US Open, New York August 28-September 10, 2017; 128 draw (32 seeds); Surface – Hard
Final: (1)Rafael Nadal d. (28)Kevin Anderson 6-3, 6-3, 6-4
Mission accomplished. Nadal completed a dominant run to his 16th Grand Slam championship, notching a third US Open title at Flushing Meadows. The top seed defeated Anderson in three decisive, but quite long sets in Sunday’s final. In 2013, Nadal entered the US Open at No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings and would emerge with the trophy. Four years later, history repeated itself. The top-ranked Spaniard prevailed in 2 hours and 27 minutes over the South African, adding to titles won in 2010 and ’13. Nadal, who extends his growing lead in the Emirates ATP Race To London to 1,860 points, caps an impressive Grand Slam campaign with his second major victory of 2017 (Roland Garros). The win gives him the upper hand in the fight for year-end No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings with Roger Federer. “It’s been a very special two weeks for me,” Nadal told ESPN in his post-match interview. “But before I talk about me, I want to say congrats to Kevin. He’s a great example for a lot of kids and the rest of the tour to come back better than ever.” “Rafa is one of the greatest ambassadors in our sport, so congrats to him,” Anderson said in his post-match interview with ESPN. “It’s been an amazing two weeks for me. To make my first final of a Grand Slam has really been special. I can take a lot of positive from this summer. A lot of emotions to deal with. I was up against a pretty good opponent today. I’ll continue working hard to give myself more opportunities. I’ll take it a day at a time and I’m really pleased with how things turned out here.” With celebrities Rupert Murdoch, Jerry Seinfeld, Hilary Swank, Tony Bennett, Bill Gates and Tiger Woods in attendance, Nadal broke for 4:3 in the first and never looked back, striking a backhand winner to close out the opener. He would continue to press forward in the second set, slamming aside a volley winner to move ahead 4:2, and opened the third with yet another break. Nadal raised his arms in triumph on his second match point, moving forward for a serve-and-volley winner. He prevailed after two hours and 27 minutes, firing 30 winners to just 11 unforced errors. He won 16 of 16 net points in total, while not facing a break point. “It has been a great two weeks,” Nadal told the assembled media. “Increasing level of tennis and increasing confidence during that two weeks. I have this trophy with me again here in New York. It means a lot to me. There is no better way to finish the Grand Slam season for me after a very emotional season in all aspects.”Stats of the final
2nd semifinal: (1)Rafael Nadal d. (24)Juan Martin del Potro 4-6, 6-0, 6-3, 6-2
Racing around the court and attacking off the ground with authority, Nadal secured his place in a fourth US Open final after two hours and 30 minutes. After dropping the opening set, Nadal sprinted to the finish line with a clinical performance, striking 45 winners, to just 20 unforced errors. In what has been a resurgent 2017 campaign, the Spaniard made a statement in his bid to finish the year atop the Emirates ATP Rankings. Now a three-time Grand Slam finalist this year, Nadal will face Kevin Anderson for the crown at Flushing Meadows. In total, Nadal will bid for a 16th Grand Slam title in what will be his fifth meeting with Anderson. He leads 4-0, with just one set lost. The Spaniard’s last hard-court title came in Doha in 2014. “After a couple of years of tough moments, it has been an emotional year,” Nadal told ESPN in the post-match interview. “But being back on this amazing court and in front of this amazing crowd, and having the chance to fight for this title is amazing for me.” It was sweet revenge for Nadal, who extended his ATP Head2Head advantage over del Potro to 9-5, emerging victorious in their first encounter at the US Open since winning just six games in the 2009 semi-finals. He has now claimed 15 consecutive Grand Slam semi-final wins since that defeat eight years ago, and has halted a two-match skid against the big-hitting Argentine, who had most recently prevailed in a deciding tie-break at the 2016 Rio Olympics. “I played well,” said Nadal. “It was an important day for me. An important victory against a great opponent. I am playing well almost the whole season. So today was the day to play well (smiling). That’s the real thing. I was playing so-so at the beginning of the tournament and I have been playing better and better every day.” With actors Robert Redford and Leonardo DiCaprio, golfing legend Tiger Woods and fashion icon Anna Wintour in attendance, Del Potro seized the first break for 3:2 as a forehand struck the net cord and dribbled over. The fortuitous bounce would be all the luck the Argentine needed, closing out the opener with eight of 10 service