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Nadal crushed by Cilic in China semi-final

WORLD number two Rafa Nadal's comeback came to a shuddering halt today when he was crushed 6-1 6-3 by Croatian Marin Cilic in the semi-finals of the US$6.6 million China Open.

French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, the highest surving women's seed, beat fellow Russian Nadia Petrova 6-1 6-3 in just over an hour to ease into her fourth China Open final, where she will play France's Marion Bartoli or Pole Agnieszka Radwanska.

Top seed Nadal had talked this week of getting back to the kind of form he enjoyed before tendinitis of the knees and an abdominal injury disrupted his season.

With his first final since May in his sights, however, the Australian Open champion simply had no answer to the power of the eighth seeded wildcard, who will meet Novak Djokovic tomorrow.

"Cilic is good, is young and has a very good serve but if you are losing 6-1 6-3 there are a lot of things you are doing wrong," said Nadal. "Mentally I probably wasn't there."

Cilic, in his first meeting with the former world number one, led 5-0 after just 15 minutes of the first set and allowed Nadal just two break points in the match, both in the second set.

"He played very fast at the beginning, played very well. It was very difficult for me, he was serving unbelievable, returning very fast and playing winners almost all the time," said Nadal.

"The worst thing for me is when I had a little bit of a chance to come back into the match in the second set I didn't play well."


Even the vociferous support of the centre court crowd could not rouse Nadal to anything more than token resistance and Cilic sealed victory with a rasping forehand on his fifth match point.

"I played good tennis today, I was hitting well, I didn't give him too much time to adjust", said the 21-year-old world number 15.

"I've played Djokovic three times and lost three times but this time I'm playing good. I believe if I can put in a performance like I did today, I'm sure I have a shot."

Second seed Djokovic beat Swede Robin Soderling 6-3 6-3 in a match that was closer than the scoreline suggested to take his place in the final.

The Serbian, now assured of moving above injured Andy Murray to reclaim the world number three spot, outscored the sixth seed 6-4 in the ace count and kept his errors to a minimum.

"The result is not really a picture of the whole match," said Djokovic. "He's a big server and a big hitter and was aggressive throughout. I had to be very patient and take my chances when they came. Another great win."

The 22-year-old will be playing in his eighth final of the season tomorrow but he has only twice come away with a victory, at Dubai and Belgrade.


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