Shanghai Flashback: Rafael Nadal matches Andre Agassi’s 870 ATP wins

Rafael Nadal defeated Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 6-7, 6-3 in grueling two hours and 32 minutes to reach the semi-final in Shanghai 2017. It was the second clash between Rafa and Grigor in two weeks and the second three-setter win for the Spaniard, who ousted the Bulgarian for the tenth time in 11 encounters and rattled off his 15th straight triumph. It was one of the finest matches in Shanghai that year, with many attractive points on both sides and more winners than errors. Nadal made the difference with the second serve, obtaining 17 out of 24 points and fending off both break points to keep his service games intact. Grigor gave his best to stay in touch, making a nice comeback in the second set tie break to send the match into a decider and prolong his chances. In the final set, the Bulgarian played one loose service game at 2-3 to give Rafa a crucial break and plague his chances.

The Spaniard saved a break chance in the encounter’s second game with a risky second serve, and two rivals stayed neck and neck until game nine. In the opening four service games, Dimitrov played on a high level before losing focus in the most decisive moment, offering Nadal three break points at 4-4 after two beautiful backhand down the line winners from world no. 1. Dimitrov repelled them but came short on the fourth when Nadal earned a break with a forehand winner. A backhand down the line winner gave Rafa a set point in game ten, and he brought the opener home with a service winner after 42 minutes.

Rafael Nadal earned his 870th ATP win against Grigor Dimitrov in Shanghai 2017.

Grigor started to play with more pace on his forehand in set number two and faced just one break point in the entire set, saving it in game five with a beautiful backhand volley winner. Nadal was rock solid in his service games, which led to an inevitable tie break after both players’ excellent performance. Grigor was 3-0 and 4-2 down in the breaker, but Nadal lost the seventh point when he netted a forehand. Two loose shots cost Rafa the set, dropping the last four points to hand the tie break to his rival.

The decider’s fifth game could have been crucial, as Nadal saved a break chance with a top-notch backhand crosscourt shot and broke Dimitrov in the next one to move 4-2 ahead! Grigor hit two double faults to keep Nadal in the game and missed an easy forehand to give the Spaniard a break chance. Another poor forehand sealed the fate of the Bulgarian, and Rafa did not need the second invitation, crossing the finish line with three service winners at 5-3. It was the 870th ATP victory for the Spaniard, matching Andre Agassi as the sixth most successful player in the Open era.¬†

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