Nadal favourite to win 16th Slam title as he faces Anderson in US Open final

US Open men’s final
Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York Dates: Sunday, 10 September Time: 21:00 BST
BBC coverage: Live radio and text commentary on BBC Radio 5 live, the BBC Sport website and app.

Top seed Rafael Nadal will start as a strong favourite when he takes on South Africa’s Kevin Anderson in Sunday’s US Open final at 21:00 BST.

The Spaniard, bidding for a 16th Grand Slam title, will play in his 23rd major final, but Anderson is making his debut in a Slam final.

The pair, both 31, have known each other since junior days, and Nadal has won all four previous meetings.

“I’m happy for him because I know him since we were 12,” said Nadal.

“It’s great to see him in a final of one of the most important events of the year.”

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Nadal and Anderson

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‘I am happy if I am healthy’

Nadal has enjoyed a spectacular resurgence in 2017, reaching the Australian Open final before winning his first major title for three years at the French Open, and last month regaining the number one ranking.

He now has the chance to add a third US Open victory to those of 2010 and 2013, on the hard courts which he has found so punishing on his knees throughout his career.

“For me, what is more important than winning Slams is to be happy,” said Nadal.

“I am happy if I am healthy and happy if I feel competitive in most of the weeks that I am playing, and that’s what happened this year.

“Of course winning or losing that final is a big change, but I am very happy about all the things that happen to me and I am going to fight to win another title here.

“But it’s still been a great season for me.”

Nadal was in magnificent form in his semi-final win over Juan Martin del Potro, winning the battle of the forehands with 25 winners off his favourite side.

At 6ft 8in tall, Anderson’s serve is his major weapon – he leads the tournament with 114 aces – and the South African has been more aggressive with his ground game in New York.

He has hit 250 winners off his forehand to Nadal’s 201 after six matches.

“I am playing well almost the whole season,” said Nadal.

“I was playing so-so at the beginning of the tournament, and I have been playing better and better every day.

“Now remains the last match against a very tough opponent, and I need to be ready for it.

“He’s a huge player with an unbelievable serve and he plays so well on these kinds of surfaces.

“It’s probably the most important match for me that remains of this year, so I’m going to try to play my best.”

‘I knew in my mind there was opportunity’

Anderson took advantage of a rare moment in the bottom half of the draw, with no Grand Slam finalists left after Marin Cilic was beaten in round three.

Second seed Andy Murray withdrew on the eve of the tournament through injury, before the likes of Cilic, fourth seed Alexander Zverev and seventh seed Grigor Dimitrov lost early.

“I knew in my mind there was opportunity there, but I must be honest, I didn’t focus really too much on that,” said Anderson.

“We are sort of accustomed to the few guys doing well, exceptional consistency.

“It’s tough beating those guys because they have had so much experience at this level.

“Even with them out, there have still been a lot of challenges I’ve had to face throughout this week. I have faced some of the best tennis players in the world.”

Anderson, 31, has struggled with injuries throughout his career, a hip problem putting him out of the Australian Open and leg and elbow issues forcing withdrawals since then.

“I feel like in the last while, definitely things have turned around,” he said.

“I think it started on the clay courts, getting more matches under my belt. I just feel like I have been constantly taking steps in the right direction.”

The ecstatic South African climbed into the stands to celebrate with his team after his semi-final win over Pablo Carreno Busta, but knows he will need to play the match of his life if he is to repeat that journey.

“Nadal is one of the greatest competitors in sports, period,” said Anderson.

“He’s an amazing fighter. He really controls the court well, the few times I have played him.

“I really need to be dominant and control proceedings as much as possible, because if you let him do it, it’s very difficult.”

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