Rafael Nadal kept alive his hopes of wresting the top ranking from Novak Djokovic by rallying for a 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 win over Fabio Fognini of Italy in the quarterfinals of the China Open on Friday.
Nadal, who needs to reach the final here to have a chance of displacing Djokovic, was down a set and a break but changed the tempo of the match with a timely service break.
The Spaniard seemed to struggle at times with a niggling left knee injury, but wore down Fognini after that hard-fought service break in the seventh game of the second set.
Fognini started well as he broke in the second game and then held to lead 3-0. He was soon leading 5-1 but failed to hold serve despite holding two set points as he hit wide on one occasion and found the net on another.
The Italian recovered quickly in the next game to clinch the set with a superb cross-court return when Nadal was serving at 30-40.
Fognini again ran up a 3-0 lead in the second set and was serving with a lead of 4-2 before Nadal seized control of the match.
It was the third straight victory over Fognini for Nadal, who next plays the winner of the quarterfinal match between American John Isner and Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic.