9 Sep 2017

Nadal muscles closer to 16th Slam title

3:48 pm on 9 September 2017

Rafa Nadal was at his awe-inspiring best as he recovered from a first set wobble to crush Juan Martin del Potro 4-6 6-0 6-3 6-2 in the U.S. Open semi-finals and move within reach of a 16th grand slam title.

Rafa Nadal.

Rafa Nadal. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Spaniard struggled to handle Del Potro's serve and huge forehand in the opening set before finding his stride to set up a title-decider with South Africa's Kevin Anderson on Sunday.

The big-serving Anderson battled back to defeat 12th seeded Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta 4-6 7-5 6-3 6-4 to win his place in the final.

Del Potro, who had played a total of nine sets in the two previous rounds as Nadal cruised into the last four, ran out of gas and looked toothless against Rafal Nadal.

Nadal ended the 2009 champion's ordeal with a splendid backhand passing shot on his first match point, four years after his last title at Flushing Meadows.

"It's been an amazing season for me and I'm so happy to get a chance to fight for another title after a couple of seasons with injury troubles," said Nadal, who won a record-extending 10th French Open title in June.

"It means a lot to me. I had to change a couple of things after the first set because I was playing on his backhand too much and he was waiting for me there.

"So I tried to move him around more and be more unpredictable. I was not playing bad in the first set but I lost it so some things had to change."

Juan Martin del Potro

Juan Martin del Potro Photo: Photosport

Del Potro was dominant early, hammering Nadal with his forehand and serving strongly to put the Spaniard in full-defence mode.

The Argentine closed out the first set with a lightning quick forehand.

Nadal's response was devastating, breaking Del Potro three times in succession and conceding only one unforced error to dole out a bagel the second set.

The Spaniard maintained the pressure, a forehand winner down the line capturing an early break and a 2-0 lead in third set.

Having lost nine consecutive games, Del Potro finally held serve to trail 3-1 and started hitting big forehands again.

But Nadal stayed in control and sealed the set with a fine overhead.

An exhausted Del Potro began netting easy shots and again found himself down an early break in the fourth set.

The 31-year-old Nadal, with his teeth firmly in his prey, showcased his defensive class to turn things around on match point and set up a strong chance for more grand slam silverware.

South African Kevin Anderson has been named in the 2016 ASB Classic lineup.

Kevin Anderson Photo: Photosport

South African Anderson, who in the absence of world number two Andy Murray benefited from a favorable draw, will face Nadal in the final.

The 2.03m Anderson climbed into his player's box to embrace his wife, brother and coach Neville Godwin after Carreno Busta's forehand found the net to finish the nearly three-hour contest.

"I don't know if the team hug is appropriate before the final but it felt like the right thing to do," Anderson told the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

"It's been a long road," added the South African, who overcame a right hip injury last year that had threatened his 2017 campaign.

The 31-year-old, ranked 32 in the world, is the lowest-ranked grand slam finalist since 38th-ranked Jo-Wilfried Tsonga fell at the 2008 Australian Open final.