We are down to just four at the final Slam of the 2017 season. Rafael Nadal is there, that’s no big surprise, not after his Australian Open run and his results earlier in the year.
Then there’s Juan Martin Del Potro. That is a surprise. The Argentine really hasn’t been much of a factor this season. We’ve seen him get tough draw after tough draw, but never really emerge. That is until now.
And then we have the shockers: Pablo Carreno Busta and Kevin Anderson. Obviously with five of the Top 11 absent someone or someones new are going to get through, and like we saw with the summer surprises at Canada and Cincinnati, that’s what happened here.
So what’s going to happen next?
Pablo Carreno Busta v Kevin Anderson
With his booming serve and heavy groundstrokes, plus a 2-0 edge in their head-to-head, Kevin Anderson comes in as the favorite against Pablo Carreno Busta.
Anderson just beat him a month ago in Canada and once before in 2013 on the clay in Casablanca. And while Carreno Busta hasn’t dropped a set, Anderson has played better players in New York like Sam Querrey and Borna Coric. He also had some nice wins en route to the Washington final against Dominic Thiem and Jack Sock. So he’s playing well.
On the other hand, Carreno Busta was gifted four straight qualifiers to contend with, though phenom Denis Shapovalov was among them, then ousted a hampered Diego Schwartzman. All matches he should have won and won handily, which he did. High marks for that.
But in terms of results, edge to Anderson there.
That said, the court is playing slow this year and someone like Carreno Busta, who moves well and gets a lot of balls back, can take advantage especially against a slower guy like Anderson.
Therefore, the match comes down to Anderson’s serve. If he serves well and avoids long, extended rallies, he’ll win and could win easily, especially if he starts getting a reach on Carreno Busta’s serve.
But if he doesn’t serve well then I think Carreno Busta has a chance.
And also to watch here are the nerves. Who handles the pressure better. Neither has ever been this far before at a Slam. And it’s the biggest match of their careers. Yet I think that edge goes to Carreno Busta who maybe has a better pedigree than Anderson and also who won a crown earlier this year.
Carreno Busta 4-5 years ago was thought of as the next Top 20/Top 10 Spaniard while Anderson was just another player who benefits from being 6-foot-8.
But here we are and someone has to make a first Grand Slam final. I think this could go either way, but I’ll ride the bigger serve of Anderson to get him out of trouble. So in a tight one…
The Pick: Anderson in 5
Rafael Nadal v Juan Martin Del Potro
After some patchy tennis last week, Rafael Nadal has got his game into gear in week two. Of course he hasn’t played anyone of note, but that changes bigly today against Juan Martin Del Potro.
Playing as well as he has in years, Del Potro took the racquet out of Roger Federer’s hands Wednesday night. And after saving those two matchpoints in a thriller Monday over Dominic Thiem, maybe the Gods are with him. After those four wrist surgeries and having been on the edge of retirement, maybe this is redemption.
It would be quite a story.
Today, Nadal is the favorite to win, though. He’s won a ridiculous 14 straight Grand Slam semifinals since his loss to the Argentine in this same round in 2009. And he’s been so consistent in Slams all season. He’s the deserved No. 1 and he leads the tour in match wins.
The court also sets up well for him – it’s not as quick as in years past – and he’s hungry knowing a win here could give him a hammerlock on the No. 1 ranking.
He still hasn’t won a hardcourt title since 2014 Doha and still hasn’t won a hardcourt Slam since the 2013 US Open. And while those things shouldn’t have been a factor playing a Dusan Lajovic or Leonardo Mayer or Andrey Rublev, that’s going to come into play today.
And that’s because Del Potro has beaten him five times (out of 13) winning their last two including at the Rio Olympics last summer. Nadal knows this will be a test, a dangerous one. So it’s a different approach, a different mindset.
To me, the key comes down to Rafa’s groundstrokes and second serve. If his groundies are short, Del Potro – like I felt he did against Federer – will punish them. And same with the second serve.
I think Del Potro shows up. He’s been such a warrior in these types of matches. And he’s done it before. Plus, I think he’ll even have the crowd to feed off of, and that’s big. After saving those matchpoints, beating Federer, this feels like a Delpo title. But it won’t be easy today.
The Pick: Del Potro in 5
Bottom line today is just as we saw all tournament and all summer, expect anything. About the most improbable thing I could see this afternoon is Carreno Busta winning in a blowout and the same for Delpo.
Anderson should be able to get a lot of easy holds and Nadal’s not going to get drubbed again like in 2009. But who knows…
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