NEW YORK • Juan Martin del Potro admitted he was "angry" over his US Open semi-final loss to Rafael Nadal, before backing the Spaniard to claim a third New York title and 16th Grand Slam triumph.
Del Potro dominated the first set as he sought to defeat Nadal like he did at the same stage of the tournament in 2009, before going on to beat Roger Federer in the final for his only Major title.
But the emotional and physical toll of seeing off Federer again in the quarter-finals this year, and having to come back from two sets down and save two match points against Dominic Thiem in the last 16, proved too much of a burden.
"To be honest, I'm angry to lose a chance like this, but maybe tomorrow, after tomorrow, I will be calm and see how big the tournament was for me," said del Potro after his 6-4, 0-6, 3-6, 2-6 loss to the world No. 1 in 2hr 30min.
"I think I never had control of the match. When you don't have that confidence to play three, four hours with a good backhand against Rafa, it is just a matter of time to get down your game.
"But also he improved very much his game after the second set, and his balls came too fast from both sides.
"He deserved to win, for sure."
The Argentinian 24th seed was playing in only his fourth Slam semi-final and first since 2013, when he lost a five-set Wimbledon epic to Novak Djokovic.
Friday's loss was his ninth in 14 meetings against Nadal and he was quick to tip his conqueror to defeat Kevin Anderson in today's (tomorrow morning, Singapore time) final and add to his 2010 and 2013 titles in Flushing Meadows.
"He had the game today to win, to beat me, and to win the tournament," said del Potro.
"I think he's playing much better. He's improved his backhand and he serves good. He's the No. 1 of the world. He's winning many tournaments this year."
Del Potro, 28, has long been a sentimental favourite on the tour, a status created by his lengthy battles against wrist injuries, which required four surgeries.
When his world ranking, once as high as four, slumped to 1,045 last year, he even pondered retirement.
"So I had many problems before this match, but I was very motivated to play the semi-final," he said. "I gave all my effort to survive this match, but I couldn't do well."