RAFAEL NADAL BEATS MANARRINO IN BEIJING TENNIS & PLAYS GRIGOR DIMITROV IN QUARTERFINALS

Written by: on 6th October 2016
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Tennis China Open
RAFAEL NADAL BEATS MANARRINO IN BEIJING TENNIS & PLAYS GRIGOR DIMITROV IN QUARTERFINALS

epa05573127 Rafael Nadal of Spain reacts after defeating Adrian Mannarino of France in their men's second round match of the China Open tennis tournament at the National Tennis Center in Beijing, China, 06 October 2016. EPA/ROLEX DELA PENA  |

By Ricky Dimon

 

Rafael Nadal booked a spot in the quarterfinals of the China Open by beating Adrian Mannarino 6-1, 7-6(6) on Thursday night. Nadal needed one hour and 51 minutes to set up a Friday showdown with Grigor Dimitrov.

 

Adrian Mannarino of France in action against Rafael Nadal of Spain during their men’s second round match of the China Open tennis tournament at the National Tennis Center in Beijing, China, 06 October 2016. EPA/WU HONG

The fourth-ranked Spaniard took a third consecutive set this week by a 6-1 scoreline after double-breadsticking Paolo Lorenzi in the opening round. But Mannarino righted the ship thereafter, breaking back to recover from a 3-1 deficit in the second and eventually force a tiebreaker. The Frenchman saved one match point at 5-6 in the ‘breaker, but the loss of a volley exchange on his 6-6 service point proved to make the final difference.

 

“I think I played a fantastic first set; great level of tennis, serving very good, hitting so good,” Nadal reflected. “During the second set, I slowed the rhythm a little bit and he played very well. I feel very happy that I won that tiebreak; I think I played with the right amount of determination in the tie-break. It’s very important for my confidence to pass through these tough moments.”

 

Dimitrov had more than a few tough moments against Lucas Pouille in their second-round clash on Thursday. In fact, Pouille even served for a straight-set victory only to succumb 6-7(3), 7-6(0), 6-4 in two hours and 25 minutes. Twice in the second set Dimitrov found himself two points from defeat, but he managed to storm back and deny what would have been a rematch of a fourth-round U.S. Open five-setter between Nadal and Pouille (won by Pouille 8-6 in the final-set tiebreaker).

 

“I just believed today,” Dimitrov explained, “especially in the second set when he was serving for the match. I felt I was playing good tennis. I just missed a few opportunities early on and throughout the second he was playing really good. All I could do was stay composed, try to hit every ball that I could, and use every opportunity. They came a bit late, but I’m pretty happy with it.”

 

Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria in action against Lucas Pouille of France during their men’s second round match of the China Open tennis tournament at the National Tennis Center in Beijing, China, 06 October 2016. EPA/ROLEX DELA PENA

Nadal and Dimitrov will now be squaring off for the eighth time in their careers. The head-to-head series stands at 7-0 in favor of Nadal, who has defeated Dimitrov four times on hard courts. They last faced each other indoors in Basel last fall, when the Spaniard got the job done 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. Their most memorable encounter has come in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in 2014, when Dimitrov led early but ended up losing 3-6, 7-6(3), 7-6(7), 6-2.

 

It is shaping up to be a productive week for Nadal in the race to Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. Both Nadal (in seventh place) and Gael Monfils (in sixth place, and currently in the Japan Open quarterfinals) are extending their lead over eighth-place Dominic Thiem. Thiem fell in the Beijing first round to Alexander Zverev and Berdych lost right away at the Japan Open to Gilles Muller. Nadal will be at least 85 points ahead of Thiem and 220 points clear of Berdych heading into next week’s Shanghai Masters.

 

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand.

 

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