Forget all the brouhaha about Andy Murray withdrawing from the US Open just prior to the start of the year's final Grand Slam, which kept No. 1 Rafael Nadal and third-seeded Roger Federer in the same half of the draw. Forget the disappointment when No. 24 Juan Martin del Potro – a fan favorite in his own right – prevented the sport's dynamic duo on the men's side from meeting in the semifinals. Forget that past champions Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka led a group of Top 10 players who did not compete in New York.
Despite it all, here we are: the US Open final. World No. 1 Rafael Nadal or No. 28 Kevin Anderson will walk off the court inside Arthur Ashe Stadium as the 2017 US Open champion. For Nadal, it would be major No. 16 and his third trophy in Flushing Meadows. For Anderson, the first South African Grand Slam finalist since Kevin Curren at the 1984 Australian Open, it would be his first Slam victory after only advancing to one quarterfinal at 33 previous majors.
So, what can you expect in this matchup, pitting an all-time great against an all-time Slam surprise?
"Nadal's, I think, one of the greatest competitors in sports, period. He's an amazing fighter," Anderson said. "I really need to be dominant and control proceedings as much as possible because, if you let him do it, it's very difficult."
It is safe to say that if Nadal can neutralize points against the player whom quarterfinalist Sam Querrey called "so overly aggressive," the match will tilt toward the Spaniard getting another year etched on the nameplate in the locker room. But if Anderson makes a lot of first serves, the 31-year-old will give himself at least a puncher's chance, as he has led the tournament in first-serve points won (83 percent) for those who have played more than two matches.
Nadal, on the other hand, has gotten better and better with each match throughout the fortnight, dropping just one set in his last three matches combined and allowing the dangerous del Potro a total of five games over their last three sets in the semifinals.
"[It's the] 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."
Both players will need their best because, once they step on the court, everything that has happened this fortnight will go out the window.
As chair umpire Jake Garner will say, "Ready? Play."