By Justin Bergman, AP
BEIJING–Rafael Nadal was knocked out of the China Open in his third match back from an extended injury layoff, falling to big-hitting qualifier Martin Klizan of Slovakia 6-7 (7), 6-4, 6-3 on Friday.
The second-seeded Spaniard struggled with Klizan’s power game and his own consistency in the quarterfinal, finishing with an uncharacteristic 37 unforced errors and just 21 winners.
Nadal said an upset like this was natural “when one player plays bad, plays without rhythm, no confidence on the shots, having more mistakes than usual, being not confident how to play the points, and how to win the points.”
Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, meanwhile, set up a semifinal showdown with convincing wins over two young players enjoying breakthrough seasons.
The top-seeded Djokovic defeated Wimbledon semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria 6-2, 6-4, while sixth-seeded Murray took out U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic 6-1, 6-4.
In his first tournament since Wimbledon because of a wrist injury, Nadal looked sharp in his first two matches in Beijing and, against Klizan, he even led 7-6, 4-2 with a break point. But after the Slovak won that game, he turned around and broke Nadal twice to take the set.
The 14-time major winner said he knew it would be difficult to return to the tour during the hard-court Asian swing, where the courts are quick and the draws loaded.
“I am going to work hard with the right attitude to play better than what I did today,” he said. “I will be happy if I finish the season and I am able to take a one-and-a-half-week holiday, then practice for one month in perfect conditions to try to start the next season with positive feelings.”
Djokovic’s patience and experience showed against the fifth-seeded Dimitrov, who broke the Serb twice in the second set but was unable to build on the momentum, making costly errors to give the breaks right back.