Rafael 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 Sam Querrey to set up a semi-final against Richard Gasquet.
Nadal 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.
Fognini was a point away from taking a 5-1 lead in the second set and an upset was well on the cards but Nadal found his form in the nick of time.
Meanwhile, in the women’s event, Serena Williams brushed aside Dane Caroline Wozniacki 6-1 6-4 to advance to the semi-finals. She will meet third seed Agnieszka Radwanska.