U.S. Open final preview and prediction: Nadal vs. Anderson

Rafael Nadal and Kevin Anderson will be going head-to-head for the fifth time in their careers when they battle for the U.S. Open title on Sunday.

All four of their previous encounters have gone Nadal’s way, and he is 3-0 against Anderson on hard courts. The Spaniard is a commanding 9-1 in total sets, dropping only one in a 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-2 victory at the Paris Masters in 2015. Their only Grand Slam showdown came at the 2015 Australian Open, where Nadal cruised 7-5, 6-1, 6-4. A similarly straightforward affair was the result when the two veterans most recently collided on the red clay of Barcelona this spring, with the current world No. 1 getting the job done 6-3, 6-4.

Nadal and Anderson also faced each other way back at the 1998 Under 12 Junior Masters in Stuttgart, Germany. Prior to their Barcelona contest, Anderson’s wife posted this gem on Twitter.

Almost 20 years later, Nadal is still going strong at 31 years old. In fact, that is an understatement. He is turning in one of his best-ever seasons, with three major final appearances–including this one–and a 10th title at the French Open. Nadal is well on his way to the year-end No. 1 ranking especially if he triumphs on Sunday. Although the 15-time slam champion predictably cooled off after leaving Roland Garros, he is back on track this fortnight with mostly routine defeats of Dusan Lajovic, Taro Daniel, Leonardo Mayer, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Andrey Rublev, and Juan Martin Del Potro.

Anderson has also avoided any five-set drama while taking out J.C. Aragone, Ernests Gulbis, Borna Coric, Paolo Lorenzi, Sam Querrey, and Pablo Carreno Busta. The 32nd-ranked South African did not lose serve a single time through three rounds before getting broken twice by Lorenzi, once by Querrey, and twice by Carreno Busta. This is Anderson’s first-ever appearance in a major final and he had never previously advanced to a semifinal.

“He’s a huge player with an unbelievable serve,” Nadal said of his upcoming adversary. “He had some injuries, so he’s a big example for the kids and for the rest of the tour; he was able to be back and play his best tennis now. I’m happy for him, because I’ve known him since we were 12 years old. It’s great to see him in the final of one of the most important tournaments of the year.”

“Nadal is one of the greatest competitors in sports, period,” Anderson commented. “He’s an amazing fighter. He really controls the court well. I really need to be dominant and control proceedings as much as possible because if you let him do it, it’s very difficult.”

Nobody this fortnight has been able to produce a potent enough combination of offense and consistency to trouble Nadal for more than a set. Anderson has the kind of game that can do it, but he too has never been able to accomplish the feat. It is an especially difficult task, of course, in a Grand Slam championship match.

Nadal, who has been in this situation on 22 previous occasions, should have slam title No. 16 coming his way.

Pick: Nadal in 3

79 Comments on U.S. Open final preview and prediction: Nadal vs. Anderson

  1. Nadal seems to have a thing for dropping the opening set in this tournament, but I doubt that’ll happen in a GS final against Anderson. Even if the #1 has a really off day, I’m not convinced Anderson can take advantage. For the sake of the game, it’d be nice if there’s at least a spectacle. For Anderson’s sake, I hope he brings his best so that he doesn’t lose and feel like he left something on the court. Nadal? Well, no matter who you are, you can never get ahead of yourself until you’ve won the last point (and I’m sure Rafa won’t), but it’s hard to see this being very competitive.

    Good luck to the Rafa fans. If he wins it he deserves it, he’s had a very good year.

    Nadal in 3

  2. Even though the top players offense is at another level, its their defense that really separates them from the lower ranked players. even if Anderson played lights-out tennis for 3 straight sets, Nadal’s return of serve and defdense is that good and intense in these types of matches that the chances of Anderson snatching a set is in 0-5% probability range. I hope Anderson plays the match of his life and makes this a contest but the most likely result is pretty obvious.

    Nadal in 3

    • fsutomahawk, are you going to throw a banana peel under Nadal to slip? Ha,ha,ha…

      Nadal will mostly slip in the 1st set (like he has done in all his matches @Flushing Meadows) and then come on strong to win the next 3 sets…and win the USO Title!

