Nadal Changes Tactics To Power Himself Into US Grand Slam Final
Rafael Nadal is Spanish by birth but New Yorkers have adopted him as one of their own. From the time he made his U.S. Open debut in 2003 as a brash 17-year-old they’ve loved his energy, reveled in his unabashed displays of emotion, and gasped over his never-say-die efforts. They might flirt with other players — the boisterous contingent backing Juan Martin del Potro grew exponentially as the gentle giant from Argentina upset Roger Federer and reached the semifinals against Nadal on Friday — but it’s Nadal who owns New Yorkers’ hearts and whose every point leads them to suffer or exult.
Nadal reinforced that visceral relationship Friday night with a thoughtful and passionate 4-6, 6-0, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Del Potro and advanced to Sunday’s men’s final. Nadal will face South Africa’s Kevin Anderson, who threw off the disappointment of many injury-marred years to defeat Pablo Carreno Busta 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 on Friday afternoon.
“Today was the day to play well,” said Nadal, who had stumbled in the early rounds but improved in increments. “I felt that I was playing at the right level to win that match and I did, and I’m very happy.”
This will be the first Grand Slam final for Anderson, who played for the University of Illinois and lives in Florida, and the 23rd for Nadal, the world’s No. 1 player. He has won 15 of those Slam finals, including triumphs here in 2010 and 2013. He lost the Australian Open final this year but won the French Open for the 10th time.
“This year, since it began, has been very emotional,” said Nadal, who saluted the crowd for its vocal support. “An amazing season, after a couple of years with some problems, injuries, tough moments.”
Anderson steadied himself after playing a nervous first set against Carreno Busta, gradually taking control of the match as he became the first South African man to reach a Grand Slam singles final since Kevin Curren played for the Australian Open title in 1984. It was Curren who said after being upset in the first round of the 1985 U.S. Open that the Flushing Meadows facility was so noisy and unruly that the U.S. Tennis Assn. “should drop an A-bomb on the place.” Anderson was glad it was still standing.
“Definitely an amazing feeling being in this position and I’ve worked very hard to get here,” he said. “It feels great to be in the stage I’m in. More important, have given myself a shot at being in the finals and I will be playing for a Grand Slam trophy. That’s an amazing feeling.”
Anderson, seeded No. 28 here, became the first player to win a set from Carreno Busta during the tournament when he hit a backhand winner to clinch the second set. He rolled from there, riding his big serve to 22 aces and four service winners.
Carreno Busta had enjoyed a relatively easy path, playing four qualifiers and not facing a seeded player until he defeated No. 29 Diego Schwartzman in the quarterfinals. He was overwhelmed by Anderson. “I think the first set was very good for me but then he start to play more aggressive, to serve really good and to return my serve all the time,” Carreno Busta said. “When I dipped a little bit, he made me break. . . . Congrats to him, because we played a very good match.”
Nadal had the presence of mind and ability to change his tactics after the first set against Del Potro, who beat the Spaniard in the 2009 U.S. Open semifinals on the way to his only Grand Slam title. Nadal knew he had played too much to del Potro’s backhand and had become too predictable so he began to mix things up. He blanked del Potro in the second set and won the first three games of the third before del Potro held serve; Nadal clinched that set with a forehand smash. Del Potro, who battled flu symptoms earlier in the week, began to fade and Nadal capitalized, breaking the Argentine’s serve in the third and fifth games of the fourth set.
“Sometimes you need to lose or you need to see that things are not going well to really take that position, and I made it. That’s what happen, no?” Nadal said of his strategic changes. “After losing the first set, I say if I keep going that way, maybe I’m going to be two sets against quick, so now is the moment to change.”
Nadal holds a 4-0 career lead over Anderson, excluding their meetings in the junior ranks. Nadal is the clear favorite, though he said his main goal is simply to be happy and healthy. “Is a great result for me already,” he said, though a victory on Sunday would be a fitting ending and a fine way to repay New York fans for making him one of their own.
Source: Los Angeles Time