The women’s tournament has come and gone, ending Saturday night with something of a one sided affair despite being a match that promised a lot. There isn’t much in terms of expectations for the men’s final with Rafael Nadal predicted to earn slam no.16 with the minimum of fuss when he takes on Kevin Anderson on Sunday evening.
Anderson has taken advantage of a great draw to make it this far after Marin Cilic and Alexander Zverev were losers in the first week of the tournament. The pair were seen as the only threats to stopping a Federer or Nadal victory but both ended up losing to far lesser players. Anderson should of course be still applauded for making it this far, with many players often blowing comfy routes to a tournament ending. Consecutive 4 set victories against Sam Querrey and Pablo Carreno Busta were the highlights of his tournament, especially the former when many expected Querrey might become that rare home US Open men’s finalist.
It has been the serve that has been key to Anderson’s run and the only thing that is stopping him from being wiped off the court by his far more illustrious opponent. After losing the first set, Anderson faced just 3 break points for the rest of the match and none in the final two sets in his win over Carreno Busta. He also added 22 more aces to extend his lead in aces hit the tournament, now averaging 19 overall (114 in total). “I realized, while I hadn’t made too many inroads on his serve games, I played a few points that those were the kind of points that I was looking to play. That one serve game that I got broke in the first, I made a couple of errors. I knew if I sort of tidied that up on my side, I was right in the match. I definitely felt as the match progressed, I felt more and more comfortable. I was able to go after my shots more. I was able to control the court a bit more, not let him dictate so much. Definitely started making a lot more returns.” he said.
Nadal was a winner in four sets too, coming from a set down to beat a dangerous but unfortunately tired Juan Martin Del Potro. The Argentinian had promised a lot after his wins over Thiem and Federer in the previous rounds but it looked like he had ran out of gas midway through the match. Credit to Nadal for breaking him down and picking up where he left off against Andrey Rublev in the previous round. It wasn’t quite the 55% on return he won against the Russian but 43% of return points in addition to 6 breaks was enough to make the rest of the match one sided, dropping just 5 games overall in the final 3 sets.
“Nadal, I think is one of the greatest competitors in sports, period. He’s an amazing fighter. You know, he really controls the court well, you know, the few times I have played him. I really need to be dominant and control proceedings as much as possible, because if you let him do it, it’s very difficult.” Anderson said of Nadal and the task he has ahead of him in the final. Anderson is 0-4 against Nadal and even more troubling, he has only managed to break serve twice across the 10 sets they have played.
It feels like a coronation for Nadal, who will move to 16 slams and extend his lead in second over Pete Sampras to 2. Like with Federer, it has been stunning to watch how the Spaniard has come back this year and be a slam champion. His two slams and an Australian Open final have been the contributing factors in his return to the No.1 spot for the first time since 2011. For him though, his fitness is just as delightful for him as any tournament won. “I tell you, for me what is more important, more than win Slams is be happy. I am happy if I am healthy and happy, if I feel competitive in the most of the weeks that I am playing, and that’s what happened this year.” he said. However, a happy and healthy Nadal is always going to remain a danger and there is no reason why he can’t add further to his current 15 titles next year too.
Prediction – Rafael Nadal in straight sets