points won. He would punctuate the first set with a forehand fired down the line, his 12th winner. Both players came out swinging on a brisk summer evening in New York. Nadal entered the semi-final with a tournament-leading 58 per cent of baseline points won, but it was Del Potro who unloaded from the back of the court in the initial proceedings. Looking to create space with his thunderous forehand and blasting his backhand with full force, he pushed Nadal off the baseline and sent an early message. But as Nadal has done throughout his career, he found a way to flip the momentum in a flash. The swing was swift and sudden. The Spaniard was more hesitant to pull the trigger on his forehand down the line in the first set, but that would change in the second. Four quick winners off that wing was the reply he needed to put Del Potro on his heels. Playing much faster and with more intensity, Nadal gave a big fist pump as he snatched a break for 2:0 and another two games later. Del Potro was suddenly rattled as his opponent employed more variety, firing drop shot winners and opening the angles. A bevy of deep returns earned him a third break, sealing the set with an emphatic 6-0 bagel after just 27 minutes. Nadal refused to release his grip on the match as the third set got underway. Another forehand winner earned him the quick break in the second game and the rout was on. As fatigue began to set in for Del Potro, Nadal’s confidence reached atmospheric heights. Flying around the court with an injection of energy, he would reel off nine straight games before del Potro halted the skid with a hold for 1:3. With chants of ‘DelPo!’ ‘DelPo!’ raining down from all corners of Ashe, the Tandil native sought to give the boisterous Argentine contingent something to cheer for, but Nadal continued to exploit the tired legs of his opponent. He would sprint to a two-sets-to-one lead with a flurry of fist pumps after launching a forehand smash over the back wall and continued his assault in the fourth set. Nadal broke twice more and punctuated the affair with a backhand winner.
1st semifinal: (28)Kevin Anderson d. (12)Pablo Carreno 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4
“I really don’t know what to say right now,” admitted Anderson in his on-court interview with ESPN. “I don’t know if the team hug is appropriate for the semis, but it felt the right thing to do. These Grand Slams are tough. We’re privileged to play with some of the best players to ever play the game. It’s nice some of them gave us a shot to make a run. This is why we work so hard. It was an unbelievably tough match for me. It was the first time for both of us on one of the most famous stages in tennis. I really had to dig deep, I think my emotion at the end summed it up. I’m over the moon right now. I’ve given myself a shot and I’ll allow myself tonight to celebrate this win.” It is a remarkable opportunity for Anderson, who dropped to No. 80 in the Emirates ATP Rankings earlier this year after being forced to miss the Australian Open with a hip injury. Looking to assert himself early in the contest, it was with a shout of “Come on” that Anderson won the first point of the match and went on to secure a love hold. But the South African was the first to blink on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Three unforced errors gave Carreno a 15/40 advantage with Anderson serving at 3-all, and the Spaniard converted his second break point opportunity as Anderson pushed a backhand long. Nerves got the better of Anderson in the early stages. His footwork was lethargic and he was tentative to the short balls – it cost him. Buoyed by his breakthrough, Carreno went on to serve out the opener in 33 minutes, sealing it with a 124 mph serve. It marked his 16th successive set at Flushing Meadows, having won his first five rounds in straight sets. Anderson looked to strike back immediately in the second set, breaking for a 3:1 lead. But his advantage was short lived as Carreno Busta levelled in the following game, exposing Anderson on short balls. Carreno came up with two big first serves to dig himself out of a 15/40 hole in the eighth game, but, undeterred, Anderson continued to go after his shots. His aggression took its toll on Carreno in the 12th game, with the Spaniard offering up a double fault at 30/30 to gift Anderson set point. The South African seized his opportunity, dictating the baseline rally for snatching the set with a backhand crosscourt winner. Anderson continued to press early in the third. Carreno held off the South African as he rallied from a 0/40 deficit in the second game, but when Anderson attacked again in the fourth game, the Spaniard double faulted to give Anderson a 3:1 lead. Carreno saved two set points down 2:5 on serve, but Anderson swiftly sealed the set on serve in the following game, having won 11 points more than his opponent in the third set (35-24). Growing in confidence and stature, Anderson rifled a backhand crosscourt to earn two break points in the fifth game of the fourth set, and grabbed the initiative as Carreno missed with a forehand. In a tense final game, Anderson rallied from 15/30 to win the last three points, clinching victory as his opponent netted a forehand after 2 hours and 55 minutes. Stats of the match
