At the start of the tournament I picked Rafael Nadal to meet a tall guy in the US Open finals. Well, he’ll play a tall guy, but just not Alexander Zverev. Instead, it’s someone even taller in the 6-foot-8 Kevin Anderson.
And I had Zverev beating Nadal for the title, but I can’t do the same with Anderson.
Looking back at the semifinals, Nadal handled another big guy, Juan Martin Del Potro, who’s miles better than Anderson. Delpo hits bigger, moves better and has just as good of a serve. The only thing Anderson does better is maybe have more of a get-to-the-net mindset, which often doesn’t work against Rafa, especially so on a slow court.
Anderson also got exposed a little against Pablo Carreno Busta in that semifinal. The big South African looked awfully slow early on and was having trouble staying with Carreno Busta from the baseline.
Credit to Kevin, though, he worked his way back into the match and played much better down the stretch. But today is a totally different match.
Rafael Nadal v Kevin Anderson
The way to beat Rafa is to punish short balls, crush serves and be strong off the backhand. And even then you don’t always win like in the case of Delpo. Anderson has the arsenal, I just don’t think he’s mentally tough enough to do it nor do I think he has the quickness to pull it off.
That said, I fully expect Anderson to empty the bucket against Rafa. And that means just attacking on anything and everything because he’s not going win much from the back of the court.
Nadal is going to get Anderson on the move. And Anderson is no where near as fearsome off the ground as Delpo, so Rafa is going to feel like he can do what he wants off the ground and that’s never a good thing if you are trying to beat him. As I said before, this is a good court for Nadal and that should take some of the sting off the Anderson shots.
I also talked about pedigree yesterday. Anderson just doesn’t have it. He’s never been in a match this big. This isn’t Winston Salem or Johannesburg. And other than beating Andy Murray a few years ago in New York, there just haven’t been many big wins over big guys in Slams. Just many tough losses
That and his celebratory trip into the stands Friday after his semifinal win, tell me he has to be thrilled just to have made it this far.
Meanwhile, a loss here for Rafa would be a massive disappointment. He hasn’t won a hardcourt title since 2014 Doha and a win today would really give him a big lead in the No. 1 race. Plus a 16th Slam!
This is too good an opportunity to let slip. Then again, Anderson might never have this chance again. I think Anderson maybe gets a breaker, otherwise Rafa should roll here.
The Pick: Nadal in 4
Could we get an upset? I just don’t see it. But then again who saw Anderson getting to the final? Or Grigor Dimitrov winning Cincinnati? Or Pablo Carreno Busta in the semifinals? Or Sloane Stephens winning the women’s title.
These days, anything is possible.
ESPN will have the match at 4pm.
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