Nadal crushes Dimitrov, Fritz escapes Isner to reach 1st ATP 500 final

Nadal crushes Dimitrov, Fritz escapes Isner to reach 1st ATP 500 final

On the women's side, 17-year-old Canadian Leylah Fernandez ended Renata Zarazua's Cinderella run to reach her first WTA final.

Two of the oldest adages in sport, “never give up”, and “it ain’t over ’til it’s over” rang as true as ever during Taylor Fritz’s Houdini-esque escape from John Isner Friday evening in Acapulco. The top-ranked American was dominating Fritz, up 6-2, 4-2 with three break point opportunities.

Fritz had all but packed his PlayStation 4, but somehow managed to hold serve from love and break Isner at 4-3. He stole another Isner service game up 6-5 to win the set 7-5. He then broke Isner for the third time in four games to start the third set. He held on and secured the 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory to advance to his first ever ATP 500 final. 

“This is huge for me,” Fritz said after the match.  “One of my biggest goals was to do well at the bigger events, I hope I can keep it going the rest of the year.”

Fritz was in disbelief after the match and acknowledged that fortune was on his side. “When John gets up a break he’s so good and confident, I changed my return position and went back to the fence, but in the end I just got lucky to be honest.”

“Id love to win my first 500 final,” Fritz added.  “No matter who wins (Rafael Nadal or Grigor Dimitrov) its going to be an extremely tough match.”

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Dimitrov’s momentary flashes of brilliance were not enough to prevent Nadal from advancing to his fourth Mexican Open final. The Spaniard bombed his forehand all night, hitting clean winners from far behind the baseline. After a routine first set, Dimitrov made things interesting by breaking Nadal for a 2-0 lead in the second. The Bulgarian played valiantly and applied plenty of pressure, but his one-handed backhand stood no chance against Nadal’s overwhelming weight of shot. The hour and 44 minute match was closer than the score indicates, but Nadal’s 6-3, 6-2 destruction was never in doubt.

Fritz has never faced Nadal before, but his rock-solid two-handed backhand should hold up well. The odds are heavily stacked against him, and a win would qualify as a possible upset of the year, but tall players (Fritz is 6’4”) with great backhands can trouble Nadal a little more than the rest. Perhaps Fritz’s coach Paul Annacone can devise an effective game plan for the 22-year-old.

In the opening match from stadium court, Great Britain’s Heather Watson dispatched 18-year-old Wang Xiyu in straight sets 6-4, 7-6 (6) to advance to her fifth career WTA final. Watson controlled the match from start to finish, surviving a strong late push from the rising Chinese star. Wang’s nerves failed her when it mattered most, as she coughed up a costly double-fault at 6-6 in the second set tiebreak. 

In the second women’s match, 17-year-old Canadian Leylah Fernandez ended Mexico’s Renata Zarazua’s Cinderella story with a comprehensive 6-3, 6-3 victory. Fernandez did well to take control of the match early, quieting the excitable yet respectful pro-Mexican crowd. 

“The crowd was amazing,” Fernandez said after the match. “I hope they come support me tomorrow.”

Fernandez, ranked No. 190 in the world and a Cinderella story in her own right, advanced to her first career WTA final. It may be a long while before you see another semifinal featuring two players ranked outside the Top-150. Fernandez will battle Watson Saturday evening for the title.