At the close of the most wide-open U.S. Open in years, only one past victor and top seed reaches the final.
In a semi-final that many felt was the de facto final, Nadal mercilessly ran world No. 28 Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina into exhaustion, winning 4-6, 6-0, 6-3, 6-2, at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Friday.
While Nadal of course does not get as many free points with his serve the way Anderson does, the Spaniard's service has been a real asset this fortnight as he won an average of 76 per cent of the points on his first serve, and, more impressively, 64 per cent of the points on his second serve, which is the second-highest percentage of the tournament in that category. While the match produced gorgeously competitive points nearly to the end, there was no question who was dictating overall pace and play, as the Spaniard went 6-0, 6-3, 6-4 after dropping the first set 4-6.
His task will definitely not come easy against Nadal, who is contesting his 23rd Grand Slam final.
"It's so tense and so emotional", said Kelsey during an interaction with reporters on the sidelines of the US Open in NY recently. "Playing with tons of confidence and doing it very aggressively", Nadal said about Anderson.
But after being out-fought and out-thought in the first set, Nadal switched up his tactics, had the tired Del Potro scrambling around the Arthur Ashe Stadium court and eventually claimed a 15th successive semi-final win at the Slams. This will be his third major final this year. After dropping the opening set, Nadal sprinted to the finish line with a clinical performance, striking 45 winners, to just 20 unforced errors.
When Nadal reclaimed the world number one ranking last month, it was the first since in more than three years he had topped the list. Anderson is the first man from his nation to do so since Kevin Curren lost the 1984 Australian Open final to Mats Wilander.
2 - Number of unseeded winners of the U.S. Open women's title in the Open era, which began in 1968.
The key for Anderson pulling the upset will be to win the first set. A bazooka-serving South African, his next ace in Queens will be a tournament-leading No. 115.
Both Anderson and Carreno Busta were first-time major semifinalists.
But Del Potro's run came to an end despite a jaw-dropping start in a repeat of the 2009 US Open semi-finals, defeated 4-6 6-0 6-3 6-2 by the two-time champion in NY on Saturday (AEST).
"This is why we work so hard", Anderson said. It's great I have given myself a spot. But none of that seemed to matter on Friday. The last time he won in NY was 2013.
While his wife Kelsey and brother Gregory were in attendance, his parents weren't watching live.
Anderson tends to play conservatively and wait for his opponent to make a mistake.
"I chose to change completely to play much more forehands down the line", Nadal explained his new approach.