Cilic, Djokovic set title clash

BEIJING: Croatia’s Marin Cilic dealt Rafael Nadal his heaviest defeat in nearly two years today, earning a 6-1, 6-3 victory at the China Open to set up a final with Novak Djokovic.

The eighth seed’s surprise win was the first loss in Beijing for the Spaniard, who as top seed had set a blistering pace all week. Djokovic powered into Sunday’s final after a 6-3, 6-3 win over Sweden’s Robin Soderling. The Serb stands at 3-0 over Cilic, including a victory this season in Dubai.

Djokovic, the second seed, improved his record over French Open finalist Soderling to 4-0 and maintained pace as the top winner on the men’s circuit with 62 victories in 2009. Nadal’s defeat was the heaviest he has suffered since going down 6-0, 6-1 to Russian Mikhail Youzhny in the Chennai final in January, 2008.

The Spaniard stood a perfect 14-0 in the capital after winning the 2005 China Open and claiming the Olympic gold medal in 2008. But Cilic, who lost just two points on serve in the first set, ripped through it with six aces and set up match points on two separate occasions in the eighth game of the second with untouchable serves.

The desperate Nadal saved them both, breaking to stay alive at 3-5 but Cilic broke back for the upset victory. The loss was Nadal’s ninth of the season against 58 wins and five titles. Nadal was playing this week for the first time since the US Open due to an abdominal muscle pull.

On the women’s side, Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova

will try to improve a 1-2 record in Beijing finals when

she plays against Polish

12th seed Agnieszka Radwanska. Kuznetsova, 2006 winner, overcame fellow Russian

Nadia Petrova 6-1, 6-3. Radwanska beat France’s Marion Bartoli 6-4, 6-3.