Shanghai Flashback: Rafael Nadal edges Cilic. Roger Federer is next!

Rafael Nadal reached his first Shanghai Masters final in eight years in 2017

by Jovica Ilic
Shanghai Flashback: Rafael Nadal edges Cilic. Roger Federer is next!
© Kevin Lee / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

Rafael Nadal reached his 46th Masters 1000 final in Shanghai 2017, achieving his best result in China since 2009. The world's leading player met Marin Cilic in the semi-final and prevailed 7-5, 7-6 in two hours and 11 minutes.

Thus, the Spaniard remained on the title course and arranged the title clash against Roger Federer. Rafa prevailed in the pivotal moments of both sets, delivering his fifth consecutive victory over Marin. Rafa was the more efficient player from the baseline, controlling his strokes and fending off three out of five break chances.

Nadal delivered reliable numbers on the return, creating 12 break opportunities and converting three, enough to seal the deal in straight sets. Rafa had 23 winners and 19 unforced errors, while Marin stood on a negative 31-40 ratio, attacking and making more mistakes.

Despite more aces, Cilic could not create a gap in the shortest points up to four strokes. Also, Nadal outplayed him massively in the mid-range rallies. Nothing could separate them in the most extended rallies, and it all came down to the closing stages of both sets.

Nadal played better to avoid a decider and preserve energy for the title clash against his great rival. Rafa kicked off the action with determination. He had a colossal chance to grab an early lead, with three break points up for grabs in each of Marin's opening two service games.

Rafael Nadal prevailed against Marin Cilic to reach the Shanghai final in 2017.

The Croat needed ten minutes to close the first game with an ace, working hard to fend off those three break points and repeating that at 1-1 to stay in front after 23 minutes.

Marin settled into a nice rhythm after that, patiently waiting for a chance on the return. It came in the best possible moment when Nadal served to stay in the set at 4-5, with three set points for the 4th seed. Rafa saved two with service winners, and Marin netted an easy forehand to waste the third, allowing the Spaniard to level the score at 5-5 and prolong the set.

Cilic was punished in the next game, sending a forehand wide to give Nadal two break chances. The Croat netted a backhand on the first to find himself 6-5 behind. Nadal closed the set in game 12 after a grueling 67 minutes, mighty relieved after that ninth-game scare.

Things looked even better for the Spaniard when he broke the Croat in the second set's third game. Rafa confirmed the break in the next one, moving closer to the finish line. Nadal lost momentum in game six when he netted an easy volley, losing serve and bringing Cilic back to the scoreboard.

The Spaniard left that game behind instantly, pushing strong again and stealing Marin's serve in game nine for a 5-4 advantage. Ready to fight for every point, Cilic saved a match point in game ten and broke back after blasting a forehand down the line winner to lock the result at 5-5.

Leading 4-3 in the tie break, Nadal scored two mini-breaks for three match points. The Spaniard converted the first with a service winner to reach the title match against Roger Federer, seeking his first Shanghai Masters crown.

Rafael Nadal Roger Federer Shanghai Masters