Rafael Nadal calm ahead of crunch match as Li Na bows out in Beijing
Agence France-Presse in Beijing
World number two Rafael Nadal said yesterday he felt no extra pressure heading into a semi-final at the China Open which could see him return to the top of the men's rankings.
However, in the women's tournament, it was heartbreak for Chinese star Li Na, who was dumped out in her quarter-final 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 by Petra Kvitova.
Nadal, the number two seed in Beijing, staged an extraordinary comeback against Fabio Fognini in his quarter-final to keep alive his hopes of unseating Novak Djokovic at the top spot.
He will now have to beat Czech fourth seed Tomas Berdych today to return to the top for the first time since July 2011.
"It's something that doesn't create me more pressure," Nadal said. "It's something that already happened in the past. If that happens again, it will be good, it will be special for me, but we'll see.
"I am going to have a very tough opponent in front. In the end, it's another match. True, it's a little bit more special for that, but nothing else."
Nadal looked to be heading for a crushing defeat in his quarter-final after Fognini claimed the first set and powered to a 4-1 lead in the second.
But Nadal broke the Italian's serve in the seventh game, before winning the next three to take the second set 6-4.
Fognini, who is ranked 19th in the world, won the opener of the third set. But Nadal sealed his passage through to the semi-finals by claiming victory in the remaining games to seal the match 2-6, 6-4, 6-1.
Current China Open champion Djokovic has spent 101 weeks at number one, but can only remain top in the rankings if he reclaims his title and if Nadal fails to reach the final.
Li, the 2011 French Open winner has twice reached the semi-finals in Beijing, and looked set for her third appearance when she took the first set by breaking Kvitova's serve in the final game. But Kvitova pulled clear, winning the final four games.
Beijing's National Tennis Centre erupted when Li saved a match point when she was losing 3-5, but she failed to save a second in the following game.