0113 GMT February 21, 2018
The Spaniard struggled to handle Del Potro’s serve and huge forehand in the opening set before finding his stride to set up a title-decider with South Africa’s Kevin Anderson on Sunday, Reuters reported.
Nadal ended the 2009 champion’s ordeal with a splendid backhand passing shot on his first match point, four years after his last title at Flushing Meadows.
“It’s been an amazing season for me and I‘m so happy to get a chance to fight for another title after a couple of seasons with injury troubles,” said Nadal, who won a record-extending 10th French Open title in June.
”It means a lot to me. I had to change a couple of things after the first set because I was playing on his backhand too much and he was waiting for me there.
“So I tried to move him around more and be more unpredictable. I was not playing bad in the first set but I lost it so some things had to change.”
“Rafa just played even better the last three sets of the match, and I couldn’t hit my backhand as good as I did in the beginning of the match,” said Del Potro.
“To be honest, I‘m angry to lose a chance like this but maybe tomorrow I will be calm and see how big the tournament was for me.”
First Grand Slam final at 31
At the age of 31, Anderson reached his first Grand Slam final at the US Open on Friday thanks to a 4-6, 7-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Spain’s Pablo Carrena Busta.
In this era when players are winning Grand Slam titles well into their thirties, Anderson almost doesn’t qualify as a late bloomer.
But the South African, the first born there to make a Grand Slam final since Kevin Curren at Wimbledon in 1985, has shown patience, resilience and unending dedication to make his grand slam breakthrough.
”It’s been a lot of hard work to get to this point,” said Anderson.
”It feels fantastic.
“It’s been a long road to get here and sometimes tough. We’ve been dominated by a select few individuals and there are definitely times where you think those will be the guys who will always be competing for it.”
Anderson was late to the Tour after choosing to go to college in the United States, at the University of Illinois.
He always used to be considered a nearly-man, for so long unable to get past the last 16 of a Grand Slam event, always finding someone just too good on the day.
But despite a series of injuries, from shoulder to knees and at the end of last year, to his hip, he has bounced back brilliantly to put his name in the history books.
He will bid to go one better than Curren, who was runner-up at the 1984 Australian Open final before switching citizenship to the United States ahead of his run to the Wimbledon final.
Johan Kriek was the first South African to win a Grand Slam singles championship at the 1981 Australian Open but successfully defended the title in 1982 as a naturalised American.
”It’s definitely about perseverance,“ Anderson said. ”I feel like I’ve kept my head down and kept working hard.
”There have been a lot of ups and downs and I feel really happy, I’ve always kept belief.
“It’s been a terrific couple of weeks and I’ve got an opportunity to step on the court in a final and that’s something I’m going to be really excited about.”
It has been noticeable at the US Open how pumped up he has been throughout the event, something Tiley said reminded him of Anderson’s college days.
“At the University of Illinois we had really good teams and it’s a great atmosphere, you have a lot of people around you,” he said.
“After college, back out there on his own, maybe it was a bit more difficult for him to be (extroverted) but he’s playing with a lot of confidence now.”
Anderson has been working on his on-court presence with his team, including Alexis Castorri, the sports psychologist who has worked with Andy Murray.
“It think it helps me to play my best tennis,” Anderson said. It might have taken time, but it has been worth the wait.