Second seed Rafael Nadal was knocked out of the ATP500 China Open in the capital, Beijing, by Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov, who took a convincing 6-2, 6-4 victory over the Spaniard in the pair’s quarter-final.
Nadal was taken to break point by Dimitrov on nine occasions in the first set alone, saving only 5 of those; he was able to pull back significantly in the second set, with the Bulgarian only breaking once, but the effort was perhaps a little too late for the Spaniard.
Dimitrov, who put in an athletic performance today, combated most shots by Nadal, reaching for shots with full-body stretches as he taxed the Spaniard to force an error, a tactic Nadal's compatriot Fernando Verdasco put to good employ at the Australian Open this year.
Nadal committed a glaring 32 unforced errors during the course of the match, Dimitrov with a relatively tame 20 in comparison.
The result is especially shocking given the pair’s head-to-head record; Nadal had won every one of the seven matches the two had played against each other in the past.
Andy Murray, top seeded in Beijing in the absence of defending champion Novak Djokovic, beat compatriot Kyle Edmund in an all-British quarter-final, taxed by an in-form Edmund, who took the World No. 2 to a first-set tiebreak and put up a solid fight against his higher-ranked countryman.
In perhaps the longest-fought quarter-final here, St. Petersburg title winner Alexander Zverev put up a contest againt Spanish ace and former top-10 David Ferrer, even scalping the first set off the higher-ranked player after taking it to a tiebreak. Ferrer held on to take the next two sets, however, and eventually took a 6-7, 6-1, 7-5 win.
Zverev, who has quickly ascended the rankings in 2016, is the youngest player in the top 30 – and has now made his way to the top 20. The German teenager, whose older brother Mischa Zverev is also active on the ATP Tour, took his first ever ATP title at St. Petersburg, beating US Open champion Stan Wawrinka for the trophy. He became, as a result, one of the few players to win an ATP title in their teens.
Dimitrov will next play 2016 Wimbledon runner-up Milos Raonic, who beat Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta 6-4, 6-4 in his own quarter-final, while Andy Murray will play David Ferrer.
Nadal is currently in 8th in the race to the ATP World Tour Finals in London, just five points behind Austrian ace Dominic Thiem; he is followed closely by Tomas Berdych, who won the title at the Chengdu Open – his first tournament after recovery from appendicitis surgery. Despite his form, Thiem has struggled with consistency this year, however, which will factor into his performances en route to London.
Although it is likely Nadal will qualify, that fact is not entirely certain. Potential drop-outs from the tournament, or inconsistencies from the top 7 could speed up his cause, and with two Masters ahead for the otherwise in-form Spaniard, he should be able to make up the points needed to qualify.