BEIJING: Rafael Nadal will take on world number one Novak Djokovic in the China Open final after the multiple Grand Slam champions bludgeoned their way to straight-sets wins on Saturday.
Nadal extracted a modicum of revenge on new Italian foe Fabio Fognini with a 7-5, 6-3 semi-final win before Djokovic extended his unbeaten winning run in the Chinese capital to 28 matches with a 6-2, 6-3 win over David Ferrer of Spain.
Sunday’s battle will be the 45th meeting of a high-class, long-term rivalry between the two and although Nadal leads 23-21, the Serb has won six of the last seven.
Djokovic had been dominant for most of the season, winning three Grand Slam titles and dropping only 14 games in four matches in China.
Nadal is fully aware of the gargantuan task awaiting him. “I know tomorrow’s match is going to be very, very difficult. But I am here to try my best,” said Nadal, whose last hardcourt title came 21 months ago in Qatar.
Nadal’s recent struggles with form and fitness have left him vulnerable to other challengers on Tour and the flamboyant Fognini has proved a thorn in his side.
The Italian became the first man to beat Nadal from two sets down at a Grand Slam when he took out the Spaniard in the third round of the US Open last month, his third win over the 14-time Grand Slam champion this year.
The world number eight ensured there would not be a fourth on a chilly day at the National Tennis Center in Beijing, citing his decision to play closer to the baseline for his success.
The Spaniard came out top in an unconventional opening set which featured five breaks of serve and secured the crucial one in the sixth game of the second when Fognini struck a backhand long.
Meanwhile, Djokovic proved far too strong for Ferrer to remain on course for a sixth Beijing title.
The Serb broke at will and displayed his extensive range of hitting and court coverage to leave Ferrer befuddled.
In the women’s draw, Garbine Muguruza overcame Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 to make her second straight final in China after last week’s efforts in Wuhan.
The Spaniard, seeking her first title this season and second of her career, will play Swiss Timea Bacsinszky, who kept alive her qualifying bid for the WTA Finals in Singapore with a 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 win over Ana Ivanovic.
The loss ended the Serb’s hopes of making the eight-woman end-of-season event.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 11th, 2015.
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