Nadal defies ‘tennis ball hair’ mishap to sweep into semis
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 Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko.
Halep, 26, could potentially usurp Muguruza at the top if she reaches the final in Beijing, although current number three Elina Svitolina is also in the mix.
Halep and Ostapenko met at the French Open earlier this year, with the Latvian winning the duel.
But Halep is in red-hot form and claimed the scalp of former number one Maria Sharapova earlier this week, beating the Russian at the eighth attempt.
Ostapenko says Halep will be expected to win this time, but added: “If I play my best and I stay aggressive tomorrow and I am consistent, I think everything can happen.”
Petra Kvitova, the two-time Wimbledon champion from the Czech Republic, faces Caroline Garcia of France or Ukraine’s Svitolina in the other semi-final.
They play later Friday.
Kvitova said with the end of the season in sight, many players are running on empty.
But the 27-year-old had five months out after suffering a wound to her playing hand when she was attacked in her home and hopes she might be fresher as a result.
“Maybe I still do have energy to play,” she said.
Third seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria was the first into the semi-finals of the men’s draw when he battled past the Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 6-2.
Rafael Nadal got some fibre from a tennis ball lodged in his eye but that did not stop the world number one setting up a China Open semi-final on Saturday with “great guy” Grigor Dimitrov.
The Spaniard tamed the big-serving American John Isner 6-4, 7-6 (7/0) on Friday to set up the clash with the third-seeded Bulgarian.
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.
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.
Nadal, 31, the 16-time Grand Slam champion, revved up a gear against Isner to surge through the second-set tie break, although there was concern at one point during the set when he appeared to be suffering an eye problem.
“Just something came to my eye, that’s all,” said Nadal, who is chasing a sixth title this year.
“I think it was just a hair or something, a hair from the tennis ball. It was bothering me for a while.”
“Not important, (but) I am still feeling (it) a little bit by the way,” Nadal, who attempted to wash the suspected fibre out with water, added with a smile.
Nadal will face a familiar figure in Dimitrov—the pair practised together at Nadal’s base in Mallorca before the US Open, where the Spaniard won the title for a third time this year.
They even went fishing together, but Nadal said they will have their game faces on for Saturday: “At the end of the day we are competitors.
“We go on court and we try our best and we want to win.
“Of course, he is a player that I really have like a good friend on the tour. He’s a great guy.”
Kyrgios, 22, enjoyed an easy passage into the last four when Belgian qualifier Steve Darcis retired at 6-0 and 3-0 down to the Australian.
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.—AFP