BEIJING: World number two Rafael Nadal said yesterday he felt no extra pressure heading into a semi-final at the China Open which could see him return to the top of the men’s rankings.
The number two seed in Beijing staged an extraordinary comeback against Fabio Fognini in his quarter-final match to keep alive his hopes of unseating Novak Djokovic at the top spot.
Djokovic, meanwhile, powered through his match with American Sam Querrey to set up a clash with France’s Richard Gasquet, who sent third seed Spaniard David Ferrer crashing out 6-3, 6-4.
Nadal will now have to beat Czech fourth seed Tomas Berdych in today’s match to return to the top for the first time since July 2011.
“It’s something that doesn’t create me more pressure,” Nadal said.
“It’s something that already happened in the past. If that happens again, it will be good, it will be special for me, but we’ll see.
“I am going to have a very tough opponent in front. In the end, it’s another match. True, it’s a little bit more special for that circumstances, but nothing else.”
Nadal looked to be heading for a crushing defeat in his quarter-final after Fognini claimed the first set and powered to a 4-1 lead in the second.
But he broke the Italian’s serve in the seventh game, before winning the next three to take the second set 6-4.
Fognini, who is ranked 19th in the world, won the opener of the third set. But the Spaniard sealed his passage through to the semi-finals by claiming victory in the remaining games to seal the match 2-6, 6-4, 6-1.
Current China Open champion Djokovic has spent 101 weeks at number one, but can only remain top of the rankings if he reclaims his title and if Nadal fails to reach the final.
Nadal has not lost a hardcourt match all season, after he missed the opening few weeks of 2013 with a stomach virus.
He was also sidelined for the second half of last year with a knee injury.
Berdych earned his place in the semi-finals with a convincing 7-5, 6-2 victory over American John Isner on Friday.
Djokovic was also ruthless in his disposal of Querrey, crushing his opponent 6-1, 6-2.
Meanwhile, in the women’s tournament, Serena Williams powered through her match with Caroline Wozniacki 6-1, 6-4.
The Danish sixth seed only briefly offered resistance, breaking Williams’s serve in the sixth game of the second set before forcing the world number one to go on the offensive in a 38-shot rally in the seventh.
But Williams extinguished any hope of a comeback by maintaining her two-game lead up until the conclusion of the set.
In her semi-final game, the top seed will face Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska.
The fourth seed defeated German Angelique Kerber 7-6, 6-4 in their match.
It was heartbreak for Chinese star Li Na, who was dumped out in her quarter-final match 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 by Petra Kvitova.
The 2011 French Open winner has twice reached the semi-finals in Beijing, and looked set for her third appearance when she took the first set by breaking Kvitova’s serve in the final game.
The home crowd favourite traded breaks with the ninth seed Czech at the start of the second set, but Kvitova pulled clear, winning the final four games.
The match remained an intriguing battle in the decisive set, with both Li and Kvitova fighting furiously over break points.
Beijing’s National Tennis Centre erupted when Li saved a match point when she was losing 3-5, but her failure to save a second in the following game meant the 31-year-old still awaits her first major title on home soil.AFP