Kevin Anderson's US Open loss a minor setback in the greater picture

NEW YORK -- Kevin Anderson made sure he got at least one proper victory celebration in before he left the US Open.

After defeating Pablo Carreno Busta last Friday in the semifinals, he climbed up into his players box, hugged his friends and family and kissed his wife as if he had won the title. Of course, he hadn't, but he had just booked a place in his first major final.

On Saturday, Anderson looked up at his box as he stood on the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium following a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 loss to Rafael Nadal in the men's singles final. There would be no victory celebration this time, but there was a glimpse at possible future celebrations for the 31-year-old Anderson, who is playing the best tennis of his career after being sidetracked by injuries throughout his career.

"I'd love to build on these two weeks," Anderson said. "Obviously, it was very difficult, but I was able to find my way all the way in the finals. I'd love to work very hard to hopefully give myself another opportunity."

Before this week, Anderson, playing in his 34th major, had never made the semifinals of a Grand Slam tournament. He became, at No. 32, the lowest-ranked semifinalist at a Slam since 2009 and was the lowest-ranked US Open finalist since the inception of the rankings in 1973.

Anderson is now projected to move up to No. 15 in the rankings after reaching Sunday's final and would have been No. 10, which he briefly reached two years ago, if he had found a way to beat Nadal for the first time in his career.

It's an impressive rise for Anderson, who hopes this tournament is a sign of things to come. That, of course, is if he is able to remain healthy after struggling with various injuries in 2016 and missing nine events and then the Australia swing in 2017 with a hip injury.

"The target of getting back to 10 is something I set myself a little while ago," said Anderson, who is the tallest-ever major finalist at 6-foot-8. "I got off to a bit of a tough start [at the] beginning of the year, but especially this summer, I have really put myself in a good position.

"I feel like when I'm taking care of the stuff I need to, the ranking will take care of itself. It's great to sit back at the end of the week and see the jump that I have made and the spots I have been able to climb, something I can be very proud of."

One of the most unexpected results of Anderson's rise up the rankings after the US Open is he is now in contention for the Race to London, where only the top eight players in the world qualify to play in the ATP World Tour Finals.

"That definitely wasn't on my radar in March or April this year after missing the beginning [of the year] and sort of struggling to find my form on the match court," Anderson said. "I felt it was right there. My body was healthy. I spent a lot of time on my physical conditioning, and I was hitting the ball great. I just needed to find that form on the match court. I feel like I have really done that.

"Looking back at the summer, I have had some really good results. I've put myself in contention. There were a few other guys also in contention. It will be a fight to the finish, but I missed out on it by a couple of spots a couple years ago, so I think that would definitely be one of my biggest goals for the rest of the year."

If Anderson continues his current trajectory, it won't be long before he finally gets to enjoy a Grand Slam celebration on a Sunday rather than a Friday.