BEIJING (AFP) - Rafael Nadal was forced into a third set before the world No. 1 piled the pressure on Grigor Dimitrov to reach the final of the China Open on Saturday (Oct 7).
The 31-year-old Spaniard, enjoying a late-career flourish and chasing a sixth title this season, beat off the Bulgarian third seed 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 in their semi-final on Beijing's outside hard courts.
Nadal, good friends with Dimitrov, will face German prodigy Alexander Zverev or temperamental Australian Nick Kyrgios in Sunday's final.
Dimitrov battled back from a set down to take it to a deciding third set.
But with the crowd behind Nadal and Dimitrov visibly tiring, the 16-time Grand Slam champion stepped up a gear to ram home his superiority.
In Tokyo, France's 31st-ranked Adrian Mannarino secured a spot in the final as he overpowered top seed Croatian Marin Cilic at Japan Open on Saturday.
Mannarino defeated big-serving Cilic, runner-up to Roger Federer at this year's Wimbledon, with a 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 6-0 win in a fierce match which lasted for nearly three hours.
The 29-year-old Frenchman now faces Belgium's David Goffin, who beat Cilic in the semi-final in Tokyo last season.
Goffin, 26, booked a place in the final after a tight two-hour match against eighth seed Diego Schwartzman from Argentina.
Goffin finished off Schwartzman, who put an end to the impressive run of world No. 46 Steve Johnson on Friday, with a 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (8-6) victory.
Both the first and second sets went to tie-breaks but the match ended when Schwartzman hit a backhand long of the baseline.
The Japan Open has been played since 1972 and its previous winners include a roll-call of the game's greats, including Ken Rosewall, John McEnroe, Pete Sampras, Federer and Nadal.