Novak Djokovic says he respects Third-seeded Juan Martin del Potro, who he faces in the US Open final at New York City on Sunday.
The sixth-seeded Djokovic reached the final by beating Japan’s Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in a relentless display throughout his two-and-a-half hour victory.
Argentine third seed Del Potro set up his meeting with Djokovic, when he was leading top seed and defending champion Rafa Nadal 7-6 (7-3) 6-2 before the Spaniard was forced to quit because of a knee problem.
In an interview about facing Del Potro, who has spent a few years recovering on-and-off from a wrist surgery, Djokovic said: “Well, 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 that kept him away from the tour for two, three years.
“But he was always a top five player in the eyes I think of everyone,” said Djokovic. “Even when he dropped his ranking and started to, you know, work his way up, but we all knew that he has a capacity and a quality to get to the point where he is at the moment. It was just a matter of time.”
Djokovic acknowledged that he was wary of Del Potro’s ability to beat top players in big matches.
“I saw today before the match against Nadal a stat that he’s the player that made most wins against No. 1’s of the world. That shows the quality that he has, especially in the big matches.
“He’s a big-time player. He’s a big-match player. He’s a Grand Slam winner. He’s playing tennis of his life, without a doubt, in the last 15 months.
“It all kind of started with him in Rio, Olympic Games. That’s where he got, I feel like, a great confidence boost. Obviously, he played ever since very consistent on the big tournaments. That’s what made him now No. 3 of the world.”
“He’s working his way up. He’s playing really some powerful tennis.”
The Serb added that Del Potro was a ‘gentle giant’ which made him very popular and much-loved by tennis fans worldwide.
“I mean, he’s a gentle giant. He really is. He’s very tall, has a big game, but at the same time he nurtures the right values in life,” said Djokovic. “He cares about his family. He cares about his friends. He respects everyone. He fights every match from the first to the last point.
“I think people can relate to that and appreciate what he brings to the tennis. He treats others the way he wants others to treat him. I think that’s why people love him.”
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