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Rafael Nadal has been tipped as favourite to win the third U.S. Open title of his career when he faces off against South Africa’s Kevin Anderson in the final of this year’s tournament.
Four years after the Spaniard last tasted triumph in New York, Nadal is back within one match of collecting a 16th Grand Slam crown, while Anderson will make his major final debut against daunting opposition.
Both players came back from a set down to win their semi-final matchups, with Anderson beating Pablo Carreno Busta in four sets while Nadal turned the tables on Argentinian Juan Martin del Potro.
One might argue Anderson would not have made it so far were it not for a series of high-profile injuries and absences from the competition, although what better chance will he have to check a Grand Slam off his to-do list?
The match is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET (9 p.m. BST) on Sunday, with ESPN providing television coverage. American audiences can also stream the clash on WatchESPN. Viewers in the UK can watch the match on Eurosport 1, while Eurosport Player will provide live-stream services.
United Kingdom: Eurosport 1 (UK), Monday, 11 a.m. BST
United States: ESPN 2 (U.S.), 8:30 p.m. ET
A prolific 2017 season rumbled on for Nadal when he stormed back to defeat Del Potro in four sets on Friday, and a final meeting against Anderson looks as though it could be the easiest route he’s likely to find to a Grand Slam.
The 2010 and 2013 U.S. Open winner has enjoyed a rejuvenated period in recent months, and ESPN Stats & Info illustrated how rare it is for players of his age to advance so far in major tournaments:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Rafael Nadal vs Kevin Anderson in US Open final. Nadal can be 3rd man in Open Era to win 2+ majors in single season at age 30+ #StatNightcap https://t.co/eeEo3Zz0UL
Anderson, on the other hand, falls on the other end of the spectrum. Not only has he never featured in the final of a Grand Slam, the 31-year-old has only once ever made it into the last eight—at the 2015 U.S. Open.
The gulf in experience separating these two players is undeniable, as told by ESPN, and one would find it difficult to believe it won’t be Nadal coping better with the size of the occasion:
The US Open Final is set! This will be the 23rd major final Nadal has played in. It will be Anderson’s first. https://t.co/Nm9TXpMSuE
Of course, the absences of stars like Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Stanislas Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and others has diluted the standard of the competition, but Anderson has nonetheless performed admirably against his foes.
Even then, however, Nadal can boast a higher level of opponent en route to the New York showdown, wrote Sport360 tennis reporter Reem Abulleil:
Reem Abulleil @ReemAbulleil
@usopen @RafaelNadal @KAndersonATP Average ranking of Anderson’s opponents this US Open: 149 Average ranking of Nadal’s opponents this US Open: 68 https://t.co/eIuROxel3k
Anderson’s 6’8″ frame and serve inevitably take priority as some of his strengths, although Nadal has already fended off taller opponents with similar traits in the likes of 6’6″ Del Potro and 6’2″ Russian Andrey Rublev.
Even as all odds point against him, however, Anderson’s game plan won’t change ahead of the biggest match of his career to date, pitting him against a foe who looks to be a shoo-in to extend his Grand Slam reign.