NEW YORK — Rafael Nadal will play for his 16th Grand Slam title after beating Juan Martin del Potro 4-6, 6-0, 6-3, 6-2.

The two-time U.S. Open champion will face 28th-seeded Kevin Anderson of South Africa on Sunday.

It was Nadal’s 15th straight victory in a Grand Slam semifinal since del Potro beat him in 2009 at Flushing Meadows.

The Spaniard is in his third major final of the year. He also won the French Open in June and will have a huge edge in experience against Anderson, a first-time Grand Slam finalist.

Nadal took control of the match by winning nine straight games after dropping the opening set. That gave him a 3-0 lead and the 24th-seeded del Potro appeared tired at times trying to play his way back into the set.

For Anderson, the move on to the final was a long-awaited payoff after years of waiting and recent runs of injuries.

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 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.

Anderson is 0-4 against Nadal.

TIGER WOODS, who knows plenty about winning major championships, was attending Friday’s semifinals.

Woods sat in the third row of Nadal’s guest box during his match against del Potro.

Still unable to return to golf while he recovers from back injuries, Woods was shown on the stadium’s video boards during a first-set changeover and drew warm applause. He smiled and waved.

Woods, like Nadal, is second in major titles won in his sport.