Rafael Nadal continued his assault on the Shanghai Rolex Masters title on Thursday, which would further boost his chances of finishing year-end No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings for a fourth time (also 2008, 2010, 2013).
The Spanish superstar was at his dominant best against Italian Fabio Fognini in a 6-3, 6-1 victory that set up a quarter-final clash against sixth seed Grigor Dimitrov, who is hoping to join Nadal at next month’s Nitto ATP Finals.
“I played a very good match. I don’t know how many mistakes, how many unforced errors, but very few. And I played very well in all aspects,” Nadal said. “ I have been doing things very well. So otherwise, of course, big result, 6-3, 6-1 against a player like him that he can winning [against] Verdasco and Pouille, two good matches, for sure today is a very good result for me, and being in quarterfinals of course is great news.”
Nadal opened up a 3-0 lead and lost just six of his service points in the 31-minute first set. The second set was not much different, with the left-hander breaking immediately and only strengthening his lead. The Italian earned two break points at 1-3 to get back on serve, but Nadal quickly turned them away and went on to close out his victory in 62 minutes. Nadal advances to his fourth quarter-final in Shanghai as he pursues his first title at the event.
It could have been far more tense for Nadal, who had lost three previous matches against Fognini, including a five-set defeat at the 2015 US Open. But instead, he broke four times to cruise, extending his FedEx ATP Head2Head lead over the World No. 28 to 10-3 with his fifth win in a row, including his third this season.
Nadal also became the first player to break the 10,000-point plateau in the Emirates ATP Race To London, bringing his total to 10,045 as he plays out his 150th-career week atop the Emirates ATP Rankings.
The 31-year-old Nadal is riding a 14-match winning streak and is now an ATP World Tour-best 63-9 on the year. He has sunk his teeth into a tour-leading six trophies in 2017 (Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid, Roland Garros, US Open, Beijing) and can extend his lead over Roger Federer and Alexander Zverev, who have five each, with his first triumph in Shanghai.
It will not get easier for the 2009 finalist, who next plays Dimitrov for the second time in as many weeks, after defeating the Bulgarian in three sets in Beijing. While Nadal leads his next opponent 9-1 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head, both of their matches this season have been tight. At the Australian Open, it took the Spaniard four hours and 56 minutes to win their semi-final tilt. But perhaps this match-up is even more important for Dimitrov, who currently sits in fifth place in the Race, and can qualify for London if he reaches the final this week.
“I gonna have a tough match against Grigor,” Nadal admitted. “I know I have to play my best if I want to keep having chances of success. I hope to be ready to do it, because I am playing well.”