Rafael Nadal stayed on the course for his first title in Shanghai after a hard-fought6-4 6-7 6-3 triumph over the 6th seed Grigor Dimitrov, notching his 15th win in a row and 10th in 11 matches against the Bulgarian (he beat him in Beijing last week as well, also in 3 sets).
The match lasted 2 hours and 32 minutes and it was one of the best we saw this week, with a lot of nice points on both sides and more winners than errors from each player. Nadal made the difference with his second serve, winning 17 out of 24 points to face just 2 break points, saving both to keep his service games intact.
Grigor gave his best to stay in touch, he made a nice comeback in the second set tie break to send the match into a decider but one loose service game in set number 3 cost him the match, with 3 huge errors in game 6 when he fell 4-2 behind.
Nadal powered his way into 4th Shanghai semi-final in game 9 after another commanding hold and he will play against Marin Cilic tomorrow for the place in the final. Spaniard saved a break point in the second game with a risky second serve, and they stayed neck and neck until game 9.
Dimitrov was very solid in his opening 4 service games but he lost focus in the most decisive moment, and Nadal created 3 break points with 2 beautiful backhand down the line winners. Dimitrov repelled them all but he came short on the 4th when Nadal earned a break with a forehand winner.
Backhand down the line winner gave Nadal a set point in game 10 and he brought the opener home with a service winner after 42 minutes. Grigor started to play with more pace on his forehand in set number 2 and he faced just one break point in the entire set, saving it in game 5 with a beautiful backhand volley winner.
Nadal was rock solid in his service games and the tie break was inevitable, after a great performance from both players. Grigor was a 0-3 and 2-4 down in the breaker but Nadal lost the advantage in the 7th point when he netted a forehand.
2 loose shots cost Nadal the set, as he lost the last 4 points to hand the tie break to his rival, and this great encounter had to be concluded in the third set. The 5th game could have been crucial, Nadal saved a break point with a top-notch backhand cross court shot and he broke his rival in the very next game to move 4-2 ahead! Dimitrov double faulted twice to keep Nadal in the game and he missed an easy forehand to give the Spaniard a break chance.
Another poor forehand sealed the faith of Bulgarian and Rafa didn't need the second invitation, crossing the finish line with 3 service winners in game 9, notching his 870th ATP win that puts him in the 6th place among the players with the most ATP wins, together with Andre Agassi.
World number 5 Marin Cilic won his 39th match of the season, beating Albert Ramos-Vinolas by 6-3 6-4 in an hour and 21 minutes for his 7th semi-final of the season. This was their 6th meeting and the 4th win for Marin, who is yet to drop a set this week in Shanghai.
It was another solid performance from him today, firing 10 aces and saving 3 out of 4 break points to limit the damage in his games. He won almost 40% of the return points, attacking the second serve of his opponent to create 10 break points, converting 3 for an easy win.
Ramos-Vinolas was off to a better start, with 2 easy holds and break points in each of the first 3 Marin's service games, but he failed to convert any of them. Cilnds them off with 3 winners and like it usually happens, a player who missed his chances was punished very soon.
Ramos-Vinolas lost his serve in game 6 to trail 4-2 and that was all Marin needed to close the set, losing just one point in his last 2 service games and delivering a set by 6-3 in 38 minutes. Albert had to dig deep in the third game of the second set, saving 4 break points, but he couldn't do the same next time around, as Cilic broke him in game 5, converting his 7th break point since the start of the match.
Spaniard broke back in the very next game with a forehand winner, leveling the score at 3-3 and prolonging his chances in the second set. Nonetheless, he sent a backhand long in game 7 to drop serve again and there was no returning from there since Marin sealed the deal with 2 holds at love to book his place in the semis.
Croat finished the match with 4 winners in game 10 for only his 3rd Masters 1000 semi-final in a career. Quarter-final results: