He spends a lifetime waiting to be an overnight sensation, he reaches his first grand slam final by firing 22 aces past Pablo Carreno Busta on Friday and now, in his moment of glory, he has to stand in front of the freight train that is Rafael Nadal on track for a 16th major trophy and his third US Open title.
He arrived as an uncommonly skinny 18-year-old in Champaign, Illinois, in January 2005, to play for the University of Illinois.
Following Friday's win, ESPN asked Nadal on court whether he thought a year ago - when he lost in the round of 16 in NY - that he would reach three major finals in 2017 with the chance to win two titles.
Meanwhile, opponent Kevin Anderson has never appeared in a major final.
Nadal composed himself to absolutely blitz his opponent, hitting 13 winners compared to just two from Del Potro, who crumbled to a second-set bagel. The Spaniard and current world number one turned professional in 2001 and has racked up 855 career wins while Anderson, who came through the U.S. collegiate system, did not become a pro until 2007 and has just 262 victories under his belt - Nadal has won 203 matches in Grand Slam competition alone. Nadal will be playing in his 23rd Grand Slam final as he fights for his 16th Grand Slam title, while Anderson is looking to win his first major championship. After a lackluster first couple of matches at the U.S. Open, he was anything but after the first set with Delpo, attacking every angle and appearing out of nowhere to run down balls that would have left anyone else breathless.
"I wake up today and say to myself, 'Today is the day that I need to play with the right energy, and I need to increase the level of my game, '" Nadal said after the match, via ESPN. This will be his third major final this year.
Cliff Drysdale was the last South African man in the USA final in 1965 but he was defeated by Manuel Santana.
Nadal and the rest of the field were dealt a hefty slice of luck before the tournament due to the injury withdrawals of big guns including Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori. Nadal has a lifetime 4-0 record against Anderson entering Sunday's final, but Anderson has in his favor a distinct size advantage and a whale of a serve. Anderson is the first man from his nation to do so since Kevin Curren lost the 1984 Australian Open final to Mats Wilander.
Sure, the brutally physical matches might have finally caught up with him, but try telling that to his forehand, easily the most deadly shot in the current game.
Lori McNeil beats Steffi Graf in the first round, 1994: Graf became the first women's defending champion to lose her opener. A bazooka-serving South African, his next ace in Queens will be a tournament-leading No. 115.
"Nadal is one of the greatest competitors in sports, period".
The two-time US Open champion dropped serve seven times in 21 sets contested so far in NY. I know it's a little easier. They get too nervous, Anderson explained, and wait to watch a replay.