ATP Shanghai quarterfinal preview: Grigor Dimitrov vs Rafael Nadal

The two clash again on the hard courts of China with the Spaniard winning their semifinal duel last week.

ATP Shanghai quarterfinal preview: Grigor Dimitrov vs Rafael Nadal
Nadal and Dimitrov battled in an instant classic in the Australian Open semifinal (Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Rafael Nadal and Grigor Dimitrov are set to battle once again after meeting in the semifinals of the China Open just last week. Nadal edged out Dimitrov in three sets before crushing Nick Kyrgios in the final. 

This time, they meet in the quarterfinals of the Shanghai Rolex Masters. The pair will be second on Stadium Court after Marin Cilic and Albert Ramos-Viñolas play for a spot in the semifinals against the winner of this matchup 

Head-To-Head

The world number one owns Dimitrov with a stunning 9-1 head-to-head record. Nadal's only loss to the Bulgarian came in Beijing last year and is 2-0 against the world number nine this year, which includes a stunning five-setter at the Australian Open. 

Nadal is 5-1 on hard courts against the world number nine starting with their first-career meeting in Rotterdam in 2009. 

Road To The Quarterfinals

Nadal was given a bye in the first round for being the top seed and opened his account against Jared Donaldson. The American was thoroughly outclassed by the Spaniard only being able to win three games. In the third round, the world number one met a familiar foe in Fabio Fognini. The Spaniard proved to be too much for his Italian foe.

Similarly to Nadal, Dimitrov started off the tournament with a bye due to his status as a top-eight seed. Unlike Nadal though, Dimitrov had to battle in his opener. Down a set, the world number nine was able to level it before falling behind in the decider. Dimitrov gutted out a win in a deciding set tiebreak. Against Sam Querrey, it was a more straightforward win with his only real concern coming in the second set tiebreak.

Analysis

Dimitrov has gone the distance with Nadal in both the Australian Open and Beijing this year, courts that play quite fast for hard courts. Shanghai plays the fastest of the Masters 1000 events, being listed as "medium fast" in the court index. 

Being on a faster court, Dimitrov could use his weapons to his advantage to trouble Nadal, but also note that the world number one can counter his pace with more pace, which is something he likes to do.

Dimitrov has the bigger serve of the two, but Nadal has been serving faster on hard courts this year which has seen him earn much better hard court results than in the past few years. Both men are very close in terms of groundstrokes, but the slight edge has to go to Nadal with the power, spin, and angles that the Spaniard can find. 

Volleys are close call as well, but once again the world number one has the edge there. Mental edge is by far and away where Nadal runs away over the Bulgarian. A 9-1 head-to-head and arguably playing the best tennis of his career gives him a huge amount of confidence headed into this one.

Prediction: Nadal in three sets