The top seed, seeking his seventh tour-level crown of the year, knocked out #NextGenATP American Jared Donaldson 6-2, 6-1 in 54 minutes on a rain-hit day at the Qi Zhong Stadium.
Nadal, the 2009 finalist in Shanghai, had to bide his time to notch his first service break. At 2-3, Donaldson dropped to 0/40 and held off five break points before his Spanish opponent clinched the game in a run of seven straight games – from 2-2 in the first set to a 3-0 lead in the second set. He broke 21-year-old Donaldson, a contender for next month’s Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, for a fourth time to take a 5-1 lead in the second set.
“It was a very quick match in all aspects,” said Nadal. “I think Jared started playing very well at the beginning, serving big, and then hitting very strong from the baseline. Of course, I started trying to play a little bit more safe, without looking for big shots… Of course, I was happy to get that break in the 3-2 in the sixth game. It helped me that he made some double faults, two double faults. Then I played some good points, I think. After that I think I played a great match. Not many mistakes.”
Nadal, who returned to No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings on 21 August, is seeking to become year-end No. 1 for the fourth time (2008, 2010, 2013). He has amassed a 62-9 match record in 2017, including trophies at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters (d. Ramos-Vinolas), the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell (d. Thiem), the Mutua Madrid Open (d. Thiem), Roland Garros (d. Wawrinka), the US Open (d. Anderson) and last week’s China Open in Beijing (d. Kyrgios).
“If that happens, it will be, I think, a very important achievement for me,” said Nadal. “I will be year-end No. 1 four times in my career, with so many years of difference I think it’s something very difficult. But there remains work to do.”
The 31-year-old Nadal has also clinched his place at Nitto ATP Finals, to be held at The O2 in London from 12-19 November.