Rafael Nadal advanced to his first US Open final in four years, defeating Juan Martin Del Potro 4-6, 6-0, 6-3, 6-2. He will now face Kevin Anderson in the final.

For the sixth time, Federer and Nadal were one match shy of meeting each other at the US Open. However, Juan Martin Del Potro prevented that dream matchup by defeating the Swiss in four sets in the quarterfinals 7-5, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4. The 2009 US Open champion’s career was on the verge of retirement because of numerous wrists injuries, but it seems like he’s finally healthy and almost back to his best. The Argentinian defeated his first three opponents – Laaksonen, Menendez-Maceiras and Bautista Agut in straight sets, but barely scraped through Dominic Thiem in the fourth round. Del Potro was hampered by a virus, lost the first two sets easily but completed an unbelievable comeback coming back from two sets to love down and two match points down in the fourth. His most lethal weapon, the forehand, has been as deadly as ever against world no.3 Roger Federer and the Argentinian reached his first Grand Slam semifinal since 2013 Wimbledon.

The “draw gods” have been really kind to reigning world no.1 Rafael Nadal at the 2017 US Open. The Spaniard had to defeat Lajovic, Daniel, L.Mayer, Dolgopolov and Rublev to reach the semifinals. His level of play wasn’t very impressive in the first three rounds, twice (against Daniel and Mayer) he had to come back from a set down. However, Nadal’s last two matches were so much better and he was the obvious favorite┬áto reach the final.

Del Potro is the kind of a player that you can’t ever write off. His forehand is still arguably the deadliest shot in the game and despite trailing 5-8 in the head-to-head against Nadal, there were some points on which he could build up his confidence coming into the semifinals. Their only previous Flushing Meadows encounter ended with the Argentinian completely trashing then world no.2 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 at the very same stage, a match before the final at the 2009 US Open. He also won their two previous meetings, including the most recent one at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Quite surprisingly, it was Del Potro who started fresher of the two, getting a break point in the third game of the match. Nadal was saved by the Argentinian’s forehand miss, but he couldn’t do much to stop his blood-thirsty opponent from capturing the break two games later. ┬áThe Argentinian never let go of that advantage and with the help of some crushing forehands and good baseline exchanges he managed to close the first set 6-4.

That turned out to be Del Potro’s swan song. Rafael Nadal lost just five points in quickly going up 5-0 in the second set. The world no.1 really upped his level of play, committing just one unforced error in the whole set, but the Argentinian was visibly exhausted and couldn’t really move around the court. Nadal took the set 6-0 on his third opportunity, losing just eight points on the way.

The third set started in exactly the same way, with the Spaniard sweeping the first three games of it. He also had two chances to go up 4-0, but Del Potro finally managed to stop that 9-games lose streak. The players went on winning their service games but it was all the time Nadal who had the foot on the pedal. The 1st seed missed two set points at 5-2, but held easily to up 2-1 in sets.

An exhausted Delpo tried playing a hit-or-miss game but it wasn’t really working as he was just too tired to even make Nadal work for this match. He started the fourth set by keeping his serve, but that wasn’t for long as he got broken two games later. The Spaniard went on outplaying his barely moving opponent and closed the match with a backhand passing shot 4-6, 6-0, 6-3, 6-2.

It’s a shame that this semifinal ended that way, because the first set was a good piece of tennis and it would be great if Del Potro would be able to keep that level in the next sets too. However, he was just too exhausted to give any trouble to a player of Rafael Nadal’s caliber. Anyway, you have to give a lot of credit to the world no.1 for not getting distracted by the Argentinian’s weakness, he kept playing on a very high, consistent level which leads us to believe that this would be a very good match if Del Potro didn’t get too exhausted.

The last step in that sensational “dream” draw for Nadal, which doesn’t feature any top 25 players is Kevin Anderson. The South African battled an injury at the start of the season, but has been playing well ever since. The big-server is in the final due to some exceptional wins over Borna Coric, Sam Querrey or Pablo Carreno Busta. Does he stand a chance against Nadal? It would possibly have to be the match of his life to even consider the possibility of an upset. However, with players like Anderson who serve so well and hit with so much power, everything is possible. He has never beaten the Spaniard in four attempts, but had match points against him once (Paris 2015).

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