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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, September 8, 2017

The jolting power of Juan Martin del Potro combined with a rocking New York City crowd created an electric atmosphere for tonight’s US Open semifinal.

Staring down the sound and fury, Rafael Nadal pulled the plug on the power player.

Watch: Anderson Powers Into First US Open Final

A dynamic Nadal reeled off 18 of the final 23 games rampaging past a depleted del Potro, 4-6, 6-0, 6-3, 6-2 roaring into his third Grand Slam final of the season.

The 31-year-old Nadal knew he had to elevate his game today and he did exactly that.

"I played well. I am playing well almost the whole season," Nadal said. "So today was the day to play well. That's the real thing. I was playing so-so at the beginning of the tournament, and I have been playing better and better every day.

"Today was the day to play the best match of the tournament since that moment, because I gonna play against the toughest opponent in that moment, and that opponent, as I said before, coming with big confidence. I felt that I was playing at the right level to win that match. And I did, and I'm very happy."

Continuing his quest for his first hard-court title since the 2014 Doha, Nadal will face first-time major finalist Kevin Anderson in Sunday’s US Open final.

The 31-year-old Spaniard is 4-0 against Anderson winning nine of the 10 sets they’ve played on the pro circuit continuing a rivalry that began in the juniors when the pair were 12 years old.

Since del Potro dusted him in the 2009 US Open semifinals, Nadal has gone 15-0 in major semifinals and captured two US Open titles.

Bidding to beat Roger Federer and Nadal back-to-back for the second time in Flushing Meadows, del Potro came out rocketing his massive forehand.

The world No. 1 weathered that first-set storm and began cracking his twisting topspin forehand with vigor forcing the 6’6” Argentine to scrape replies from the corners of the court.

Urged on by Argentine fans, del Potro gamely tried to hang close in baseline exchanges, but his legs looked ravaged by his epic five-set comeback win over sixth-seeded Dominic Thiem in the fourth round, an emotional victory he pulled off while combating a virus, followed by his four-set triumph over the third-seeded Federer in Wednesday night’s quarterfinal.

A ruthless Nadal ripped 45 winners compared to 23 for his opponent and charged forward as the match progressed winning 21 of 26 trips to net completely dominating the final three sets.

Del Potro, whose  two-handed backhand has been handicapped by four wrist surgeries, could not combat the imposing pattern of Nadal's lefty forehand crosscourt to his weaker wing as the 10-time Roland Garros champion reeled off nine consecutive games to take charge.

"Rafael just played even better the last three sets of the match," del Potro said. "I couldn’t hit my backhands as good as I did in the beginning of the match. He’s a lefty player so he could find easily my left side of the game. He played so smart form the second set till the end of the match. He dominated every time of the match. He played well."

It was a promising start for the 28th-ranked Argentine.

Driving his forehand with menace, Del Potro stepped in clocked a backhand return that crashed into the top of the tape and dribbled over for the break and a 3-2 lead.

Standing so far back behind the baseline to return he could have kicked the Citizen clock behind, Nadal struggled to gain traction in del Potro’s service games throughout the first set. The 24th seed streamed through a love hold for 5-3.

Breaking open a 27-shot rally, del Potro drilled a backhand down the line to start the 10th game.

That shot seemed to stun Nadal, who responded with a slick retrieval running angle. Del Potro made the lone break stand lashing a forehand down the line surging to a one-set lead after 50 minutes.

Defending vigilantly, Nadal drew a stray forehand for his first break point. When del Potro launched a forehand well beyond the baseline, Nadal had his first break and a 2-0 lead in a game where the Argentine landed five of six first serves.

Playing more to del Potro’s lethal forehand to open points, Nadal began forcing the Argentine to hit his weaker backhand wing on the run.

That tactical shift turned the match around. Del Potro hit just two backhand winners in the match.

"He was not moving from that side, so, yeah, I have to cover full court," Nadal said."He only had to cover 60% of the court most of the time, no? So was a big advantage for him. Then I decided to change completely to play much more forehands down the line, and then I was more unpredictable and he was more in trouble, because he didn't know where to go, no?

"He arrived much more times running to his backhand, that then when he arrives running to his backhand is completely different than when he is waiting the ball there."

The forehand down the line is a confidence shot for the Spaniard. A fierce Nadal fired the forehand down the line with ambition and closed with his third ace blazing through a love hold in the third game.

Energized by his eruption, Nadal boldly challenged the big man’s forehand drawing a shanked forehand for his second straight break. Crunching a backhand return winner down the line for double set-point, Nadal hammered a return right back at del Potro rattling out a mis-hit to dispense the bagel in just 27 minutes.

An overwhelming Nadal won 12 of 14 points on his serve and pounded out 11 more winners (13 to 2) than the 2009 champion charging through the set.

Fully engaged, Nadal was lighting up the lines moving del Potro laterally then slashed a beautiful running strike down the line breaking for his eighth straight game as his entire box—including father Sebastian and coach Carlos Moya—leaped out of their seats in support.

Drained by running rallies, del Potro finally stopped his skid at nine games holding for 1-3.

That was a temporary reprieve from Nadal’s onslaught.

By then, both men were grunting loudly but the cumulative effect of Nadal’s heavy body blows sapped strength from del Potro’s legs and lungs. On his third set point, Nadal followed a flat forehand down the line forward punching a high volley into the corner muscling to a two sets to one lead after two hours of play.

A vicious diagonal forehand put del Potro on the full stretch, Nadal closed quickly shoveling a short forehand winner down the line breaking in the third game.

"I just tired. I been exhausted after Thiem match, Roger match," del Potro said. "I had flu during the week. So I had many problems before this match, but I was very motivate to play the semifinal in my best tournament.

"I think he just play better than me. He deserve to win, and I did all my best, all my effort to survive this match, but I couldn't do well."

A free-flowing Nadal fired another forehand winner down the line backing up the break for 3-1 as an exhausted del Potro was gulping deep breaths between points.

Del Potro owns one of the most explosive forehands in the sport, but on this night nothing would stop Nadal's closing power.

Bolting a backhand pass down the line, Nadal closed in two hours, 30 minutes and now stands one win from his third US Open crown and 16th Grand Slam championship.

"I will now remain last match against a very tough opponent, and I need to be ready for it," Nadal said. "Is probably the most important match for me that remain of this year, so I gonna try my best to play my best."


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