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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, October 7, 2016

 
Grigor Dimitrov

A brilliant Grigor Dimitrov broke Rafael Nadal's serve five times in a row bursting into the Beijing semifinals with a commanding 6-2, 6-4 victory—his first career win over Nadal.

Photo credit: Getty

Muttering to himself as he paced behind the baseline in a small circle, Rafael Nadal looked like a man boxed in by Grigor Dimitrov's dynamic performance.

There is a time and place for everything.

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Today's quarterfinal on the blue Beijing court was not the time or place for Nadal to face Dimitrov.

A brilliant Dimitrov broke serve five times in a row dismissing Nadal, 6-2, 6-4, to burst into the Beijing semifinals for the first time.

It was Dimitrov's first win over the former No. 1 in eight career meetings and launches the Bulgarian into his sixth semifinal of the season.

Dimitrov will face third-seeded Milos Raonic, who swept 38th-ranked Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta, 6-4, 6-4, for a spot in the China Open final.




Bursting out to a triple break point start, Dimitrov set the tone of aggression from the start. The 20th-ranked Bulgarian effectively drilled his inside-out forehand to force Nadal into defensive positions pressuring the Spaniard from the first ball with an opening break.

A hard-charging Nadal attacked behind a backhand clubbing a high forehand volley to break back for 2-all.

Continuing to run around his backhand and drive penetrating forehands that pushed Nadal onto the Beijing sign embedded several feet behind the baseline, Dimitrov scored his third straight break for 3-2.

Both man are at their best running around the backhand to fire the forehand and wrench command of points, but Nadal's forehand failed him for stretches of the opening set.

A jittery Nadal sprayed another forehand wide handing Dimitrov his eighth break point. Digging in, Dimitrov fended off a series of heavy forehands from the 14-time Grand Slam champion drawing another error and his fourth break for 5-2.

Stepping up to the line, Dimitrov slashed a pair of aces around a forehand winner sealing an assertive set in 43 minutes.




After a bathroom break search for clarity, Nadal returned to court, but couldn't flush forehand errors from his game. Trying to target Dimitrov's one-handed backhand with heavy topspin forehands, Nadal sailed yet another  forehand to drop serve for the fifth consecutive time to open the second set.

Dodging another break when a full-stretch flick from Dimitrov died in the top of the tape, Nadal finally held after 58 minutes of play for 1-2.

Adopting more aggressive court positioning, Dimitrov impressed with his ability to defend his backhand from Nadal's forehand strikes and his willingness to crack the one-handed topspin on big points rather than try to neutralize Nadal with slice.

Sliding around the court for full-stretch forehand flicks as if imitating a young Nadal, Dimitrov earned two more break points in the seventh game. Curling the slice serve wide on the ad side, Nadal bended low cracking a forehand down the line to save the second break point, eventually holding for 3-4.

Empowered by that stand, Nadal earned break points in the eighth game, but Dimitrov withstood the test and Nadal was left leaning over his racket ruing lost opportunities.

Digging in, Nadal denied the first match point with a bullet into the corner.




On the second match point, Nadal put a forehand return into net concluding the 93-minute quarterfinal. Dimitrov played a cleaner and bolder match committing only 20 errors compared to 32 for Nadal.

In an all-British battle, Andy Murray subdued Davis Cup teammate Kyle Edmund, 7-6 (9), 6-2.

The top-seeded Murray will face old nemesis and sometime practice partner David Ferrer in the semifinals.

The 34-year-old Ferrer fought off 19-year-old Alexander Zverev, 6-7 (4), 6-1, 7-5 in a gripping two hour, 21-minute quarterfinal. Ferrer won 10 of 14 points played on the German's second serve and converted all three break point chances in the decisive set.

Murray has won 13 of 19 meetings with Ferrer, including winning six straight against the Spaniard. In their last encounter, Murray scored a four-set win over Ferrer in the Australian Open quarterfinals in January.


 

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