World No. 1 Rafael Nadal battled past Grigor Dimitrov 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 on Saturday to reach the final of the China Open in Beijing.
The top-seeded Spaniard earned his 60th victory of the season as he defeated the third-seeded Bulgarian in two hours, 16 minutes to book his spot in his ninth final of the year, the 110th final of his career and fourth at the China Open.
Nadal will look to add a tour-leading sixth title of 2017 when he faces either No. 2 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany or eighth-seeded Nick Kyrgios of Australia in Sunday’s championship.
Nadal, this year’s French Open and U.S. Open champion, is seeking to lift the trophy in the Chinese capital for the first time in 12 years as he goes after his 75th career singles title.
Are you kidding us, Grigor Dimitrov ????
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) October 7, 2017
“I’m very happy to be in the final again,” Nadal said after the match. “Of course, it is a very important achievement for me to continue with the positive feelings after winning the U.S. Open. To be back here and be in the final with that very tough draw I had is a great effort. So I’m very happy.
“I am very pleased the way that I have been playing the whole week, after a very tough first day. So here I am. I am in the final. Another chance tomorrow to compete in a big match. That’s important for me. That’s why we practice every day and try to improve.”
Nadal was made to work in dispatching Dimitrov, overcoming 31 winners, including 10 aces, from the Bulgarian.
The 16-time grand slam winner won 13 consecutive points on his own serve and broke Dimitrov to seal the first set in 35 minutes.
Dimitrov, down 3-1 in the second, fought back to level at 4-4 before clinching the set and sending the match into a decider.
In the third set, the 31-year-old Nadal proved to be too strong starting with an immediate break on a curling forehand into the open court. Nadal eventually converted his second match point as a Dimitrov forehand found the net.
“I think I was playing great,” Nadal said. “I played a great first set, in my opinion. I was playing good at the beginning of the second and probably I had almost match point with those two break points for 3-love. The dynamic had been so good until that moment. After that, he started to push me. I stopped a little bit to go for the points. I was too many times in defending positions.
“In the third, again, I felt that I started to go a little bit more for the points. It is true that in one moment of the second set, my serve didn’t work that well, and I stopped a little bit with the backhand too. But then I found the rhythm at the beginning of the third. I think I played a great third set.”
With the victory, Nadal improved to 9-1 against the 26-year-old Dimitrov.
“It’s very tough to lose at such a stage in a tournament,” Dimitrov said. “It’s never easy. I need to, right now, just stay positive and take the positives out of it. Winning a few matches already is a good sign for me. But back to the match, I think I also had too many chances at some point. If you don’t use them against players like Rafa, I mean, you’re going to pay for it. I think that’s what happened.
“I think I played pretty OK tennis. Even the second set, even though I won it, I think I could have done a lot of things better. I think my game just wasn’t up to speed today. Again, I’m just pleased the way that I fight and I stay positive. I think this is something to really build up on.”