Rafael Nadal fought back from a set down to beat hard-hitting American Jack Sock and reach his first hardcourt semi-final in more than a year at the China Open on Friday.
The Spanish great, scrapping to recover his form after a tough year, was frequently outgunned by Sock’s howitzer forehand but he dug deep to see off the world number 30, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Nadal’s hardcourt semi-final drought had stretched back 10 tournaments to Beijing last year, but he will now play either Fabio Fognini or Pablo Cuevas for a place in Sunday’s decider.
On a cold, sunny day, Nadal paid for a slow start when he was broken in the first game. Sock’s big forehand kept Nadal under pressure throughout the set which he ultimately yielded with a double-fault.
But the 14-time Grand Slam-winner hit back by breaking first-up in the second set, and he gave a fist-pump of relief and satisfaction when he eventually levelled the match 6-4.
They slugged it out to 3-3 in the third until Sock blinked first, handing Nadal three break points, and for once the American’s forehand misfired as he shanked a routine shot high into the stands.
And it was another miscued forehand which settled the quarter-final as Sock, serving to stay in it, hit one long to hand victory to Nadal on his first match point.
Among the later quarter-finals, Beijing’s unbeaten five-time champion Novak Djokovic, the world number one from Serbia, is in action against another powerful American, John Isner.