They're both former world number ones, both former Beijing champions, and both belong to the elite group of those who are arguably the most gifted tennis players to ever play the game, and they had only met once before, prior to Friday's quarterfinal. So we should consider ourselves lucky that we were rewarded with this match-up only weeks before Safin quits the game for good.
Despite Nadal winning comfortably 6-3, 6-1 in only a little over an hour, the match was far from a snoozefest and Safin made it quite competitive actually. Rafa was extremely focused though and whatever Marat threw at him, the world number 2 knew exactly what to do (including an acrobatic fall to the ground to dodge a shot from Safin).
The match had such a nice feel to it especially when both players approached the net to shake hands with huge smiles on their faces. Yes Safin was smiling!!
Although the Russian repeatedly said he wasn't interested in any farewell ceremonies until his very last tournament, the Chinese ended up throwing him a small farewell shindig anyway (see videos below).
It's awfully sad to see Safin play his last few matches, particularly when he's playing such good tennis like he played in Beijing this week.
Rafa's semifinal opponent will be 8th seed, Marin Cilic, who disposed of Nikolay Davydenko in straight sets earlier on Friday.
I don't know how many times am gonna keep saying this but Marat, you will be missed!