      Rafa wins in 3 or 4

      BB = Nadal ML,-1,-2,-3,-4 (or more in LB)

  3. Nadal in 3, what a year! Number one, 8 finals, probably 2 grand slams, three grand slam final appearances, 2 masters 1000’s and 1 500! It’s been amazing now to secure the US Open title and then end the year number one!

    • Yes, win or lose – what a year for Rafa! Improbably, It seemed to be Roger’s year, where he would finally cement his GOAT status. But if Rafa wins tomorrow he definitely had a better slam season than Roger and the GOAT narrative becomes a lot less clear cut.

      • And it’s also crazy that the impact of the young guns was marginal at the slams. All majors will have been won by a guy over 30, and Cilic who isn’t exactly a young gun anymore, was the youngest slam finalist and the only finalist under 30.

  4. I wish Rafael Nadal Parera the very best, he deserves it.

    I also want to congratulate Kevin Anderson for reaching his 1st Grand Slam final, i know he has been dreaming about this day lot and dreams do come true.
    Kevin is not getting any younger and people always regret lost opportunities so…

  5. His win against delPo was vintage Rafa at his very best. Short of a catastrophic disaster he will lift the trophy on Sunday. This is a fit, injury-free Rafa brimming with confidence. Slam No.16 beckons.

    Rafa in 3

  6. I wake up to see an FB notificatio where a Djokovic fan is trying to ruin my status by commenting that Rafa will win the event without facing a top 25 player!!!! Seriously?! Do people have zero sense of gauging Nadal’s level of play and how ot would up against the holy members of the TOP 25 they are referring to?! Delpo is way better than most top 25 anyway. The way Nadal was playing, he would have defeated ANYONEZ in the world.

    I just hope Rafa can stay calm and put Anderson away.

    Vamos rafa get no.16 !!

    • Well, with the exception of Delpo Rafa had an exceptionally easy path into the final and he didn’t have to face a player with the pedigree of Kyrgios or Dimitrov. Therefore he definitely had a certain amount of luck and could gather steam with each match. That said, there was nothing lucky about his win yesterday. He played extremely well after he had made some clever adjustments. A subpar Fed knew why he wanted Delpo trying his luck with Rafa, lol! He probably also knew that Delpo’s chances were slim at best.

  7. Nadal should win this match but i don’t think he can do it in 3 sets.
    If you believe he can win in 3 sets please don’t answer this question.

    1) Between 4 & 5 sets, which set do you believe Rafito can win in?

    2) Can you give a reason or reasons for your pick?

    If you can’t give a reason that’s OK, just pick a set.

  8. Haha. As it was noticed by many, Rafa has a thing to lose the first set, could be due to a poor start, and that’s okay with me as long as he is winning at the end so, aside from that, no other reason I can think of.

    Rafito in 4 (if that helps to amend your broken heart LOL)

  9. Well Djoko fans forget last year he was given 2 walkovers and one half match and made to reach the final and still lost to Stan..

    Didnt Fed in 2006 AO get the same cusy draw where he almost played no one of repute..

    Rafas draw was tough and stacked with Berdych, Dimitrov, Federer , it is not his fault if none made it to face him. He can play only who is in front of him.

    Rafa for each of his slam win has had to beat Djoko, Fed, Murray (many times 2 of them) except 2010 RG, 2017 RG and 2017 USO(if he wins)…that’s 12 out of 15 slams…and most times at their peak …

    • Exactly Sanju, the big four guys have their fair share of easy draws. Djoko’s last USO was a joke, Fed had withdrawals too during one or two of his slams.

      Rafa had Berdych, Dimi in his path not unlike Fed’s Wimbledon; it’s just that they didn’t make it to face Rafa. Goffin/Thiem/Fed too. Murray withdrawn, Cilic was beaten by Schwarzman, and so we had Anderson in the final, not Rafa’s fault. Delpo and Anderson played their best to reach the later stages to meet Rafa, other top players didn’t, again not Rafa’s fault.

