through the second set before telling the umpire he was unable to continue.
“I think it was 2-all in the first, 15-love, something like this in the first set, that I felt [something],” said Nadal. “I said to my box immediately that I felt something on the knee.
“After that, I was just trying to see if in some moment the thing can improve during the match.