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US Open 2017: Rafael Nadal and Kevin Anderson's path to the Grand Slam final at Flushing Meadows

Rafael Nadal will hope to claim his 16th Grand Slam title against Kevin Anderson, who will attempt to win his first, when the two meet in the final of the US Open on Sunday.

Nadal won the French Open in June and a victory will give him two Grand Slam titles in the same year for the fifth time in his career and the first since 2013, when he won the last of his two US Open titles.

It's Nadal's fourth appearance in the final of the American tournament but first that won't be against Novak Djokovic.

 US Open 2017: Rafael Nadal and Kevin Andersons path to the Grand Slam final at Flushing Meadows

South Africa's Kevin Anderson (L) takes on Spain's Rafael Nadal (R) in US Open men's singles final. AFP

Anderson is ranked 32nd, the lowest-ranked Grand Slam finalist since No 38 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the 2008 Australian Open and the lowest at the US Open since the ATP rankings began in 1973.

Nadal has won all four meetings against the South African and consequently there may not be many reasons to expect Anderson to beat the Spaniard.

But there is still a match to be contested, and three sets to be won (at least), and an Anderson victory would not be the first time an unheralded tennis player managed to beat a presumably unbeatable one.

So, let's take a look at how Nadal and Anderson made it to the final of US Open 2017.

Rafael Nadal

Round 1 vs Dusan Lajovic

Nadal dismissed Dusan Lajovic 7-6(6), 6-2, 6-2 to ease into the second round. The 21-year-old, chasing a first US Open win, showed no sign of nerves, using his stylish groundstrokes to grab the early break on the way to 4-2 lead, the four games as many as he won in his only other meeting with Nadal, a round of 16 loss at the 2014 French Open.

But a steely Nadal found his comfort zone, breaking back at 5-5 to force the opener to a tiebreak that he took 8-6.

A ruthless Nadal delivered the young Serb another tennis lesson, breaking his opponent at the first opportunity in the second and third sets to improve his record in first round US Open matches to 13-0.

Round 2 vs Taro Daniel

Rafael Nadal, right, of Spain, greets Taro Daniel, of Japan, at the net after Nadal's win at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, early Friday, Sept. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Rafael Nadal (R) greets Taro Daniel at the net after winning their Round 2 clash. AP

Nadal came from behind to dispatch underdog Taro Daniel of Japan 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in front of a sold-out crowd at the US Open on Thursday.

Despite playing a marathon five-setter the day before, 121st ranked Daniel looked the fresher of the pair at the outset of the match, breaking Nadal to take a 5-4 advantage when the Spaniard dumped a forehand into the net.

He eventually won the set and appeared poised to deliver a massive upset.

But Nadal soon found the accuracy that had eluded him in the first set and his booming serve proved too much for the exhausted 24-year-old, who is now 0-6 against top 20 opponents in his career.

Round 3 vs Leonardo Mayer

Nadal ran into a spot of bother before crushing Argentine Leonardo Mayer and booking his place in the last 16 with a 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 victory. Mayer played some steely tennis in the first set, hitting neat and powerful shots to stave off six break points and force a tiebreak, in which the Argentine was always in control.

Nadal hung on, facing two break points in the fourth game of the second set. Two massive shots saved him and he got to level for 2-2 as he let out a huge ‘Vamos’, raising his clenched fist towards the crowd.

Nadal played tighter to finally take the first break of the match and move 3-2 up when his opponent sent a forehand wide. The Spaniard went on to win seven successive points to set up three set points and on the third, he levelled the contest with a jaw-dropping dipping passing shot.

Normal service resumed as Nadal won his seventh successive game to open up a 3-0 lead in the third set. Mayer briefly threatened a comeback when he pulled a break back for 5-3 in the fourth set but Nadal served it out at 5-4 with Mayer sending a forehand long on match point.

