China Open 2017: Rafael Nadal, Simona Halep Advance with Wins

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistOctober 7, 2017

Rafael Nadal of Spain hits a return during his men's singles semi-final match against Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria at the China Open tennis tournament in Beijing on October 7, 2017 / AFP PHOTO / GREG BAKER        (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
GREG BAKER/Getty Images

Rafael Nadal reached the final of the 2017 China Open by beating Grigor Dimitrov in Beijing on Saturday, despite being forced to a third set. Nadal won 6-3, 4-6, 6-1, before Nick Kyrgios beat Alexander Zverev Jr. 6-3, 7-5 in the second semi-final of the men's bracket.

In the women's event, Simona Halep claimed the No. 1 spot in the WTA rankings by thrashing Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-4 to reach the final. Halep will play Caroline Garcia on Sunday after Garcia beat Petra Kvitova 6-3, 7-5.

It looked like the match would be smooth sailing for Nadal, who breezed through the opening set. Yet Dimitrov came back with some deft backhand shots, as well as some powerful forehand drives. The Bulgarian also secured two crucial breaks of serve and reeled off four games on the spin in the second set.

A set apiece seemed fitting for a match loaded with thrilling rallies. David Law of BBC Radio 5 Live was among those wowed by the frenetic, back-and-forth contest:

Nadal showed off his ability to react to setbacks, as he returned to form with a vengeance. The forehand led the way as he opened a 4-0 lead in the decider.

A terrific backhand winner finally got Dimitrov back on the board, per Tennis TV:

However, the decisive moment came when Dimitrov couldn't capitalize on a 40-0 advantage in the next game. Instead, Nadal held serve.

It was no surprise when Nadal soon closed out the set and the match to book his place in Sunday's final.

Later, Kyrgios had too much for an out-of-sorts Zverev. The opening set swung firmly in Kyrgios' direction when a crucial break of serve proved pivotal, per the tournament's official Twitter account:

Things didn't run as smoothly in the second set, with Zverev fighting his way into a 5-4 lead. However, Kyrgios soon turned on the style to win three games in a row for the set, the match and a place in the final.

ATP Media Info detailed how effective Kyrgios has been on serve during the tournament:

His serve-and-volley chops are sure to be tested by Nadal's defensive acumen, though.

A powerful service game was also the key to Halep's commanding win over Ostapenko. The Romanian earned praise from WTA Insider's Courtney Nguyen for the way she boomed serves across court:

Yet it wasn't all about the serve. The 26-year-old also leaned on more than a few quality backhand shots, such as these two relayed via the WTA's official Twitter account:

Halep rolled through the second set to make certain of her place in the final. In the process, she more than merited her new spot atop the women's rankings.

The tournament's official Twitter feed shared an image of Halep celebrating her newly won status:

Halep has achieved the No. 1 ranking, but Garcia is also a player on the rise after the way she beat Kvitova. The former built a 5-2 lead amid a fast-pace opening set defined by Garcia's serve-and-volley game on the hard court.

To her credit, Kvitova battled back, but she lost serve when tied 5-5 in the second set.

Garcia's match with Halep should be close, but Nadal looks untouchable in the men's bracket based on his form, even though Kyrgios has been playing inspired Tennis in Beijing.

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