Novak Djokovic has brushed off David Ferrer 6-2 6-3 to reach the China Open final, where old rival Rafael Nadal stands between the Serb and a sixth title in Beijing.
Top-ranked Djokovic suffered the inconvenience on Saturday of having his service broken for the first time at this year’s tournament, but still raced to his 28th win at an event where he is yet to be beaten.
In the women’s semis, established names fell to rising stars as Garbine Muguruza beat Agnieszka Radwanska 4-6 6-3 6-4 and Timea Bacsinszky knocked out Ana Ivanovic 5-7 6-4 6-1.
And on a cold day in Beijing, Nadal stared down his nemesis Fabio Fognini 7-5 6-3 to reach his first hardcourt final this year as he searches to recover the form which brought him 14 Grand Slam titles.
Eighth-ranked Nadal, stopped at his beloved French Open by Djokovic this year, admitted the world No.1 was now in a different class despite his winning record of 23-21 in their head-to-head.
“I know today Novak is not in my league, it’s a different level from me this year,” Nadal said.
“So for me be in the final is a great news and tomorrow is a match to try to enjoy and try to play the way that I want to play, and we’ll see.”
As the night match got underway, 10-time major-winner Djokovic had dropped only nine games en route to the semis and he soon had Ferrer gasping with two breaks of serve to go 4-1 ahead in the first set.
Ferrer, who won his 25th career title last week in Kuala Lumpur, conjured a break of his own but the stung Djokovic broke straight back and finished the set impressively in the next game.
Two more breaks in the second set put Djokovic on his way and despite a mini-implosion, when he double-faulted twice and was broken as he served for the match, a sixth break of the Ferrer serve earned him victory.
Nadal’s path to the final was much less smooth, but he grittily outpunched Fognini, who has beaten him three times this season and with whom he had a furious on-court row in the Hamburg final in August.
Nadal denied an extra edge to the match in Beijing, but his lukewarm handshake at the net and apparent exchanges between his coach and uncle, Toni Nadal, and Fognini told a different story.