NEW YORK — No matter his age, no matter his ranking and results, no matter his injuries, Kevin Anderson kept trying to improve, and now comes the payoff: his first Grand Slam final.
Taking full advantage of a depleted draw, Anderson became the lowest-ranked U.S. Open finalist since the ATP’s computer rankings began in 1973, getting to the title match by beating Pablo Carreno Busta 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 on Friday.
Anderson was so excited that he celebrated his semifinal victory as if it made him the champion, stepping on a chair and then a flower box to help him climb into his guest box in the stands.
“I don’t know if it’s appropriate,” said Anderson, a 31-year-old South African who won an NCAA doubles title at the University of Illinois. “It certainly felt the right thing to do.”
Hip, leg and elbow injuries caused him to miss time this season. Ankle surgery, plus left knee, right shoulder and groin injuries were problems last year.
He is appearing in his 34th major tournament. He is ranked 32nd, but was seeded 28th at Flushing Meadows, thanks to withdrawals by several top players, including past champions Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka.
“It’s nice that some of them gave us a bit of a shot to make a run in this tournament,” Anderson said.
He only once had been as far as the quarterfinals at a Grand Slam tournament until this week, losing at that stage in New York two years ago. Before that, he had been 0-7 in fourth-rounders at majors.
The 6-foot-8 (2.03-meter) Anderson is a big server, but it was his success returning against the 12th-seeded Carreno Busta that was the key to this victory. After failing to get a break point in the opening set, Anderson generated 14 the rest of the way — and converted four, which was enough for the biggest victory of his career.
On Sunday, Anderson will play No. 1 Rafael Nadal or 24th-seeded Juan Martin del Potro, who eliminated Roger Federer in the quarterfinals.
Anderson has never beaten either: He is 0-4 against Nadal, 0-6 against del Potro.
Nadal vs. del Potro, scheduled for Friday night, was a rematch of a 2009 semifinal at Flushing Meadows won by del Potro en route to his only Grand Slam championship. That time, del Potro beat Nadal, then Federer; he was trying to reverse the order now.
Nadal has won the U.S. Open twice, in 2010 and 2013. He owns 15 major titles in all, second only to Federer’s 19.