The “Vamos Rafa!” chants are back in full swing in Flushing.
Rafael Nadal, the Spaniard with the bulging biceps and the blistering forehand that appears as if a locomotive is coming at you when Nadal blasts one from the baseline, is back in the Open final, and will look to win his third singles title in Flushing and 16th Grand Slam singles championship overall when he faces South African Kevin Anderson.
Tennis fans did not get the much-anticipated semifinal match between Nadal and Swiss legend Roger Federer – Juan Martin del Potro took care of Federer in the quarterfinals – but Nadal’s place in the final brings a marquee tennis name to the final Grand Slam tournament of the season.
Nadal already made it to the Australian Open final in January, where he lost to Federer, as well as the French Open final, where he beat another Swiss, Stan Wawrinka.
“Of course I felt when I arrived in Australia that I was playing at a very high level, but then you need to win matches. I was playing well, but then you ned to do it in the competition,” Nadal said after beating del Potro in the Open semis. “Of course, beginning of the year, have been very positive, but clay court season has been unbelievable, no? That helps a lot for my confidence, to be more calm and yeah, I am here in the final.”
Whether the towering, 6’8 Anderson will be able to withstand Nadal’s ferocity from the baseline remains to be seen. Nadal has a lifetime 4-0 record against Anderson entering Sunday’s final, but Anderson has in his favor a distinct size advantage and a whale of a serve. During his semifinal victory over Pablo Carreno Busta, Anderson’s serve was clocked as high as 133 mph.
“I definitely felt as the match progressed, I felt more comfortable. I was bale to go after my shots more. I was able to control the court a bit more, not let (Correno Busta) dictate so much,” said Anderson after his semifinal win. “I think what I have been doing very well is sort of trying to put all those outside factors at bay. I have been really focused on trying to take care of my business, my side of the court.”
Anderson will need every ounce of confidence when he takes the court opposite Nadal if he has a realistic chance of beating the 31-year-old Spaniard. Nadal’s got the glittery Grand Slam final resume, the experience and what will probably be a pro-“Vamos Rafa!” crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium court cheering him on in full throttle. Good luck with that.
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Tale of the Tape
Hometown: Manacor, Majorca, Spain
Nickname: “The King of Clay,” “Rafa”
Known for: Booming forehands
Grand Slam singles titles: 15
Turned pro: 2001
Epic tennis match: 2008 Wimbledon final, when Nadal beat Roger Federer in five sets
Hometown: Johannesburg, South Africa
Nickname: None yet
Known for: High-octane serves
Grand Slam singles titles: 0
Turned pro: 2007
Epic tennis match: 2015 U.S. Open fourth-round match, when Anderson defeated Andy Murray