Anderson had never even made it to the semi-finals of a major and only one previous quarter-final but found himself up against Nadal in the final at Flushing Meadows last night.
And while the gulf in class between the two players was clear on the night, Nadal triumphing 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 to take his 16th Grand Slam title, Anderson insisted he could build on the ground-breaking experiences of his deep run.
“I can take a lot of positives from getting into the final,” Anderson said.
“There’s a lot of emotions I’ve had to deal with throughout the week.
“Today was a tough match. I was up against a pretty good opponent who knows how to play.
“I’m going to keep working hard and hopefully I’ll be able to give myself more opportunities.”
Nadal had only won two previous US Open titles, a paltry return compared to the 10 French Open gongs he boasts, but joined Fred Perry and Ivan Lendl in the group of three-time winners in New York with the victory.
However, the Spaniard did not have to beat a single top-20 player on his way to lifting the trophy after Juan Martin del Potro knocked out his biggest threat, Roger Federer, in the quarter-finals.
Anderson too had barely faced any of the world’s top players with Sam Querrey and Pablo Carreno Busta the only seeds he had to beat.
But the South African was more than happy to be following an injury-plagued 2016 with his best ever Grand Slam result.
“It’s been an amazing two weeks for me,” Anderson, 31, added.
“Last year was difficult. It’s tough when you’re injured as a tennis player and the competition is so strong.
“To come back and make my first final of a Grand Slam has really been special.”
Anderson added: “I really want to congratulate Rafa.
“I know we’re the same age but I feel I’ve been watching you my whole life.
“You have been an idol of mine.
“It’s tough playing you and you proved it again tonight.
“You’re one of the greatest ambassadors of our sport.”