Day 12. Semifinals. Kevin Anderson

Andy Taylor. Tennis Emcee. 2017 US Open. Semifinal. Day-12. Kevin Anderson defeats Pablo Carreno Busta

Tennis Emcee. Andy Taylor. The Voice of the US Open

Kevin Anderson def Pablo Carreno Busta 46 75 63 64

Like anything else in life, tennis is about seizing opportunity. Andy Murray. Novak Djokovic. Stan Wawrinka. Kei Nishoikori. Milos Raonic. Prior to the start of the season’s final Major, five of the sport’s top-11 players were absent from the field. Factor in the typical list of Slam upsets — new, unfamiliar faces were inevitable by week-2.

Welcome to the 2017 US Open, where Kevin Anderson and Pablo Carreno Busta are Grand Slam Semifinalists

Hard work and persistence has finally paid off

Not to discredit Pablo’s remarkable accomplishments this season…he’s had a hell of a year. He started 2017 as the #30 player in the world. By July, he was in the top-15. First, he reached his maiden ATP 500 Final at the Rio Open. Pablo then broke into the top-20 with his first Masters 1000 Semifinal run at Indian Wells. He won the title in Estoril, then reached his first career Grand Slam Semifinal at Roland Garros. Carreno Busta stepped-up his fitness and consistency in 2017, and that alone has given him the chance to take advantage of gaping holes in the US Open draw.

Kevin Anderson has enjoyed a remarkable 2017 as well, even though injuries delayed the start of his season. After 4th-Round runs at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon, he reached his 12th career Final in Washington D.C., defeating Dominic Thiem and Jack Sock en-route to the championship match. He plowed through his first four unseeded opponents in Flushing, losing only a single tiebreak-set to Paolo Lorenzi; then outlasted Sam Querrey in the Quarterfinals. Thanks to circumstance and his own consistency, opportunity’s doors continue to open during his career-best Grand Slam run. All he needs to do is keep stepping through them.

Kevin’s pinnacle achievement

On Friday night, Anderson won a sixth consecutive Grand Slam match for the first time is his career; and at 31-years-old, became the first South African in the Open Era to reach the US Open Final. Although, after the first 33-minutes it appeared there would be an entirely different outcome…

Kevin was virtually unbreakable through the Quarterfinals. In five matches, he had faced only 18 break points, erasing 15 of them. But at 3-all in the first, Kevin uncharacteristically fell behind 15-40, 30-40, then sent a backhand long, gifting Carreno Busta the early edge. Pablo protected his serve the rest of the way and took the set. Perhaps it was early nerves for the hard-serving South African. Regardless, Kevin never crumbled. He faced only two more break points the rest of the way; Carreno Busta converted one of them. Meanwhile, Anderson tallied 14 break chances, converting four.

Kevin and Pablo traded breaks at the start of set-2. At 5-6, serving to stay in the set, Carreno Busta double faulted, giving Anderson his first set point. With a backhand pass, Anderson leveled the match. In both the third and fourth sets, Kevin broke Pablo after the first changeover, then held the rest of the way to reach his first Major Final. It wasn’t an easy finish for Anderson, though. At the tail-end of the fourth, Carreno Busta refused to go quietly. After a difficult, 9-minute, 5-deuce hold from Carreno Busta to keep the match alive, the two endured a 38-shot rally to start the final game of the match. Finally, after 2-hours and 55-minutes, Anderson raised his arms in victory and climbed into his player box to celebrate.

A premature celebration?

After the match, Kevin acknowledged that a Semifinal player box celebration was wildly out of the ordinary, but these were not ordinary circumstances. If you had told him in January, while rehabbing at home, that he would become a Grand Slam Finalist in Flushing, he and his wife would have had you committed. Regardless of the outcome on Sunday, this fortnight has been a career pinnacle worth partying over. On Sunday, he’ll get the winner of Rafael Nadal versus Juan Martin del Potro. He’s never beaten either of them.