NEW YORK (Reuters) - Big-serving Kevin Anderson battled back to defeat Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta 4-6 7-5 6-3 6-4 and punch his ticket to his first grand slam final at the U.S. Open on Friday.
World number 32 Anderson, the first South African to reach a grand slam final in over 30 years, will meet top seed Rafa Nadal in Sunday’s title-decider.
With his path to the final eased by injuries to leading players, the 6ft 8in (2.03m) Anderson also became the lowest ranked grand slam finalist since Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s run to the 2008 Australian Open final when world number 38.
After 12th seed Carreno Busta’s forehand found the net to end the nearly three-hour contest, Anderson smiled and put his hands on his head before climbing into his player’s box to embrace his wife, brother and coach Neville Godwin.
“I don’t know if the team hug is appropriate before the final but it felt like the right thing to do,” Anderson told the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium, which included South Africa’s major-winning golfers Charl Schwartzel and Ernie Els.
“It’s been a long road,” added the 31-year-old, whose 2017 campaign had been threatened by a hip injury.
The last South African to reach a grand slam singles final was Kevin Curren, the 1984 Australian Open runnerup.
Curren reached the 1985 Wimbledon final after switching citizenship to the United States.
Anderson was out of sorts to begin the match. He hit 14 unforced errors including a backhand that sailed long to hand the composed Carreno Busta a rare break to go up 4-3 in the first set.
The Spaniard closed it out but Anderson settled down after a see-sawing second set and delivered his 20th ace, a 132 mile per hour bullet, to take the third.
Anderson’s power eventually wore down the 26-year-old Carreno Busta, who had not dropped a set in the tournament.
“I definitely felt as the match progressed, I felt more and more comfortable,” Anderson told reporters.
“I was able to go after my shots more. I was able to control the court a bit more, not let him dictate so much. Definitely started making a lot more returns.”
Despite the loss, Carreno Busta was pleased with his best ever grand slam finish.
“I think that I have to take a lot of positive things from this tournament, because I won a lot of matches,” he told reporters.
“He was playing with confidence, was very good and he was more aggressive than me. Congrats to him, because we played a very good match.”
Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Ian Ransom