Nadal said he didn't know what kind of effects might have been lingering from his quarterfinal victory over Dominic Thiem, which lasted five sets and almost five hours.
Nadal said that he first felt a knee problem in his second- or third-round match last week and that it acted up again Friday starting in the fifth game.
"That was not a tennis match at the end".
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"As thousands of other tennis players around the world, I'm trying to be the best I can be", Djokovic said immediately after beating Nishikori.
Nadal, the world's No. 1 player and the defending champion in NY, retired against Juan Martin del Potro, trailing 7-6 (7-3), 6-2 about two hours into the first semifinal of the day in Flushing Meadows. Nadal was clearly hobbled, and the overpowering game of del Potro ultimately proved to be too much. "I hate to retire, but staying one more set out there, playing like this, would be too much for me".
Arthur Ashe Stadium had not long emptied, stunned by the retirement of Nadal after two sets, when Djokovic put Nishikori under immediate pressure in the second semi-final.
The 32-year-old Nadal quit during a match for the second time in four Grand Slams this year.
After failing to make much attempt to reach a dropshot he summoned the physio and took a medical timeout at 2-1 down in the second.
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Twice champion Djokovic, who reached his eighth final at Flushing Meadows and is seeded sixth this year, broke Nishikori in his first service game and closed out the opening set with an ace in 37 minutes without facing a break point.
Sep 7, 2018; New York, NY, USA; Rafael Nadal of Spain winces while receiving treatment from an ATP trainer during a changeover against Juan Mart'n Del Potro of Argentina (not pictured) in a men's semi-final match on day twelve of the 2018 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. "I love to play with Rafa because he's the biggest fighter in this sport".
Djokovic, who was forced to skip last year's tournament due to an elbow injury and returned to the tour this year after surgery, said he was thrilled to be back on the big stage. But at some point you have to take a decision.
"It means the world to me obviously", he added.
He needed his right knee strapped after the seventh game before gallantly fighting off two set points in the 10th game, breaking Del Potro who was serving for the set.
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The National Museum of Brazil in Rio. "I feel very sorry for my colleagues, some of whom have worked here for 30 or 40 years". On the massive site where the museum sits, the fencing was dilapidated, stonework was cracked and lawns appeared untended.
While Djokovic has been able to routinely beat Nishikori in their previous meetings, Nadal and Del Potro have only met on four occasions since 2013.