Nadal on brink of reclaiming top spot after Fognini scare

Fri Oct 4, 2013 7:27pm EDT
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(Reuters) - Rafa Nadal is one victory away from returning to the top of the world rankings after surviving a huge scare to beat Italian Fabio Fognini in the quarter-finals of the China Open on Friday.

The Spaniard will regain top spot if he reaches the final regardless of what current No.1 Novak Djokovic does in Beijing.

Djokovic, who needs to retain the title to have any chance of holding Nadal at bay, responded with a thumping 6-1 6-2 defeat of American Sam Querrey to set up a semi-final against Frenchman Richard Gasquet.

Nadal, who enlarged his grand slam singles haul to 13 this year by winning the French and U.S. Opens, has not been ranked one in the world since July 2011 but has produced a stunning run since returning from a long lay-off in February.

Fognini, ranked 19, nearly put a spanner in the works though before Nadal earned a 2-6 6-4 6-1 victory to reach the semis.

"It's (the number one ranking) something that doesn't create more pressure for me," Nadal, who will face fourth seed Tomas Berdych in the last four, said. "It's something that already happened in the past. If that happens again, good, it will be special for me, but we'll see.

"I am going to have a very tough opponent in front of me. In the end, it's another match. True, it's a little bit more special for the circumstances, but nothing else.

"It is not the moment to think about No. 1... it is the moment to think about Berdych."

Fognini was a point away from taking a 5-1 lead in the second set and an upset was well on the cards with Nadal seemingly troubled by a left-knee injury he suffered in the opening minutes of the match.   Continued...

Rafael Nadal of Spain returns a shot during his quarterfinal match against Fabio Fognini of Italy in the China Open tennis tournament at the National Tennis Stadium, in Beijing October 4, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Lee