      There’s an interesting article in Heavy Topspin that talked about cakewalk draws at the slams. Rafa’s 2017 USO no doubt is a ‘cakewalk’ draw, but Rafa had his many tough slam draws all his career, in fact they ranked his third toughest, behind Stan’s and Djoko’s during their respective careers when they were winning their slams.

      • Yes, I agree with you, Lucky. Although Rafa’s road through the tourney was close to as cakewalk as it gets, most of his title paths have been a tough as it gets! So no reason for it to matter how his road was.

    • Please stop belittling R. Federer’s achievements, it’s not right or mature.

      Federer was AMAZING in Wimbledon and he is the best player this year.

      • yes he is the best player but that title will be taken away from him if a certain Mallorcan wins the USO on Sunday.

        • Yeah, agree with you VR. If Rafa wins the title this coming Sunday, Rafa will be > Fed this year, because Rafa wins more points, even though both win 2 slams, 2 masters and a 500 event, but Rafa wins more matches during the season with shorter breaks between events unlike Fed who has/had to take long breaks.

          • why?

            How is that difficult to get? Both will have two slam titles each, 2 masters 1000 each and Rafa will have nearly 2,000 more race points. He will be world no.1 with a good margin!

            Anyway, he has not won the title yet. Everyone had also handed Fed the trophy in 2009. I fully expect Rafa to in win convincingly but until it is done, we should just wait.

            • The one with maximum ranking points is the BEST player of the year..as simple as that..Ranking points don’t lie.

              If Fed did not play clay, it is as he thought he wont do much there and it will jeopardize his chances at Wimby..had he played clay he may not have won Wimby..be logical and rational guys..Fed knows himself better than any of us here..

            • R. Federer is the best player this year for many obvious reasons.

              I am a little busy so i can’t write much but how many times did R. Federer defeat R. Nadal this year?

              Am not sure i think it might be three times or 4 please check.

              You don’t have to do this but when you reply to my questions/comments can you just post it directly @Stanley instead of reply.

              I wish Rafito the very best, please don’t disappoint Rafans they love U! Maybe like you.

    • I understand your point, Atul, but surely you can find a better example than 2017 Wimbledon. I’m sure if you dig around in 2004-2006, you could find a comparably easy draw for Fed. At Wimbledon 2017, Fed at least faced 2 top-ten and 2 top 13 players. To be fair, Rafa didn’t even face a seeded player until the semis, and even then the highest seed out of the two is 24th. Not at all suggesting that anything should be made of Rafa’s draw. Just saying we should be fair and not pretend like Federer’s overall draw was easier than Rafa’s here. I’m sure that Fed’s 2006 AO draw was equivalent to Rafa’s at the Open!

  10. @Raindrop,

    Why will i have a broken heart?
    I like R. Nadal and i made lots of profits yesterday & today.

    I made profits in Nadal’s match, P. Carreno, ATP doubles etc.
    Yes i wanted DELPO to win but that doesn’t mean i hate Rafa ok, i like DELPO too and if he had won, my profits would be crazy but that’s ok.

    If Sloane Stephens & N.Y. Liberty(WNBA) wins i will make more profits again.
    Today i will contradict one of my slips because the slip were i picked Madison Keys to win i also picked DELPO to win and he lost.

    I explained the way i bet here-
    http://tenngrand.com/2017/09/07/u-s-open-sf-preview-and-prediction-nadal-vs-del-potro/comment-page-2/#comments

    page 2 of this article, time 11:10 PM.

    R. Nadal to win & over 34.5 games at 2.45 odd.
    He better not lose this match, i like the over games and the over 3.5 sets but i don’t have funds in my other betting account.
    This one is offering 3 sets, 4 sets or 5 sets to pick from, i haven’t made my final decision and i might avoid it because R. Nadal is balling and can win in 3 sets.
    He needs to be tested just in case.

    I miss N. Djokovic, S. Wawrinka. kei Nishikori etc.
    K. Anderson will lay it all but he might not be successful.

    Vamos Stanley!

  11. An injured Cilic who also has put on a massive show of choking.

    But, even if Cilic were playing great, I still think the max he could have done his take a set off Fed because Fed was playing extremely well. I can SEE when an all-time great playing that well and wouldn’t make stupid statements like ‘he has not faced enough top 25/10 players’. Please!! DO people really think the likes of Goffin, Cilic, Berdych, Tsonga, Dimitrov , Thiem would have been able to challenge this version of Nadal?! I can only shake my head and say it is RIDICULOUS.

