Nadal on track for 'luckiest' slam win ever?
RAFAEL Nadal could achieve an astonishing first by winning Monday's US Open final - and it would be nothing of his own doing.
While the world No.1 is deservedly through to his 23rd career grand slam final after beating Juan Martin del Potro in the semis on Saturday, he's been aided by a run of luck likely never seen in grand slam history.
If Nadal beats world No.32 Kevin Anderson in the decider, it's believed he'll become the first man to win a major tournament without facing a player inside the world's top 25 along the way.
Nadal and the rest of the field were dealt a hefty slice of luck before the tournament due to the injury withdrawals of big guns including Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori.
But the Spaniard's luck has continued as the tournament has progressed, with some of his biggest threats falling around him. Three of the biggest dangers in his section of the draw - seventh seed Grigor Dimitrov, ninth seed David Goffin and 15th seed Tomas Berdych - all lost before he was due to face them.
Then Del Potro did Nadal the biggest favour of al - taking out arch rival Roger Federer in the quarter-finals.
Of course, Nadal can only play what's in front of him but it will be fair to call Nadal's 16th career major his most fortunate should he salute on Monday.
And the gutsy 31-year-old has earned a fair share of luck for his hard work and perseverance through some tough years dealing with injury.
"This has been an amazing season after a couple of years with some troubles, injuries, tough moments,” Nadal said after beating Del Potro.
"This year, since the beginning, has been an emotional year. It means everything for me to be back here in front of this crowd and playing for the US Open title.”
Now comes Anderson, a foe he has beaten all four times they have played in ATP matches but has known since their pre-teen junior days.
"He's a huge player with an unbelievable serve,” Nadal said. "He plays unbelievable on this surface. He's able to play his best tennis in his career right now.
"It's going to be a tough one. I need to be playing at my best. I need to play at full energy and full motivation if I'm going to have my chances.”
NADAL'S RUN TO THE US OPEN FINAL (opponent's ranking in parenthesis)
1st round - Bt Dusan Lajovic (85) 7-6 6-2 6-2
2nd round - Bt Taro Daniel (121) 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-2
3rd round - Bt Leo Mayer (59) 6-7 6-3 6-1 6-4
4th round - Bt Alexandr Dolgopolov (64) 6-2 6-4 6-1
Qtr final - Bt Andrey Rublev (53) 6-1 6-2 6-2
Semi final - Bt Juan Martin del Potro (28) 4-6 6-0 6-3 6-2