Rafael Nadal will play Marin Cilic in the semi-finals of the Shanghai Masters on Saturday after the world number one was forced to fight past Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 6-7 (4/7), 6-3.
The Spaniard, who has never won the Shanghai showpiece, is chasing a seventh title in a brilliant season and a hat-trick of triumphs on the trot, having been crowned US Open and China Open champion in recent weeks.
The 16-time Grand Slam winner saw off the Bulgarian Dimitrov in Beijing last week but suffered some hairy moments in getting the better of him again in a nervy quarter-final played in overcast conditions.
Top seed Nadal, 31, grabbed the crucial break of serve in the ninth game of the first set and there was nothing between them as they entered a tense second-set tie break.
Nadal got the mini-break for a 3-0 lead in the tie break, but sixth seed Dimitrov scrapped back to level, and then stunned the Spaniard to clinch the tie break.
The two friends headed into a deciding set with Dimitrov in the ascendancy and the pro-Nadal crowd fearing an upset.
Dimitrov sensed another opportunity in the fifth game of the third set, but Nadal survived the break point.
Nadal took the momentum into the next game to immediately break Dimitrov and finally end the Bulgarian’s resolve.
The Spaniard’s victory march was only momentarily held up when a disturbance broke out in the crowd and the players were forced to wait as a small group of spectators was escorted out of the arena.
A relieved Nadal looked up to the heavens and raised his arms at the end.
The Croatian fourth seed Cilic beat the unseeded Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-3, 6-4 for a date with Nadal.
Cilic, bidding to reach the season-ending ATP Finals in London, grabbed the critical break in the sixth game of the first set on his way to a comprehensive victory.
Cilic said consistency was key.
“My team has worked really well in all parts of my game just to bring it up to the nice level that I can keep it up throughout every single week,” he said.
“I got to understand also all the things that we were working on.
“They are quite clear for me and I also am a little bit more consistent this year in serving performances.
“I’m winning quite a lot of service games and a lot of matches.”
The remaining two quarter-finals pit number two Roger Federer against unseeded Frenchman Richard Gasquet, the winner will play Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro or Viktor Troicki of Serbia in the last four.
ATP MD match wins
1. Connors, 1256
2. Federer, 1121
3. Lendl, 1068
4. Vilas, 929
5. McEnroe, 877
6. Agassi & Nadal, 870
8. Djokovic, 783
— José Morgado (@josemorgado) October 13, 2017
The seasoned Argentine recovered to win 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4 in one hour, 55 minutes against the 20-year-old Zverev and will next play either Viktor Troicki or John Isner.
Zverev was going after his sixth title of an outstanding season and was comfortable in the first set against Del Potro, the 2009 US Open champion and 16th seed.
The German prodigy and the 29-year-old, whose career has been beset by injury, went toe to toe in the second set and the tie break was just as tight until Del Potro grabbed the crucial mini-break.
And then came the turning point – and the flash of anger from third seed Zverev – as he yielded the crucial service break to go 3-2 down in the third set.
“Right now I’m very pissed off, as you can probably tell,” said Zverev afterwards, having smashed the racquet on the court, then trodden on it, and brutalised it further as he stomped back to his chair.
A fan at least came away with a demolished racquet after Zverev handed it to a spectator.
“I don’t understand how I can lose a match where I get broken one time in three sets and not managed to get any chances on his serve,” said Zverev, the world number four tipped to one day top the rankings.
“I’m a bit pissed off because I feel like I played well and that’s the upsetting part of it – I could have done great in this tournament.”
The Bulgarian Dimitrov defeated American Sam Querrey 6-3, 7-6 (7/3) and Spain’s Ramos-Vinolas saw off Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6 (7/4), 6-4.
— Live Tennis (@livetennis) October 12, 2017
Fognini was suspended from further participation in last month’s US Open after the incident, which meant he couldn’t compete in doubles, and was fined $24,000 for on-site offences.
On Wednesday, the Grand Slam Board announced further punishment for the Italian world No. 28, following an investigation into the matter.
“The Grand Slam Board Director determined that Mr Fognini had committed the Grand Slam Major Offences of Aggravated Behaviour and Conduct Contrary to the Integrity of the Game for his misconduct at the 2017 US Open,” read a statement released by the board.
The decision stated the following sanctions:
1. Mr Fognini is guilty of the Major Offence of Aggravated Behaviour (Article IV.A) and Conduct Contrary to the Integrity of the Game (Article IV.B);
2. Mr Fognini is hereby fined $96,000 (in addition to the $24,000 penalty already paid for on-site offences) which will be reduced to $48,000 if no further Grand Slam Major Offence conviction occurs through and including 2019;
3. Mr Fognini will be suspended from participation in two Grand Slam tournaments, one of which must be the US Open, except that any such suspensions will not be imposed if no further Grand Slam Major Offence conviction occurs through and including 2019;
4. If a further Grand Slam Major Offence is committed during the period, the full penalties will be re-instated in addition to any other penalties imposed for the subsequent Grand Slam Major Offence;
5. Mr Fognini accepts and will not appeal this Decision and he has expressed remorse for his admitted misconduct. He has confidence that he will meet the conditions necessary to reduce his financial penalty and to lift his Grand Slam tournament suspensions in the future.
6. As always, all financial penalties arising from misconduct at Grand Slam tournaments are donated by the Grand Slam tournaments to the Grand Slam Development Fund.
Fognini had made $1,177,715 in prize money so far this season (as of last Monday) and claimed his fifth ATP title in Gstaad in July. He reached the St. Petersburg final last month, where he lost to Damir Dzumhur.
The 30-year-old is no stranger to controversy, with his on-court temperament frequently landing him in hot water.