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US Open Mens Singles Day 14: Anderson likely to struggle in first Slam final

Kevin Anderson faces Rafa Nadal in his first Grand Slam final...
Kevin Anderson faces Rafa Nadal in his first Grand Slam final...
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Concluding the US Open is the men's singles final, with Rafa Nadal facing Kevin Anderson at 21:00 UK time. Our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, gives his views on the match...


"Nadal's 2017 hard court service hold percentage of 89.3% is impressive, and only 2.0% below Anderson's, and as one of the best returners in men's tennis, has a huge edge on return, against a player who cannot even break as frequently as the average ATP player."

Anderson potential nerves intangible in first Slam final


Victories for Rafa Nadal - in four sets over Juan Martin Del Potro, and Kevin Anderson, who also triumphed via a 3-1 margin, versus Carreno-Busta has set up today's men's singles final tonight at Flushing Meadows.

The somewhat unheralded 31 year old Anderson, ranked 32 in the world prior to the event, had only reached one Grand Slam quarter-final previously in his career, and it's very difficult to rationalise quite how nervous he will be on the big stage against a seasoned campaigner who has been in Slam finals many times before.


Anderson with poor final record in main tour events


Indeed, veteran Anderson has only played 12 main tour finals throughout his career, and has won just three of these, all in 250 level tournaments, so it would be a huge ask for him to play at his peak level in a Grand Slam final.

The King of Clay, Nadal, has won 15 of the 22 Slam finals that he's contested, including a 2-1 record here in New York, and starts as a very heavy [1.15] favourite to make it 16 from 23. My model, which doesn't have an adjustment to factor in the probability of first time in Slam final nerves for Anderson, made this a little short, but not unduly so.


Nadal dominant in previous head to head meetings


Rafa has won all four head to head clashes against Anderson, dropping just the one set along the way, in Paris in 2015, while winning nine.

Looking at the match stats of these head to head matches, Rafa has consistently been able to pressurise Anderson's usually strong serve, generating 32 break points across those nine sets (48 service games), averaging 0.67 break points per return game, almost identically in line with his 0.72 break points per return game mean on hard courts in 2017.

While his figure against Anderson is marginally lower than his overall average, the majority of Rafa's opponents won't have nearly as strong a serve as the South African, and thus it is likely that Nadal will be able to put fairly consistent pressure on Anderson's serve tonight.


Anderson unlikely to be able to hugely pressure Nadal's serve


Nadal's 2017 hard court service hold percentage of 89.3% is impressive, and only 2.0% below Anderson's, and as one of the best returners in men's tennis, Nadal has a huge edge on return against a player who cannot even break as frequently as the average ATP player.

Factoring in all these numbers made Nadal's projected hold percentage a touch over 90% tonight, and with there being little in the way of pre-match value, the best strategy looks to be to back him as a trading opportunity when 0-30 or 15-40 down on serve, and with a price trading above starting price (ideally above 1.50).

Anderson has only been able to break Nadal 4.0% of the time in head to head meetings, and taken a mere 13.3% of break point chances, winning a woeful 24.2% of return points.

It will be highly unlikely that Anderson will be able to significantly upgrade these numbers tonight.


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Back Rafa Nadal when losing 0-30 or 15-40 on serve


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Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings


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