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Rafael Nadal takes on Juan Martin del Potro before Novak Djokovic faces Kei Nishikori at US Open
Last Updated: 07/09/18 11:43pm
Familiar rivalries will be renewed in the US Open men's semi-finals on Friday as Rafael Nadal meets Juan Martin del Potro and Novak Djokovic takes on Kei Nishikori.
On a blockbuster day, Arthur Ashe Stadium will be treated to a couple of epic matches between four outstanding players who have shone through at Flushing Meadows.
But, while Nadal has beaten Del Potro 11 times and Djokovic prevailed against Nishikori on 14 occasions, Friday will represent a fresh challenge under the lights with temperatures set to cool down to as low as 19 degrees Celcius.
Nadal v Del Potro: The match-up
|Head to Head||11||5|
|Playing styles||Behind-the-baseline; heavy topspin groundstrokes||Brutally physical; new backhand after four wrist operations|
|Best Winner||Best Winner (2010, 2013, 2017)||Winner (2009)|
For Nadal and Del Potro, this will be a third meeting in the last five Grand Slams, all won by the Spaniard although the pair have split their 10 meetings on hard courts.
Nadal won comfortably at the French Open and dominated a weary Del Potro after losing the first set at the same stage here last year, but their clash in the Wimbledon quarter-finals was one of the matches of the year.
Nadal eventually won in five sets but it took all his immense powers to repel the lethal Del Potro forehand after almost five hours.
The Spaniard, who was famously was one of Del Potro's victims when he won his only Grand Slam title in 2009, expects another high-octane clash.
He said: "It will be a very tough one. At Wimbledon he's a great player, he's a great player everywhere. But the challenge of playing him on hard, of course, is even higher for me personally.
"It will be a big challenge. 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 trying to make that happen."
Nadal has been the marathon man of the tournament, spending nearly 16 hours on court during five matches so far, with the most gruelling coming in a late-night classic against Dominic Thiem on Tuesday. Del Potro, by contrast, has completed his victories in 12 hours and 16 minutes and has dropped just one set, to John Isner, en route to the semi-finals.
The third seed, at a career-high ranking of three, is relishing being back at this level after all his injury problems and is hoping to go one better than at Wimbledon.
He said: "It could be another big battle, as the Wimbledon match was. Of course, I like to play always with the number one of the world, it doesn't matter the tournament or the conditions. I just have the chance to play the greatest in this sport, and it's amazing for me."
Nishikori claimed arguably the best win of his career against Djokovic at the same stage in 2014 to reach his only Grand Slam final but has lost the subsequent 13 matches.
So one-sided has their rivalry been that Nishikori claimed to have forgotten all about that victory.
Djokovic v Nishikori: The match-up
|Head to Head||14||2|
|Playing styles||A big serve, incredible movement and a phenomenal backhand||Compact and powerful strokes on both forehand and backhand|
|US Opens played||12||8|
|Best Winner||Winner (2011, 2015)||Runner-up (2014)|
The Japanese player, who missed last year's tournament with a wrist injury, said: "For sure it's going to give me good confidence, even though I didn't remember. Maybe I will try to watch the match again.
"I don't have a great record against Novak, but always it's been a tough match the last couple of years. I've seen a chance, but I haven't been able to make the last step. I'm always excited to play Novak, because it's a great challenge for me."
Djokovic, who ended a 54-week title drought with his 13th Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, is a step closer to a third championship at Flushing Meadows and 14th Grand Slam title overall. He has also won 24 of his last 26 matches, including the US Open tune-up event in Cincinnati last month.
The former world No 1 has credited Nishikori for bringing out the best in him as he aims to secure a seventh trip to the showcase match at Flushing Meadows, saying: "I can't really say he's a great match-up for me. I have a very good head-to-head score against him.
"Because he plays so fast, he makes me more alert from the first point. He's got one of the best two-handed backhands in the game and he's very quick - if not the quickest, then one of the quickest players on the tour."
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