Nadal Fires Into Fourth Beijing Final
Nadal needed two hours and 16 minutes to overcome a dogged display from Dimitrov, prevailing 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 on Saturday evening in Beijing. It marked the ninth time in the Spaniard's illustrious career in which he has surpassed 60 match wins in a single season. Nadal will look to add a tour-leading sixth title of 2017 when he faces Nick Kyrgios in Sunday's championship.
Nadal is seeking to lift the trophy in the Chinese capital for the first time in 12 years. The 2005 champion also finished runner-up on two subsequent occasions, to Novak Djokovic in both 2013 and 2015. Much will be at stake for the top seed on Sunday, as he looks to further extend his 2,160-point lead atop the Emirates ATP Race To London with a 75th career crown.
"I'm very happy to be in the final again," said Nadal. "Of course, it is a very important achievement for me to continue with the positive feelings after winning the US 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 practise every day and try to improve."
Nadal's 60-Win Campaigns
Nadal was made to work in dispatching Dimitrov, overcoming 31 winners, including 10 aces, from the third-seeded Bulgarian. The Manacor native looked to have an early stranglehold on the encounter after racing to a set and a break lead, but Dimitrov would claw back. The 2016 finalist drew level at 3-all and converted another break to snatch the second set at 6-4. A cross-court backhand pass sent their 10th FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting into a decider.
In the third set, Nadal proved to be too strong as Dimitrov's level dipped. The World No. 1 wrestled an immediate break with a curling inside-out forehand into the open court, and he would refuse to look back. He eventually converted his second match point as a Dimitrov forehand found the net, extending his win streak to 11 straight.
"I think I was playing great," added Nadal. "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 his Bulgarian opponent, exacting revenge after a straight-set defeat in last year's Beijing quarter-finals. The win also marked his second of the season against Dimitrov, having previously prevailed in a five-set marathon in the Australian Open semis in January.
Dimitrov will hold his head high after a strong week at the National Tennis Center. The 26 year old has won nine of his last 11 matches to surge to fifth in the Emirates ATP Race To London, bidding to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time. It was his sixth semi-final of the season in total.
"It's very tough to lose at such a stage in a tournament," said Dimitrov. "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 okay 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."