US Open 2017

Tennis: Can Kevin Anderson find a way past Rafael Nadal?

ABOVE: South African Kevin Anderson's booming serve is his biggest weapon. LEFT: Spaniard Rafael Nadal after running Argentinian Juan Martin del Potro to the ground in their semi-final at the Arthur Ashe Stadium.
ABOVE: South African Kevin Anderson's booming serve is his biggest weapon. PHOTO: NEW YORK TIMES PHOTO: REUTERS
ABOVE: South African Kevin Anderson's booming serve is his biggest weapon. LEFT: Spaniard Rafael Nadal after running Argentinian Juan Martin del Potro to the ground in their semi-final at the Arthur Ashe Stadium.
ABOVE: Spaniard Rafael Nadal after running Argentinian Juan Martin del Potro to the ground in their semi-final at the Arthur Ashe Stadium.PHOTO: NEW YORK TIMES PHOTO: REUTERS

World No.1 Spaniard will be playing in his 23rd Grand Slam final; the S. African his first

NEW YORK • With all the injury chaos in the men's draw at this year's US Open, some semblance of order was maintained when Spain's top-seeded Rafael Nadal reached the final.

In a semi-final that many felt was the de facto final, Nadal mercilessly ran world No. 28 Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina into exhaustion, winning 4-6, 6-0, 6-3, 6-2, at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Friday.

With his victory, Nadal, 31, earned a place in his third Grand Slam final this year - after losing the Australian Open in January and clinching his 10th French Open title in June.

The 15-time Grand Slam champion will be the heavy favourite in the final today (tomorrow morning, Singapore time), his first at the US Open since he won the tournament in 2013.

His opponent will be South Africa's 28th seed Kevin Anderson, who reached his first Grand Slam final by beating 12th seed Pablo Carreno Busta 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4.

Nadal holds a 4-0 head-to-head record over Anderson, an oft-injured 31-year-old who starred at the University of Illinois before turning professional.

While Nadal consolidated his hold on the world No. 1 ranking, Anderson, at No. 32, is the lowest-ranked player to reach a US Open final since the inception of the rankings system in 1973.

Anderson was already the first South African to reach a US Open men's semi-final since Johan Kriek in 1980. Cliff Drysdale was the last player from South Africa to reach the final, in 1965.

Drysdale, though, lost to Spaniard Manuel Santana. In a way it is once again, South Africa versus Spain, and Anderson will be hoping to go one step further than his compatriot by claiming the top prize.

  • First 

    • Kevin Anderson is in his first Major final since his Grand Slam debut in Australia in 2008.

    • First South African to reach the US Open final since 1965. 

  • One

    • Sets won out of 10 in four meetings against Rafael Nadal.

His task will definitely not come easy against Nadal, who is contesting his 23rd Grand Slam final.

The numbers do not bode well for Anderson. First of all, it is the experience of a 23rd final against the nerves of playing in a first.

Nadal is also rounding off the year exceptionally well, reaching three Slam finals for the first time since 2011.

In their four previous meetings, Anderson has not won once. In the 10 sets the duo contested, he got the better of Nadal in just one.

The South African is, however, undeterred by the giant task ahead of him.

"That's an amazing feeling, I will be playing for a Grand Slam trophy," said Anderson, whose supporters inside the Arthur Ashe Stadium have included Major golf champions from South Africa - Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen.

"I have to get ready. Still obviously a very difficult match ahead of me, but I think right now I'm just trying to unwind a little bit and just enjoy sort of today's match."

Nadal is not underestimating his opponent either.

"It's a very tough one. He is a very dangerous player with a big serve and plays very well on this surface. I have known him since we were 12," he said.

"He's had many injuries but the way he has come back is a great example to the kids.

"It's great to see him in a final of one of the most important events of the year."

NYTIMES, WASHINGTON POST, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 10, 2017, with the headline 'Can Anderson find a way past Nadal?'. Print Edition | Subscribe