Sweet 16 for Nadal
Originally published on 11/09/17 00:00
The relentless Spaniard, who did not face a single break-point, frustrated his South African opponent with his niggardly defence and remarkable counter-punching skills.
A 16th major triumph was claimed by the world No.1 with ruthless efficiency as he ended his three-year wait for a hard-court title in style. It’s also the third time he has won at least two Grand Slam trophies in a season.
“For me personally, what has happened this year is unbelievable after a couple years with some troubles with injuries and some moments not playing good,” said the champion.
“Since the beginning of the season it has been very, very emotional. Since the first important event of the year in Australia, I have been playing a very high level of tennis and to close the Grand Slam year winning here in New York gives me high energy.”
Anderson, in his maiden Grand Slam final, scraped for every point but his prized asset misfired. The 31-year-old made just 59% of first serves and his second delivery was repeatedly exposed by his unforgiving opponent.
“I want to congratulate Rafa, I know we are the same age but I feel like I’ve been watching him my whole life,” said the South African. “He is an idol of mine and it’s tough playing you, and you proved that again tonight.
‘It’s been an amazing two week for me. Last year was difficult as it’s tough for a tennis player being injured. The competition is so strong but to come back and reach my first final of a Grand Slam has been so special.”
Anderson launched proceedings on his serve and he was immediately under the microscope. In his first three service games, the underdog was forced to step up the line on 40 occasions as Nadal made his intentions clear.
Anderson did well to resist his opponent’s early advances, but the accumulative pressure eventually told. In the seventh game, a wayward forehand from the South African cost him his serve and the complexion of the match immediately changed.
Nadal was the dominant force in the baseline exchanges and he won an impressive 88% of points behind his second deal in the first set. The 31-year-old continually outmaneuvered his lumbering opponent and he was firmly in control.
The South African was broken for just the seventh time in the tournament as he attempted to stay in the first set. A rare forehand down the line followed by a routine volley did the job for the Nadal, and the first set was his by six games to three.
The Spaniard had won his last 23 Grand Slam matches after netting the opener and there was little to suggest his opponent would respond. In the second set, Anderson made just 36% of first serves as his stuttering challenge waned.
Nadal earned the break he craved in the sixth game – after a combination of fine reflex volleys – and that was all he required to take a sizeable step towards victory.
The world No.1 was in a commanding position and it did not take him long to force a breakthrough in the third set. It was an advantage he would not relinquish, and it was soon time for the Spaniard to revel in the acclaim.