Marian Cilic will face second seed Novak Djokovic in the final of the China Open on Sunday after handing world No. 2 Rafael Nadal his first defeat in Beijing.
Top seed Nadal, who won the tournament in 2005 and also claimed the gold medal at the 2008 Olympics, lost 6-1 6-3 to the eighth-seeded Croatian wildcard entry to end his 14-match winning run in the Chinese capital. Djokovic defeated French Open finalist Robin Soderling 6-3 6-3 to set up a chance of winning his third ATP Tour title this year, and will now overtake Andy Murray to reclaim third place in the world rankings released on October 19. Cilic reached his eighth ATP Tour final, having also already won two titles this year, but now faces a player he has lost to in all three previous encounters. “I think this time I’m playing better here at this tournament. I believe I can give a performance like I did today, and if I can do as well as I did today then I think I have a shot,” the 21-year-old told the ATP Tour’s official Web site. “From the beginning of the match to end I didn’t let my level of play drop. I was aggressive when I had to be. In the second set when he came back the match wasn’t easy, but I think I kept with what I did in the first set and the best thing was that I didn’t back off and I was just as stubborn with my style of play.” It ended former world No. 1 Nadal’s first tournament since the U.S. Open, where he was hampered by an abdominal problem before losing to Juan Martin Del Potro in the semifinals.
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“He played well and it was very difficult to play for me,” the Spaniard told www.atpworldtour.com. “I had a chance to come back in the match and I didn’t play very well. “He didn’t serve that well. He gave me many chances to play and I was under pressure in the first game of the second set. I had a lot of pressure. I can do better next time. I must do.” Former Australian Open champion Djokovic was delighted after extending his season record to 62-17. “I’m very pleased,” the 22-year-old said. “You know I’ve been No. 3 for a while and Murray played well the last eight months and got to No. 2 in the world. What makes it best for me is that I deserve it. “For this sport it’s always best to have players switching spots at the top — it makes it interesting and gives the crowd something to cheer about.” Soderling suffered his fourth consecutive defeat against Djokovic, but the Swede is still in contention to claim one of the three remaining places at the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London in November. Meanwhile, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga improved his chances of qualifying for the eight-man showpiece by reaching the final of the Japan Open, where he will play Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny. The second seed, who is seventh in the ATP standings, defeated fellow Frenchman Gael Monfils 6-3 6-3 in just 56 minutes on Saturday. Unseeded Youzhny battled past eighth seed and 2001 champion Lleyton Hewitt of Australia, winning 6-2 5-7 7-5 in two hours and 40 minutes.