In Shanghai 2017, Rafael Nadal defeated Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 6-7, 6-3 in grueling two hours and 32 minutes to reach the semi-final. It was the second clash between Rafa and Grigor in two weeks and the second three-setter win for the Spaniard, ousting the Bulgarian for the tenth time in 11 encounters and rattling off his 15th straight triumph since the US Open.
It was one of the finest matches in Shanghai that year, with many attractive points on both sides and more winners than errors. Nadal made the difference with the second serve, winning 17 out of 24 points and facing only two break points, saving both to keep his service games intact.
Grigor gave his best to stay in touch, making a nice comeback in the second set tie break to send the match into a decider. In the final set, the Bulgarian played one loose service game at 2-3 to give Rafa a crucial break and plague his chances.
The Spaniard saved a break chance in the second game with a risky second serve, with two rivals staying neck and neck until game nine. Dimitrov played on a high level in the opening four service games before losing focus in the most decisive moment, offering Nadal three break points after two beautiful backhand down the line winners from world no.
1. Dimitrov repelled them all but came short on the fourth when Nadal earned a break with a forehand winner. A backhand down the line winner gave Rafa a set point in game ten, bringing the opener home with a service winner after 42 minutes.
Grigor started to play with more pace on his forehand in set number two and faced just one break point in the entire set, saving it in game five with a beautiful backhand volley winner. Nadal was rock solid in his service games, which led to an inevitable tie break after both players' excellent performance.
Grigor was 3-0 and 4-2 down in the breaker but Nadal lost the seventh point when he netted a forehand.
In 2017, Rafael Nadal earned the 870th ATP win against Dimitrov in Shanghai.
Two loose shots cost Nadal the set, losing the last four points to hand the tie break to his rival.
The fifth game could have been crucial, as Nadal saved a break point with a top-notch backhand crosscourt shot and broke Dimitrov in the next one to move 4-2 ahead! Grigor hit two double faults to keep Nadal in the game, missing an easy forehand to give the Spaniard a break chance.
Another poor forehand sealed the fate of the Bulgarian and Rafa didn't need the second invitation, crossing the finish line with three service winners at 5-3. It was the 870th ATP victory for the Spaniard, matching Andre Agassi as the sixth most successful player in the Open era.