    This version of Nadal was way better than the AO 17 vesion of Nadal! The level of aggressiveness was on another level and so was his returning and serving.

    He had 45 winners in 5 longgg sets against Dimitrov and only 35 winners against Fed. He was able to hit 45 winners in very quick 4 sets last night!!

    Serving stats comparison:

    Rafa’s average first serve speed in the semis and final of the AO was 108-109 Mph range. He has been hitting it at an average of 112-114 MPH on average in his last two matches.

    Rafa’s average 2nd serves speed was 90-93 MPH range in the SF and finals of AO and he has upped that to 94-96 MPH in this year’s USO and he is getting a bigger kick on them! he has been cranking up to 105 MPH 2nd serve as well.

    Last nigh’t Rafa was a beast.

    • VR, one stats that’s very impressive about Rafa is his 15 consecutive wins at slam SFs, after his loss to Delpo at USO2009. I checked Fed’s and Djoko’s stats, both didn’t have Rafa’s impressive records at the slam SFs.

      • I will rather say Fed’s consecutive Slams SF is a very underrated stat. Just shows Fed was untouchable in early rounds for 10 years without fail

        • Djoko’s 14 consecutive slam SF streak plus 28 slam QF streak to me more impressive than Fed’s because Djoko plays in a tougher era than Fed’s of 2004-2007.

          • Rafa winning at 15 consecutive slam SFs means that each time he reaches a slam SF, chances of him winning it is 100%, since the last time he lost at USO2009 SF! I mean that shows how well Rafa plays once he gets there and how tough it is to beat him there! He has won nine out of fourteen slam finals played since (USO2009), may be ten out of fifteen by this Sunday, not a bad stats either.

          • Weak or strong era will have a say in determining the top 4 of the tournament. Reaching consecuitve semis you were just untouchable against all others. Djoker losses against Sam Querrey/Istomin(who are weak players in any era) just show how diffilcult it is to do day in day out.

    • Novak and Roger also had their fair share of easy roads to a slam win. Roger’s path to another Wimby trophy wasn’t exactly challenging, either,lol! But the great players are great because they can rise to the occasion and grab their chances. Rafa’s win yesterday had nothing whatsoever to do with luck.

      • And I don’t expect a cakewalk tomorrow. Anderson is no pushover and actually better than his current ranking suggests. That said, Rafa will probably rise to the occasion. As I said, sometimes a great player has to grab a good opportunity. Unfortunately the young guns couldn’t do it.

  12. @Stanley,

    You were heartbroken indeed because you have bet a huge amount of money for Roger on his match against Juan Martin isn’t? Triple heartbroken actually for Roger lost the match, the money that you’ve bet and the win of Rafa is like a small pea sized pill that hard for you to swallow…LOL.

  13. Kevin Anderson is playing better than all of R. Nadal’s previous opponents may except for Del Potro and DELPO had some problems in this tournament but that’s not an excuse for his lose.

    Nadal should win.
    Over games.
    Maybe Over 3.5 sets, am sure this match won’t end in 3.

    4 sets or 5 sets which is likely?

  14. @Raindrop,

    I will ask you this once cos i don’t want to misunderstand you.
    Are you joking?

    I didn’t pick R. Federer to win directly because his odd was low?
    I don’t play low odds.
    So i went with the over games & Roger Federer to win and over.

    I posted a link in this page, you should read it.
    I don’t have a #1 player in ATP but Federer is one of my favourites, my top 3 or 2.

    Which tennis player has won more slams in tennis?

  15. It would have been competitive, exciting and nice if A. Murray, N. Djokovic etc were playing but IF Nadal wins the title he deserves it.

    I will talk to you guys later, take care.

    • I agree with you, that the men’s competition didn’t produce many great matches – although there were a lot of crazy headscratchers and surprises. Delpo vs Thiem was one of the best – at least drama wise. As a Rafafan I wish for an easy win tomorrow. But for the tournament it would be good if we get to see a competitive high quality match.

