NEW YORK (REUTERS) - World No. 1 Rafael Nadal moved closer to a 16th Grand Slam title when he recovered from a first-set wobble to crush Argentine 24th seed 4-6, 6-0, 6-3, 6-2 in the US Open semi-finals on Friday.
The Spaniard will meet big-serving South African Kevin Anderson, the 28th seed who battled back to defeat 12th-seeded Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 and punch his ticket to his first Grand Slam final at the US Open.
Nadal struggled to handle his opponent's serve and huge forehand in the opening set before finding his stride.
Del Potro, who had played a total of nine sets in the two previous rounds as Nadal cruised into the last four, ran out of gas and looked toothless against the Spanish juggernaut.
Nadal ended the 2009 champion's ordeal with a splendid backhand passing shot on his first match point, four years after his last title at Flushing Meadows.
Anderson, 31 years old and ranked 32nd in the world, is the lowest-ranked Grand Slam finalist since 38th-ranked Jo-Wilfried Tsonga fell at the 2008 Australian Open final.
The 2.03-metre tall South African climbed into his player's box to embrace his wife, brother and coach Neville Godwin after Carreno Busta's forehand found the net to finish the nearly three-hour contest.
"I don't know if the team hug is appropriate before the final but it felt like the right thing to do," Anderson told the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium. "It's been a long road," added the South African, who overcame a right hip injury last year that had threatened his 2017 campaign.
Anderson was out of sorts to begin with. He hit 14 unforced errors including a backhand that sailed long to hand the composed Carreno Busta a rare break to go up 4-3 in the first set.
The Spaniard closed it out but Anderson settled down after a see-sawing second set and delivered his 20th ace, a 212kmh bullet, to take the third.
The South African's power eventually wore down the 26-year-old Carreno Busta, who had not dropped a set in the tournament prior to the match.
Anderson smacked 43 winners to Carreno Busta's 16 in the opening two hours of play.
Meanwhile, top seeds Martina Hingis and Jamie Murray saved three set points to record a 6-4, 7-6 (10-8) victory over CoCo Vandeweghe and Horia Tecau in the mixed doubles semi-finals.
The Swiss-British pair won the Wimbledon title earlier this year.