Rafael Nadal survived a rollercoaster encounter with fourth seed Marin Cilic to power into Sunday’s final of the Shanghai Masters and a possible showdown with old rival Roger Federer.
The Spanish world number one, who has never won the tournament but is on a terrific run of form, finally saw off the Croat after saving three set points in the opener on the way to a tense 7-5, 7-6 (7/3) victory.
Number two Federer plays Juan Martin del Potro in the other semi-final later Saturday after the Argentine said he was fit despite hurting his wrist in a fall in the quarter-finals.
Cilic had only ever got the better of 16-time Grand Slam winner Nadal once in five previous meetings, but he made him work hard for this latest win.
Nadal, pursuing a seventh title this season, put Cilic under immediate pressure in the Croat’s first two service games.
But the 29-year-old Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion, eventually settled, only to squander three set points as Nadal hung on grimly.
In the next game the 31-year-old Nadal capitalised, breaking Cilic on the way to claiming the first set.
With the crowd firmly in his favour, the Spaniard broke Cilic again in the third game of the second set, only for Cilic to break back for 3-3 when Nadal put his simple volley into the net.
An angry Nadal bashed his racquet twice on his knee.
They exchanged a further break apiece to race into the tie break, before a grateful Nadal pulled away at the last.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) October 14, 2017
The 31-year-old Spaniard was never really in trouble against the temperamental Australian in a 6-2, 6-1 rout in 92 minutes on Beijing’s outside hard courts.
Nadal, a 16-time Grand Slam winner, came to the Chinese capital on the back of winning his third US Open.
He saved two match points in his nervy opener against Frenchman Lucas Pouille.
But after that Nadal sliced through the opposition to win the China Open for the first time since making his debut in Beijing in 2005.
Since then Nadal has gone on to become one of the greatest players of all time and he underlined his brilliance in swatting aside the 22-year-old Kyrgios.
The world-ranked 19 displayed his best side in forcing Nadal to 2-2 in the first set, but his other side emerged later.
Kyrgios was already on a warning from the umpire from the first game of the match for something he said.
And when he went down 30-0 on Nadal’s serve at 2-2, he began the first in a series of lengthy discussions with the umpire – frequently spreading his arms in despair.
The Australian, going for a fourth career title, shook his head and continued the discussion as he trudged back to his chair, initially to whistles from the crowd and then cheers to encourage him.
Kyrgios, whose undoubted talent has often been overshadowed by his on-court conduct, collected a penalty point as his title hopes quickly evaporated.
Rafael Nadal was forced into a third set before the world number one piled the pressure on Grigor Dimitrov to reach the final of the China Open on Saturday.
The 31-year-old Spaniard, enjoying a late-career flourish and chasing a sixth title this season, beat off the Bulgarian third seed 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 in their semi-final on Beijing’s outside hard courts.
Nadal, good friends with Dimitrov, will face German prodigy Alexander Zverev or temperamental Australian Nick Kyrgios in Sunday’s final.
Dimitrov battled back from a set down to take it to a deciding third set.
But with the crowd behind him and Dimitrov visibly tiring, the 16-time Grand Slam champion Nadal stepped up a gear to ram home his superiority.
— China Open (@ChinaOpen) October 7, 2017
Provided by AFP Sport