Anderson Fells Carreno Busta To Reach US Open Final
South African mounts fightback in SF
Kevin Anderson is through to his first Grand Slam final after beating Pablo Carreno Busta 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 in the US Open semi-finals on Friday in New York.
Overcome with joy, Anderson climbed up to his supporters’ box to embrace his coach, Neville Godwin, and wife, Kelsey. The 28th-seeded Anderson will face either World No. 1 Rafael Nadal or 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro in Sunday’s championship match.
“I really don’t know what to say right now,” admitted Anderson in his on-court interview with ESPN. “I don’t know if the team hug is appropriate for the semis, but it felt the right thing to do.
“These Grand Slams are tough. We’re privileged to play with some of the best players to ever play the game. It’s nice some of them gave us a shot to make a run. This is why we work so hard. It was an unbelievably tough match for me. It was the first time for both of us on one of the most famous stages in tennis. I really had to dig deep, I think my emotion at the end summed it up. I’m over the moon right now. I’ve given myself a shot and I’ll allow myself tonight to celebrate this win."
It is a remarkable opportunity for Anderson, who dropped to No. 80 in the Emirates ATP Rankings earlier this year after being forced to miss the Australian Open with a hip injury.
“At the end of last year I was told I probably needed surgery on my hip,” said Anderson. “It’s nine months after thinking I would need to undergo a year’s worth of rehab after surgery, so this means the world to me.”
But his hard work and perseverance, coupled with a new aggression and more intense demeanour on the court, paid dividends over the summer as he gradually found his form. He defeated Dominic Thiem en route to the Washington final (l. to Zverev) and made the quarter-finals at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Montreal (l. to Zverev).
Having previously only contested one major quarter-final in his career (2015 US Open), the 31-year-old Anderson is set to become the first South African to play in the final in New York since Cliff Drysdale in 1965 and the first South African in a Grand Slam final since Kevin Curren at the 1984 Australian Open (l. to Wilander).
At No. 32 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, Anderson will also be the lowest-ranked finalist at Flushing Meadows since the inception of the Rankings in 1973. He is the lowest-ranked Grand Slam finalist since No. 38 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the 2008 Australian Open (l. to Federer).
The South African seized his opportunity as the bottom half of the draw opened right up when Andy Murray was forced to withdraw on the eve of the tournament and Alexander Zverev was upset in the second round by Borna Coric. Anderson took advantage to defeat Coric in the third round, before following with four-set wins over Paolo Lorenzi and last American hope Sam Querrey.
Looking to assert himself early in the contest, it was with a shout of “Come on” that Anderson won the first point of the match and went on to secure a love hold. But the South African was the first to blink on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Three unforced errors gave Carreno Busta a 15/40 advantage with Anderson serving at 3-3, and the Spaniard converted his second break point opportunity as Anderson pushed a backhand long.
Nerves got the better of Anderson in the early stages. His footwork was lethargic and he was tentative to the short balls - it cost him.” Buoyed by his breakthrough, Carreno Busta went on to serve out the opener in 33 minutes, sealing it with a 124mph serve. It marked his 16th successive set at Flushing Meadows, having won his first five rounds in straight sets.
Anderson looked to strike back immediately in the second set, breaking for a 3-1 lead. But his advantage was short lived as Carreno Busta levelled in the following game, exposing Anderson on short balls.
Carreno Busta came up with two big first serves to dig himself out of a 15/40 hole in the eighth game, but, undeterred, Anderson continued to go after his shots. His aggression took its toll on Carreno Busta in the 12th game, with the Spaniard offering up a double fault at 30/30 to gift Anderson set point. The South African seized his opportunity, dictating the baseline rally for snatching the set with a backhand crosscourt winner.
Anderson continued to press early in the third. Carreno Busta held off the South African as he rallied from a 0/40 deficit in the second game, but when Anderson attacked again in the fourth game, the Spaniard double faulted to give Anderson a 3-1 lead. Carreno Busta saved two set points down 2-5 on serve, but Anderson swiftly sealed the set on serve in the following game, having won 11 points more than his opponent in the third set (35-24).
Growing in confidence and stature, Anderson rifled a backhand crosscourt to earn two break points in the fifth game of the fourth set, and grabbed the initiative as Carreno Busta missed with a forehand. In a tense final game, Anderson rallied from 15/30 to win the last three points, clinching victory as his opponent netted a forehand after two hours and 55 minutes.
Both Carreno Busta and Anderson were competing in their first Grand Slam semi-final. It is the first time since 2005 Roland Garros (Puerta d. Davydenko), that two first-time semi-finalists have met in the last four of a major.
Carreno Busta has put himself in contention to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals, courtesy of his breakthrough run at Flushing Meadows. It was a history-making week for the Spaniard, despite the loss. He became the first player to come across four qualifiers in a Grand Slam as he advanced to his first major quarter-final, where he defeated Diego Schwartzman. In addition, he tied Greg Rusedski (1997) for the record of most consecutive sets won by a non Top 10 seed at the US Open. Carreno Busta had won 16 in a row to open the tournament, before Anderson broke for the second set on Friday.
“I think that I have to take a lot of positive things from this tournament, because I won a lot of matches. I won a lot of points here to continue my way to the [Nitto ATP Finals]," the Spaniard said.
“I think it was really good match. Maybe at the beginning he made a lot of mistakes, but I play aggressive, too. So I think the first set was very good for me. But then he started to play more aggressive, to serve really good, and to return my serve all the time.”