Round 4 vs Alexandr Dolgopolov

Nadal dispatched Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-2, 6-4, 6-1 with a powerful display to reach the quarter-finals in just one hour, 41 minutes.

Nadal dominated all facets of Monday’s match, never dropping a service game and committing only 11 unforced errors while racking up 23 winners and breaking Dolgopolov six times.

The onslaught was too much for the unseeded Dolgopolov, who was never comfortable enough to unleash his unconventional game that features unexpected drop shots and bold net approaches.

The 28-year-old Ukrainian looked helpless against the Spaniard’s dominant serve, which was boosted by courts made faster due to sunny conditions at the Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Quarter-finals vs Andrey Rublev

Nadal gave Russian teenager Andrey Rublev a tennis lesson racing into the semi-finals with a ruthless 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 win.

Nadal showed no mercy during a one hour, 37 minute thrashing and had Rublev under almost constant pressure breaking him eight times, with the flustered Russian committing 43 unforced errors.

Semi-finals vs Juan Martin del Potro

Sept 8, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Rafael Nadal of Spain and Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina after their match in Ashe Stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports - 10266137

Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro after their US Open semi-final clash. Reuters

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 semi-finals on Friday.

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.

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 the Spanish juggernaut. 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.

Kevin Anderson

Round 1 vs JC Aragone

Anderson began his campaign in style defeating American JC Aragone 6-3, 6-3, 6-1. Wildcard Aragone, ranked 534th in the world and making his Grand Slam debut at the age of 22, lost in straight sets. Playing at the US Open just five years after slipping into a diabetic coma, the American was happy just to be on court.

Round 2 vs Ernests Gulbis

Anderson cruised past unseeded Latvian Ernests Gulbis, beating him 6-3, 7-5, 6-4. Gulbis famously defeated 19-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer in the 2014 French Open.

Round 3 vs Borna Coric

Kevin Anderson powered past Croatia's Borna Coric 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 to move into the fourth round at Flushing Meadows. Coric stunned fourth seed Alexander Zverev in the second round but it only took Anderson an hour and 49 minutes to beat him into submission.

Round 4 vs Paolo Lorenzi

Anderson advanced to the quarter-finals of US Open for the second time in three years. The 28th-seeded South African eliminated unseeded Paolo Lorenzi of Italy 6-4, 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-4.

Lorenzi, who at 35 became the oldest player in the Open era to make his fourth-round Grand Slam debut, managed to break Anderson twice in 21 service games, something none of the big server's other opponents managed to do during Week 1 of the tournament.

Quarter-finals vs Sam Querrey

Sam Querrey, of the United States, right, congratulates Kevin Anderson, of South Africa,after Anderson upset him in a quarterfinal match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Sam Querrey (R) congratulates Kevin Anderson after the South African upset him in the quarter-final. AP

Anderson spoiled the American party at US Open when the big-serving South African beat local favourite Sam Querrey 7-6(5), 6-7(9), 6-3, 7-6(7).

Anderson’s win ended the US presence in the men’s draw. The two big servers could not manage a break in the opening set and Querrey moved 5-2 up in the tiebreaker but Anderson then played more freely and won five points in a row to take the lead.

The fourth set was tightly contested again and went into another tiebreak. The 17th-seeded Querrey saved a first match point with an ace at 6-5, set up a set point at 7-6, which Anderson staved off by forcing his opponent to slice a backhand into the net. The second match point was good enough for Anderson, who dominated the rally until Querrey’s forehand sailed long.

Semi-finals vs Pablo Carreno Busta

Big-serving Anderson battled back to defeat Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 and punch a ticket to his first Grand Slam final at US Open.

Anderson was out of sorts at the start of the match. He hit 14 unforced errors including a backhand that sailed long to hand the composed Carreno Busta a rare break to go up 4-3 in the first set.

The Spaniard closed it out but Anderson settled down after a see-sawing second set and delivered his 20th ace, a 132 mile per hour bullet, to take the third.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Sep 10, 2017 16:45:36 IST