Kevin Anderson hauled his 2.02-meter (6 feet 6 inches) frame up into his team’s box to kiss his wife Kelsey after securing a place in the 2017 US Open Final – the first Grand Slam final of his career.
"Getting to this final means the world to me, I’m on cloud nine," said the giant South African after beating Spain’s Pablo Carrano Busta in just under three hours. "It has been a long journey to get here."
Indeed, it has taken 34 attempts for the 31-year-old to reach a major final. This season he has had to battle with injury too, a hip operation keeping him out of the Australian Open earlier this year.
Now Anderson is set to become the first South African to contest a US Open final for 52 years and, at 32 in the world, the lowest ranked player to make the final in the Big Apple since the introduction of the computer ranking system in 1973.
Nadal as passionate as ever
But the man waiting for him on the other side of the net is likely to pose an even greater challenge than the mountainous climb up the stands of the Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Rafael Nadal, 15-time major winner and US Open champion in 2010 and 2013, is looking to add to the French Open title he won earlier this year.
Nadal, also 31, finally put an end to Juan Martin de Potro’s run to the final after the Argentinian had knocked out Roger Federer in the quarterfinal. But like Anderson, Nadal also had to dig deep and come from behind to win after losing the first set.
"It has been a very emotional season for me after all these years of injuries and setbacks," said the Spaniard. "But I’ve never lost my passion and love for the sport of tennis."
In Del Potro, Nadal overcame one of the biggest servers in the game and will face a similar test against the equally big-serving Anderson, who recorded 22 aces in his semifinal victory.
If the South African can keep that sort of form up on Sunday night under the lights of Flushing Meadows, he may find himself making that climb all over again.
mf/jh (sid, afp)Matt Ford