      • No don’t need a competitive match. Yest against Delpo was a Rafa live match I saw after really long, after Miami final this year and I was nervous so much :-)..I need it over and done with quick 🙂

  16. yeah Fed’s stat was sick and so was DJokovic’s. I wasn’t aware of this Rafa streak to be honest! This really is incredible. Shows you that once he gets to the final stages, he becomes a different beast.

    • 23 finals at GS is very good too..and 13 are non clay..LOL at those who call him a clay court specialist :-)..they know nothing..all 5 of his non clay titles have come by beating HC/GS specialists like Federer/Djokovic/Murray along the way 🙂

      • None of the Big 4 are “specialists”. At least not Big 3. No one who wins the career slam is a specialist. That’s absurd. Rafa happens to be better on clay than he is on the others, and Fed is better on the others than he is on clay. End of discussion. People who call Rafa a clay “specialist” are just trying to protect Federer’s legacy. Same with people who say Federer couldn’t play on clay.

        • Not exactly, Kevin. The difference between Nadal on clay and all other surfaces is much, much greater than the difference between Fed or Novak for a comparable comparison. If not for Nadal, Fed and Novak would have multiple RG titles and many more clay 1000 titles. Something comparable cannot be said for Nadal. He has lost too often to also-rans at non-clay slams and other tournaments.

          Of course, none of that is to say that Nadal is merely a clay “specialist”. He’s too good on all surfaces (except maybe indoor) not to be called an incredible player, period. But it’s just a fact that his status as one of the greatest ever to play rests mainly on his record on clay.

  17. Danni, the funny thing this: if Rafa had win only 5 instead of 10 RG titles, he would still be considered a great hall-of-fame player with 10 slam titles – but no one would call him a claycourt specialist only. Sometimes the insane amount of claycourt titles almost seems to hurt his overall reputation because they overshadow his prowess on all kinds of surfaces. Heck, if he wins tomorrow he will habe as many non-claycourt slams as Boris Becker who is considered to be an all time great on the faster courts.

  18. I honestly could care less about anyone saying that Rafa had an easy draw. It’s not his fault that Dimi lost to Rublev! I am fed up with hearing that nonsense.

    You play the ones who get through. That is the sport. Fed has had plenty of easy draws and so has Novak. That’s just the way it is.

    I am not going to celebrate prematurely. Rafa has to go out there and win this match. He’s playing great now and should get it done. But I am superstitious by nature. He’s healthy. But we should not forget how it was a sure thing that Rafa was going to win the 2014 AO final. We all know what happened. Thank goodness he is healthy and okay. But Anderson is playing great tennis and he’s a big server. One loss of serve means losing the set. I know he’s never beaten Rafa. But I still take nothing for granted until the last point is played and Rafa has the trophy in his hands.

    I am looking forward to seeing it happen on Sunday. Rafa has earned everything that he has accomplished this year. I also am not going to get into any discussions about who deserves to be #1, Rafa or Fed. Who should be #1, who won this or that. I have no desire to go tit for tat on who has won more or been better.

    I just want to enjoy this moment with Rafa going for another slam – #16!

  19. I just heard on a podcast that Kevin Anderson IDOLIZES Rafa… Even more reason why this match will be over in 2 seconds.

    • Kevin, dunno; Anderson might want to look good at this special occasion 😉
      Anyway, he seems to be a very nice guy who had his share of injuries, too. Should he be able to pull off the unthinkable upset, I wouldn’t begrudge him the win. I would just mourn another lost huge occasion for Rafa.

    • Well, I don’t know about IDOLIZES, but after Kevin lost to Rafa in AO 2015 his wife tweeted “Too bad Kevin lost. Now I can go back to being a Nadal fan”. Kevin tweeted “I always root for you, Rafa!” Still, I think Kevin’s well past the point that admiration will bother him. Well, not much anyway.

      I just hope Rafa can return 2nd serves the way he was vs JMDP. He hit some awesome ones.

