The leader in the Emirates ATP Race To London is playing an opponent who is attempting to salvage his dreams of qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals in a blockbuster final at the China Open on Sunday in Beijing.
World No. 1 Rafael Nadal is pitted against No. 8 seed Nick Kyrgios in the fifth Fedex Head 2 Head meeting between the two (2-2) and the third of this season alone. Nadal won 6-3, 6-1 in May in the third round at the Mutua Madrid Open before Kyrgios won 6-2, 7-5 in the quarter-finals at Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati in August. This is their first meeting in a final.
Nadal is appearing in his fourth China Open final (1-2), having won his first and only championship in Beijing during his debut in 2005 (d. Coria). In both of the finals the Spaniard lost (2013, 2015), he fell to Novak Djokovic, who is out for the season due to injury.
The 31-year-old Spaniard is appearing in an ATP World Tour-best ninth final of the season (5-3) and the 110th in his career (74-35). The last time he won at least six titles in a season was in 2013, with 10, and winning his sixth of 2017 on Sunday would push him ahead of Roger Federer and Alexander Zverev, with whom he currently is tied at five titles, which leads the tour.
Nadal has saved 22 of 25 break points (88%) en route to the final, holding 47 of 50 service games (94%). He comes in on an 11-match winning streak and is trying to become the 12th champion on the ATP World Tour this season to capture a trophy after saving match point(s). He saved two match points in his first-round win over Lucas Pouille. The last time Nadal went on to win an ATP World Tour title after saving match point(s) was three years ago in Rio de Janeiro, where he saved two in a semi-final win against Pablo Andujar.
“I am very pleased the way that I have been playing the whole week, after saving a very tough first day,” Nadal said after his three-set semi-final win over Grigor Dimitrov. “Another chance tomorrow to compete in a big match. That’s important for me. That’s why we practice every day and we try to improve every morning.”
Kyrgios is appearing in his second final of the season, and his first since the Western & Southern Open (l. to Dimitrov). A victory over the Spaniard would give the Australian his fourth ATP World Tour title, with his last title coming one year ago in Tokyo (d. Goffin).
The 22-year-old Aussie leads the tournament in service games won, being broken only once (97%) and return games won, converting 14 of 21 (67%) break points over the course of the week.
But while this is the first time that Kyrgios is facing a Top 10 opponent in an ATP World Tour final, he has enjoyed plenty of success in big matches. Kyrgios is 14-20 lifetime against Top 10 competition (4-3 this year), including 8-8 vs. Top 5 foes.
The only previous time Kyrgios has faced a World No. 1, he came out with a victory, beating Nadal in the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2014 when he was still ranked No. 144.
Today, Kyrgios has moved to No. 15 in the Emirates ATP Race to London and he will go to No. 14 if he wins the title. The big-match man could take another big step toward qualifying for London’s Nitto ATP Finals for the first time if he could get past Nadal.