Rafael Nadal is thisclose to earning his third US Open title…
Closing in on his 16th Grand Slam championship overall, Nadal overcame a decent start with an overwhelming performance the rest of the way Friday night, taking nine games in a row during one stretch to beat 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro 4-6, 6-0, 6-3, 6-2 in the semifinals at Flushing Meadows.
Nadal, currently ranked No. 1 in the world, will be a significant favorite Sunday against No. 32 Kevin Anderson of South Africa, who beat Pablo Carreno Busta 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 to become the lowest-ranked US Open finalist since the ATP‘s computer rankings began in 1973. He has lost his four previous matches against Nadal.
Nadal looked as good as ever over the last three sets against del Potro, further confirmation of his return to the height of his powers. Nadal is again healthy and capable of excellence, after wrist and knee injuries dulled his effectiveness in 2015 and 2016 — the first seasons since 2004 in which he not only failed to win a Grand Slam trophy but didn’t even make a final.
“It’s been an amazing season, of course, after a couple of years with some troubles, injuries, tough moments,” Nadal said. “So this year, since the beginning, has been a very emotional year.”
He reached the Australian Open final in January, losing to Roger Federer, and then claimed a record 10th French Open championship in June.
Except for a less-than-dominant opening set Friday, in which Nadal had nine winners and 10 unforced errors, he barely missed his targets. His numbers the rest of the way: 36 winners, 10 unforced errors.
Eventually, del Potro’s flat, fearsome forehand became less dangerous, as if he suddenly remembered just how weary he was. Dealing with an illness, del Potro came back from a two-set deficit to win his fourth-round match in five sets, and then got past 19-time major champion Federer in the quarterfinals in four sets. Maybe it was all too much for del Potro, whose one Grand Slam title came via wins over Nadal in the semifinals and Federer in the final in New York in 2009.
That was the last time Nadal lost in a major semifinal; he has now won 15 in a row.