Rafael Nadal stared down his nemesis Fabio Fognini on Saturday with a spirited 7-5, 6-3 victory to reach the China Open final and set up a shot at a redemptive title in Beijing.
Nadal has lost three times to Fognini this year, including at last month's US Open, but he redressed the balance with a tight win and will now play Novak Djokovic or David Ferrer for the trophy.
The 14-time Grand Slam winner has been far from his best this year but he was clearly buoyed by the victory as he ripped off his bandana and saluted the crowd in the Chinese capital.
On a chilly, breezy day, both players started unconvincingly, suffering two breaks of serve each in the opening games with Nadal also sending down three double-faults.
They steadied to take it to 6-5 for Nadal but Fognini wobbled as he served to stay in the set, wilting in the rallies as he finally gave up the decisive break and smashed the ball into the stands in anger.