(24)Juan Martin del Potro d. (3)Roger Federer 7-5, 3-6,7-6(8), 6-4
Both players exposed their pre-match game plans from the outset. Del Potro clubbed a massive down-the-line forehand winner past an approaching Federer on the second point of the match. He also hit forehands about 75 per cent of times after a serve. The Swiss hit three drop shots in the first eight points in an attempt to test the legs of del Potro following his grueling five-set win two days earlier against Thiem. Perhaps unsettled by a 100 mph forehand winner that clipped the baseline on the previous point, Federer double faulted at 5-all 30/30 to concede the first break point of the first set. A tentative Federer forehand volley set up a trademark running del Potro crosscourt forehand that clinched the break and a 6:5 lead for the 6’ 6” Argentine. Showing no sign of nerves, Del Potro put four of five first serves into play when serving for the set, on pace with the astonishing 78 first-serve percentage in the set (25/32). Federer had success at key moments in the second set bringing del Potro forward with his short, chip sliced backhand, including to convert break point for a 4:1 lead. He also had more success finding the Argentine’s backhand, setting up an inside-out forehand winner on set point to level the match. Del Potro also paid the price for seeing his first-serve percentage drop to 57. But Federer immediately handed back the momentum, hitting two unforced forehand errors and a double fault on break point to drop his opening service game of the third set. Del Potro also rediscovered the key to his first-set success, putting 10 of 11 first serves into play while racing to a 3:0 lead. The five-time US Open champion would not go away, however. Although he continued to be plagued by netted forehand errors, Federer hung tough, fighting off a break point to avoid slipping into an 0:4 abyss. After stretching Del Potro from side to side to earn a break chance at 2:4 30/40, he saw the first sign of vulnerability from the Tandil native, who double faulted to hand back the break. In the third-set tie-break, Federer was left ruing a decision to serve wide to Del Potro’s forehand in the deuce court when holding two set points at 6:4. Del Potro belted a flat forehand that landed on the inside of the baseline, leaving Federer with no hope of returning it. It was the first of four set points that the Swiss could not convert in the tie-break. Del Potro converted his first set point when Federer, serve/volleying for the third consecutive time, pushed a backhand volley long. In the fourth set, two critical moments allowed Del Potro to bust open the match. At 2-all 30-all, Federer dumped a routine smash into the net. On break point, Del Potro rifled a cross-court backhand winner off a Federer first-serve past the incoming Swiss for a clean winner. From there, del Potro’s overwhelming serve didn’t allow Federer back into the match.
(1)Rafael Nadal d. Andrey Rublev 6-1, 6-2, 6-2
“It was a good match,” said Nadal in his on-court interview with ESPN. “Andrey was playing in his first quarter-final and he played with more mistakes than usual. It’s an important victory for me, winning past two matches in straight sets is very good news for me. I’m very, very happy to be in the semi-finals again in New York. It’s very important to me and I’m very excited to have this opportunity again.” Looking to win his third US Open crown and maintain his grip on the top spot in the Emirates ATP Rankings, Nadal goes on to face either Roger Federer or Juan Martin del Potro in his 26th Grand Slam semi-final on Friday. Should he play Federer, the No. 1 ranking would be on the line. The formidable Nadal dictated the majority of rallies winning almost double the amount of points as Rublev (92-53). The left-hander converted seven of the 18 break points he created and won 84 per cent of points behind his first serve. “I think I have been improving during the whole event, and I have been doing step forward match by match, and now is the moment to do it, another step forward, a little bit higher is possible, too,” said Nadal. “I think I have the attitude to try to make that happen. I am excited about that semi-finals. I know I’m going to have a very tough opponent in front, and I need to play my best.” “It’s a great experience to play quarter-final against World No. 1 Rafael Nadal,” said Rublev. “I’m really happy. I will try now to practise harder to improve everything for the next time if we play each other to try to compete better.”
