Team Europe’s Rafael Nadal will play for his 16th major singles title when he takes on Kevin Anderson in the final of the US Open on Sunday night.
After a comprehensive win over Argentina Juan Martin del Potro 4-6 6-0 6-3 6-2 in the semifinals, the Spaniard is the stand-out favorite against South African Anderson, who will be playing in his first Grand Slam final after 10 years on the pro tour.
Nadal was relieved to overcome dangerman Del Potro, after dropping the first set of their semifinal on Friday.
“It’s been an amazing season after a couple of years of injuries and tough moments. This year has been an emotional year and I’m very, very happy,” he said, watched on from the stands by golfing legend Tiger Woods.
“To be in the final and have the chance to fight for another title is so important for me.
“I was not playing bad in the first set but I was playing too much to his backhand. At the beginning of the second I tried to move him more and make it more unpredictable. It worked very well.”
Becoming the world’s No.1 player once again in August, this will be Nadal’s third major final for 2017, including the Australian Open, where he lost to Roger Federer, and Roland Garros, where he won his tenth crown.
He is 2-1 in US Open finals, winning in 2010 and 2013. Against the big-serving Anderson, 31, he will be especially wary of an opponent inspired by reaching the summit in New York.
“He’s a huge player with an unbelievable serve. He’s had some injuries, and is a big example for the Tour that he is back and playing his best tennis,” Nadal said
“I’m very happy for him – I’ve known him since we were 12. I’m going to need to play at my best, and I will look forward to playing with full energy and motivation.”
Anderson is ranked No.32 in the world but was ranked No.10 in 2015. He has won three tour titles in his career and is the first South African to reach the final of a Grand Slam since Kevin Curren, who was an Australian Open finalist in 1984. If he upsets Nadal, he would be the first South African since Johan Kriek (Australian Open 1981) to claim a major.
By comparison, Nadal has won 73 titles since he turned pro in 2001.
He leads Anderson 4-0 in career matches, the most recent victory coming in Barcelona this year, as Nadal asserted his clay-court dominance 6-3 6-4 in the round of 16, and went on to win the title.