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Nadal sets up semi-final showdown with Dimitrov

Nadal sets up semi-final showdown with Dimitrov

BEIJING: Rafa Nadal produced an assured display to beat big-serving American John Isner 6-4, 7-6 (7-0) at the China Open on Friday and set up a semi-final clash with Grigor Dimitrov.

The top-seeded Spaniard eased to his 59th victory of the year, breaking sixth seed Isner at 5-4 and holding his nerve to sweep a second-set tiebreak, to set up the clash with the third-seeded Bulgarian.

“I think I played a solid match,” Nadal said. “I played very well, changing good directions... I think on return I did well.”

Dimitrov booked his place in the last four on Beijing’s outside hard courts with a 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 6-2 victory over another Spaniard, Roberto Bautista Agut.

Dimitrov spent time practicing with Nadal in Mallorca ahead of the hard-court season. The two also spent time fishing.

“We went out with the boat,” Nadal said. “We catch a few ones [fish], but not very big. But we had some good dinner. At the end of the day we are competitors. We go on court and we try our best and we want to win.”

The other semi-final will be an intriguing encounter between two rising talents, with temperamental but talented Nick Kyrgios playing starlet Alexander Zverev of Germany.

Australian Kyrgios, seeded eighth in China, sent down 12 aces against qualifier Steve Darcis, winning the first set 6-0 and going 3-0 up in the second before the Belgian retired due to injury.

The 20-year-old Zverev, like Nadal also searching for a sixth title in a breakthrough season, had few scares in dispatching Russia’s Andrey Rublev 6-2, 6-3.

Simona Halep is on the cusp of overhauling Garbine Muguruza as world number one after the Romanian raced into the semi-finals of the women’s draw.

The second-ranked Halep eased past Russia’s unseeded Daria Kasatkina 6-2, 6-1 in 69 minutes and will face Jelena Ostapenko.

The mercurial Latvian bested Sorana Cirstea 6-4, 6-4 in an error-strewn quarter-final that saw both players struggling to hold serve.

Halep, 26, will usurp Muguruza at the top if she reaches the final in Beijing.

Petra Kvitova, the two-time Wimbledon champion from the Czech Republic, advanced by beating Barbora Strycova 6-3, 6-4. The 12th-seeded Kvitova will next face in-form Caroline Garcia of France in the other semi-final.

Garcia outlasted world number three Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in three gruelling late-night sets, 6-7 (5-7), 7-5, 7-6 (8-6), in a match lasting nearly three-and-a-half hours and finishing close to 1:00 am.

Published in Dawn, October 7th, 2017

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