2017 US Open Men's Final Preview: Rafael Nadal vs. Kevin Anderson

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AP

Rafael Nadal [1] vs. Kevin Anderson [28]

Anderson is, quite simply, the most unexpected US Open men’s finalist of the Open era. Before last week, he had reached one quarterfinal in the 34 majors he had played in his 10-year career, and he was seeded just 28th here. When Andy Murray dropped out of an already thin bottom half of the draw two days before the tournament began, a surprise finalist was virtually assured. But Anderson’s run has still been a stunner.

Can he pull off another surprise in the final? A victory over the top-seeded Nadal would be one of the biggest upsets in major-tournament history. Anderson, who has yet to face a Top 10 opponent here, is 0-4 against Rafa, and he has won just one set in those four meetings. 

This being a tennis match, though, nothing is impossible. As Nadal noted after his semifinal win on Friday, he had to save match points to sneak past Anderson on an indoor hard court in Bercy two years ago. And while his competition hasn’t been the stiffest in New York, Anderson has played the best, most aggressive, most fearlessly positive tennis of his career over the last two weeks. He also possesses the physical tools—height, big serve, two-handed backhand, put-away power from the baseline—that typically trouble Rafa.

The problem for Anderson is that Rafa has been looking less and less troubled with each match at the Open. He found his game in the third round against Leonardo Mayer—the Argentine’s game bears more than a passing resemblance to Anderson’s—and played with his old swagger in his semifinal steamroll over Juan Martin del Potro. Anderson’s serve alone should allow him to stay close in sets, and it’s easy to imagine him wiping away a dozen break points with it. But Nadal has played 22 more major finals than Anderson. That may be the only stat you need to know for this one.

Winner: Nadal

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