(28)Kevin Anderson d. (17)Sam Querrey 7-6(5), 6-7(9), 6-3, 7-6(7)
What a resurgence it has been. An injury-ravaged 2016 saw the 31 year old start the season at No. 80 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. His frustrations would not end there with hip, leg and right elbow problems stunting him at various points of the season. “It was an incredible match,” Anderson said. “Matches like that, you sort of focus on getting through right there and then and look at the bigger picture afterwards. I have put in a lot of work. It definitely feels good that I have reached some milestone that I haven’t before.” That milestone makes Anderson the first South African since Wayne Ferreira (Australian Open 2003) through to a Grand Slam semi-final, and the first through to a US Open semi-final since Cliff Drysdale in 1965. The messages of support from his compatriots had already started pouring in. “I have got a tonne of messages from friends and family back home,” he said. “My biggest hope is that I’m able to inspire kids to play the sport. It’s very tough coming from South Africa, far from the scene. It makes me feel good that I can hopefully fly a flag and show kids that if you work hard you can get there.” On Tuesday, the 6’6” Querrey and 6’8” Anderson were meeting in the tallest Grand Slam quarter-final, semi-final or final of the Open Era. Querrey led the pair’s Head2Head series 8-6, with contests split 1-1 in 2017. Having reeled of the last five points to steal the first-set tie-break from 2:5 against Querrey, Anderson again found himself trailing in the second set tie-break. Staring down five set points at 1:6, he was not about to go quietly, however. He survived three set points before saving a fourth with his 12th ace. Pressure was beginning to weigh on the home hope. Querrey’s first double fault of the match drew scores level at 6/6 and the pair traded set-point opportunities before the American finally went on to lock it up on his eighth opportunity. “I feel like that’s where I was able to really reset,” Anderson said. “I would have been better off losing that tie-break almost 7-1 than coming so close to actually being two sets to love up. I felt I did a fantastic job resetting. These matches, it just comes to a point here and there. Fortunately, I was able to win a couple more points than him tonight.” “Even though I won that set, he came and just had three great service games, boom, boom, boom, and it kind of takes away your momentum a little bit,” said Querrey. “I had a little momentum, but I didn’t feel like I was, like, ‘All right, now I’m going to get some looks’, because he’s got such a big game.” For the American, a second straight Grand Slam semi-final beckoned. If he were to pull off a repeat, he would again have to get past Anderson in five sets to get there, as he did in the fourth round at Wimbledon. After nearly 3.5 hours and closing in on 2 a.m., it proved a bridge too far. A 22nd ace would bring up match point for Anderson at 6:5 in the fourth-set tie-break. Querrey stayed alive and held a set point of his own before the South African would clinch the semi-final berth on a Querrey forehand long. “He’s tough to play against. He’s so overly aggressive,” said Querrey. “A lot of his balls were landing in. It’s just tough. Just a couple points here and there. I thought he played really well in the big points.”
(12)Pablo Carreno d. (29)David Schwartzman 6-4, 6-4, 6-2
After becoming the first player in the Open Era to face four qualifiers at a major, when he came up against the No. 29th-seeded Schwartzman, Carreno did not falter. In the pair’s first meeting, Carreno Busta broke Schwartzman to love in the first game, setting the tone for the rest of the contest. After wrapping up the first set in 38 minutes, Carreno again broke early in the second set, but this time was pegged back by the resilient Schwartzman, who was responsible for ousting Marin Cilic and Lucas Pouille to reach his first major quarter-final. Schwartzman had his chances to snatch the set, squandering a 0/40 opportunity on Carreno’s serve in the eighth game, and was made to pay as the Spaniard immediately broke in the ninth game and closed out a commanding two-set lead. Schwartzman’s performance on second serve proved costly for the 5’7’’ Argentine. He was able to win just 33 per cent of the points, and Carreno seized his opportunity with another break at the start of the third set. Schwartzman threw everything he had at Carreno to try and claw his way back into contention, including a magical volley lob in the sixth game, but he failed to convert the three break points he created in the fourth game and Carreno went on to seal victory in just shy of two hours. “I think it’s unbelievable there outside, playing in Arthur Ashe quarter-finals against a friend like Pablo,” said Schwartzman. “I think the first two sets were close for both players, and we did very good points. Now it’s too close to the match, I think, but I have a lot of things, positives, to think about this tournament. I need to improve, like always, every week, but I feel really comfortable with myself to play like this [the past] week and a half, and I try to improve and try to do the best in the next year and next tournaments.” Carreno said: “I’m very excited to be in the semi-finals. I think that it was a very good opportunity to do it, to be in the semi-finals, and I just try to make my best. I think that the match today was very good. I played very solid from the baseline, trying to not make mistakes. In the important moments, maybe my serve was the difference.”