Rafael Nadal paid a moving tribute to victims of the 9/11 attacks, telling 22,000 spectators at the US Open and a global television audience that they'll be in his thoughts on Sunday's 10th anniversary, AFP
"I just want to send all of my support to the families of the victims of September 11th. I have terrible memories of that day," said Nadal to loud cheers from the Arthur Ashe Stadium Court at Flushing Meadows.
The Spaniard, who is the defending champion, was speaking after his semi-final win over Britain's Andy Murray, later vividly recalling witnessing the attacks as a raw 15-year-old.
On September 11, 2001, Nadal was in Madrid, playing in his first professional tournament.
Earlier that year, he had spent a happy family holiday in New York.
"I don't know exactly how to say in English, but the... image (of the Twin Towers falling), what I remember from that moment is probably...unforgettable," he said.
"So that was really fresh for me at that moment, because I had been there on the top of the Twin Towers, four months before. I went here for holidays with my family. So I really didn't believe what happened.
"It's a hard day for all the people here in New York tomorrow (Sunday), all the people in America. But I think for all the people around the world, too, no? Because this kind of tragedy for everybody is hard to accept, hard to understand. I am not an exception. I felt much pain and I suffered, too."
Had heavy rain not washed out Tuesday and Wednesday's action at this year's US Open, Nadal would have been playing the men's final against top seed Novak Djokovic on Sunday as scheduled.
But their match has been put back to Monday, paving the way for a patriotic edge to the women's singles final which will see American three-time winner Serena Williams facing Samantha Stosur.
"It'll feel more special for me. I wanted to be in the final with everything that New York and the United States has been through," said Williams, who lost the 2001 final to older sister Venus.
"It's hard to believe it's been 10 years," added three-time champion Williams after reaching the final with a straight sets win over world number one Caroline Wozniacki.
Stosur, who made the final by beating Germany's Angelique Kerber, sensed a sombre mood in New York.
"The city feels a little bit different. To be playing a final on that day, there's going to be a lot of sadness. It's going to be a great atmosphere for Serena."
Stosur was playing a series of third-tier tournaments in Japan when the 9/11 attacks took place.
"There were five of us travelling in a group together. One of the other girls called my room and said: 'Turn on the TV; look what's going on'. We didn't know what was happening. I was 17, we were kids really just trying to play tennis tournaments.
"Obviously all of a sudden going out to a match seemed quite irrelevant."
US Open organisers have marked the 10th anniversary by painting '9/11/01' on the side of the court on the Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Prior to the women's final, a memorial tribute will be hosted by singer Queen Latifah, who also led the tournament's ceremony on the first anniversary of the attacks.
A giant flag will be unfurled to cover the court during the ceremony and the's finalists will enter the court through an honor guard composed of the New York Police Department, Fire Department and Port Authority Police.
By Dave James
Results on Saturday, the 13th day of the US Open tennis championships (x denotes seeding):
Novak Djokovic (SRB x1) bt Roger Federer (SUI x3) 6-7 (7/9), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5
Rafael Nadal (ESP x2) bt Andy Murray (GBR x4) 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2
Serena Williams (USA x28) bt Caroline Wozniacki (DEN x1) 6-2, 6-4
Samantha Stosur (AUS x9) bt Angelique Kerber (GER) 6-3, 2-6, 6-2
Jurgen Melzer/ Philipp Petzschner (AUT/GER x9) bt Mariusz Fyrstenberg/ Marcin Matkowski (POL/POL x6) 6-2, 6-2