  20. Some takeaways from last night’s semi:

    1. Fed was right, Rafa is playing well within himself right now.
    2. Rafa has the best tactical brain in the business. In the first set, Rafa was testing Delpo’s BH, poking at it, trying to see how it would hold up over 3 or 4 sets, Delpo said as much in his post match interview. Importantly, Rafa did not wait 3 to 4 sets to set the results of this test, instead, he decided to change tactics in set 2 and unleash his DTL shot, to see how Delpo would react. Delpo, who had been camping on his left side waiting for a barrage of FH to his BH, was left stranded and decided he had to put his legs to work to cover his right side, game over. Basically, Rafa first poked at Delpo’s BH in the first set and then poked at Delpo’s legs in the second set. While the BH held up in the first set, the legs could not. That’s all Rafa needed to see. Delpo was toast.

    Tiggy has an interesting observation: Uncle Toni was interviewed by the ESPN on-court team after the first set and he told them what Rafa needed to do to turn the situation around. In the second set, Rafa’s adjustments mirrored exactly what Uncle Toni had suggested, to a T. Tiggy called it telepathy.

    3. Delpo was honest in his post quarters interview when he said his legs were suspect. Rafa exploited this to maximum purchase.

    4. Attitude. At no time did Rafa look troubled after dropping the first set. Instead, he looked like a man re-born coming into the second set. That is a measure of his belief. Could this be the Moyà effect taking root?

    What a time to be alive, to be witnessing this sporting genius at work.

    A lot of pundits are expecting Anderson to roll over for Rafa. I think that is lazy. Anderson has worked hard to be at this point in his career, he will want more. This being his first Slam final, he may freeze due to the enormity of the occasion but I expect him to bring his biggest weapon play: that big serve. I feel he will play for TB’s hoping for a lucky break. Rafa must not oblige, he needs to find a way of breaking Anderson’s serve.

    If Rafa brings to the final the energy he brought to the semis, he will be biting his 16th Slam tomorrow.

    Vamos Rafa!

    • Rafa needs to just play excatly like his semis. Anderson has a better BH, not so strong FH and in my opinion better serve. But he has never played on a big stage unlike Delpo who rarely gets nervous.

      Final will be a tight one and Anderson being a big server might pull off a set, but that has to be set 1 for him. If he loses, Rafa will put foot down and just do what he did in set 2, 3 and 4 today.

    • Watching the semi, I was reminded of someone who was in awe of Rafa’s on-court tactical adjustments: Cheryl Murray, Tennistalk.

    • I agree with everyone you said, RIBT. Rafa is definitely one of the best ever at problem solving during a match. This tournament has been a testament to that. His ability to figure out how to beat the opponent after losing the first set has been amazing to watch.

    • Absolutely Kevin must serve huge to have a chance. But he also has a massive FH on hardcourt, and that is also a weapon. Where he will suffer, imo, is simply in consistency. Rafa will hit a lot of balls back and look for a chance to unleash the FH. Anderson has to play ultra aggressive right from the start, and hope his game is clicking.

    • I expect Anderson to come out and play well. He has never been in this position. He was not expected to be here. He’s got no pressure as the underdog. He will want to make the most of it.

      He’s got that big serve going for him. He’s confident and healthy. It’s been a long journey back for him. He will give it his best.

      Rafa knows what to expect. No surprises here. He has to serve well and hold his serve at all costs. He will have to try to find a way to break Anderson. Otherwise it means a tb. Rafa will need to be very aggressive with his ROS. He will need the forehand. I think he’s as ready as he can be.

      Rafa has a brilliant tennis mind. When he’s focused and mentally on, there is no one better when it comes to tactical adjustments in matches.

      I just think Rafa wants this so much. He will be hard to stop.

      • I agree, Anderson is very tough to beat. It usually takes one of the top players to take him out of each event. Nadal at his best is not normal ATP stuff however, it’s a level mist other players can’t comprehend or anticipate.

        Federer and Djokovic at their best are the only ones that can stay with Nadal when he’s playing like this and even they struggle.

      • I just think Rafa wants this so much. True that. You can see in his eyes. I thought he played pretty well at Wimbledon as well. His 3rd round was probably the best I have seen him on grass for 4-5 years. Its all about confidence.

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