Rafael Nadal survived a rollercoaster encounter with fourth seed Marin Cilic to power into Sunday’s final of the Shanghai Masters and a possible showdown with old rival Roger Federer.
The Spanish world number one, who has never won the tournament but is on a terrific run of form, finally saw off the Croat after saving three set points in the opener on the way to a tense 7-5, 7-6 (7/3) victory.
Number two Federer plays Juan Martin del Potro in the other semi-final later Saturday after the Argentine said he was fit despite hurting his wrist in a fall in the quarter-finals.
Cilic had only ever got the better of 16-time Grand Slam winner Nadal once in five previous meetings, but he made him work hard for this latest win.
Nadal, pursuing a seventh title this season, put Cilic under immediate pressure in the Croat’s first two service games.
But the 29-year-old Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion, eventually settled, only to squander three set points as Nadal hung on grimly.
In the next game, the 31-year-old Nadal capitalized, breaking Cilic on the way to claiming the first set.
With the crowd firmly in his favor, the Spaniard broke Cilic again in the third game of the second set, only for Cilic to break back for 3-3 when Nadal put his simple volley into the net.
An angry Nadal bashed his racquet twice on his knee.
They exchanged a further break apiece to race into the tie-break before a grateful Nadal pulled away at the last.