Russia s Daniil Medvedev celebrates after beating Germany s Alexander Zverev during their men s singles semifinal match at the China Open tennis tournament in Beijing on October 3, 2023. AFP
The world number three faces a showdown on Wednesday with either Italy's Jannik Sinner or second-ranked Carlos Alcaraz -- the tournament favourite in the absence of tennis legend Novak Djokovic.
The semi-final got off to a close-fought start but Medvedev then notched a crucial break of serve and managed to see out the first set.
It was a similar story in the second set, with the Russian breaking for 5-3 and serving out the match with a pair of fierce aces.
"Today was a perfect service match. I don't think there was one bad thing I can say about my serve," Medvedev said at a post-match news conference.
"I think the fact that the play was faster -- the faster the court is, the easier you can hit aces... (and) the easier you feel when stepping into the serve," the 27-year-old said.
"Today I was going faster and I was really not thinking much about anything, just serving."
Scare for Sabalenka
The top-ranked women's player Aryna Sabalenka said her performances in "key moments" were crucial to surviving a major scare in the second round, after she defeated unseeded Katie Boulter 7-5, 7-6 (7/2) in Beijing.
Sabalenka saved seven break points at 5-5 and then forced the stubborn Briton, ranked 56th in the world, into a rare backhand error to clinch the opening set.
The Belarusian notched another must-win break in the second set to again draw level at 5-5 before triumphing in a tie-break by slamming down an unreturned serve.
She will battle Italy's Jasmine Paolini in the next round for a place in the quarter-finals.
"I think what made the difference was that in the key moments I played a little bit better than her," Sabalenka said at a post-match news conference.
"I think it was all about those last games in each set. She had the opportunity and I'm super glad that I didn't give her those sets easily."
"I kept fighting, kept trying, and that's what made the difference," she said.
Gauff hails 'mental victory'
US Open champion Coco Gauff also had to dig deep to get the better of Croatia's Petra Martic in a rollercoaster tie that lasted three hours.
Martic was serving for the match against Gauff but the world number three fought back to take the game and went on to dominate the ensuing tie-break, winning 7-5, 5-7, 7-6 (7/2).
"Today was a mental victory. I was happy I was able to get through it," said Gauff, who will face Russia's Veronika Kudermetova in her next match.
"I was just telling myself to keep suffering, it will be over in a couple of seconds," the 19-year-old said.
"I knew I could outlast her. I just had to be consistent, but also aggressive."
World number two Iga Swiatek shook off a rain delay to glide past France's Varvara Gracheva 6-4, 6-1 to set up a date with fellow Pole Magda Linette.
"I didn't want to rush. I just wanted to be patient and really consistent with my tactics. I'm happy that I did that," Swiatek said.
Fourth-ranked Jessica Pegula bounced back from a set down to beat Russia's Anna Blinkova 6-7 (2/7), 6-2, 6-1.
The China Open is taking place for the first time since 2019 after Beijing ditched its isolationist zero-Covid policy.
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