China Open, Beijing SF
National Tennis Stadium – 12:30pm
Rafael Nadal (Player Profile) will return to the top spot in the ATP rankings with a victory over Tomas Berdych (Player Profile) in the Saturday’s semi-finals. It would mark the Spaniard’s first time at No.1 in over two years. He relinquished the position after losing to Novak Djokovic in the 2011 Wimbledon final. The Nadal vs Berdych Head to Head stands at an impressive 15-3 in the Spaniard’s favor.
Nadal almost had to wait another week after finding himself in a tricky spot against Fabio Fognini in the quarter-finals. Some inspired tennis saw the Italian up 6-2 4-1 but he couldn’t keep it up and Nadal would bounce back in some style, winning 11 of the next 12 games to move into the semis.
He was shaky on serve – getting broken four times in the first two sets – a surprise after his US Open run that saw him holding serve at an exceptionally high rate. After two straight sets victories, the challenge posed in the quarter-final match should ensure he doesn’t get complacent against the Czech opponent he has been dominating in the past.
Berdych made the semis thanks to a victory over John Isner. Isner served for the first set but lost four straight games and would also lose the second set from a break up, with Berdych wrapping up the match 7-5 6-2.
The Czech will have his work cut out against Nadal given the nature of their past meetings. Nadal has won the last fourteen encounters between the two and it has rarely been close, dropping sets in just two of those matches. Even after a disappointing performance in the last round, it is hard to make a strong argument for Nadal suffering defeat here. The No.1 spot will be his and he will have the chance to finish this week in style with Novak Djokovic a strong favourite to be his opponent in the final.
Prediction: Rafael Nadal in straight sets