Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs.  Kevin Anderson (RSA)
There is a big discrepancy in their major resumes; while Nadal goes into his 23rd major final, this is the first for Anderson. Nadal needs to be wary though because the last time he played an opponent in their maiden major final, he lost (Stan Wawrinka defeated him in the 2014 Australian Open final).
When the draw came out last week Monday, many quickly focused on the potential of a Federer–Nadal semifinal clash. However, once again, many overlook the fact that to get to that stage each player had to get by the opponent in each previous round. The likelihood of Roger Federer not getting to the semifinal was probably never even considered. His chances improved significantly after Juan Martin Del Potro narrowly escaped defeat at the hands of Dominic Thiem in the round of sixteen and was expected to be depleted going into his quarterfinal match against Federer. Much to the chagrin of many, Federer lost to the Argentine.
Nadal despite not facing a top twenty opponent the entire tournament did not have smooth sailing. In fact, many fans probably believed that if he did get to the semifinals to face Federer, he would have lost. However, that is the unpredictable nature of sports. Nadal managed to elevate his game when he needed to and he got to the semifinals to face Del Potro. Unfortunately, the Argentine had very little energy left and this time the crowd could not spur him on. Despite taking the first set, he was unable to ride the momentum to victory and Nadal won 4-6, 6-0, 6-3, 6-2.
Anderson has also had his struggles along the way and perhaps many expected him to lose in the quarterfinals to a familiar rival, Sam Querrey; yet, he showed his newly found resolve by fighting through three tiebreak sets to defeat the American and improved his probability of getting to his first major. In the semifinals he faced Pablo Carreno Busta, an opponent he had defeated twice before. Although he got off to a sluggish start and had to battle to the very end, he maintained his focus and remained positive the entire match. He defeated the Spaniard 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 to get to his first major final.
Nadal leads their head-to-head 4:0; however, that may be a bit misleading since Anderson is a new and improved version of his former self. Now he plays with more clarity and a renewed level of confidence. In the past when he ran into a bad patch, he would fade away, not anymore. Now he fights through the rough patches by hitting his serves and forehand with conviction. Anderson will utilize his big serve and forehand to make life uncomfortable for the Spaniard. Nadal will have to neutralize those weapons and exploit Anderson’s poor mobility by moving him around and wait for his opportunity to strike.
Will Nadal win his third US Open title to claim his 16th major? Or does Anderson pull off the upset to claim his first US Open title and maiden major?
SOURCE OF IMAGES: Creative Commons and RafaelNadalfans