Rafael Nadal is one victory away from returning to the top of the world rankings after surviving a huge scare to beat Italian Fabio Fognini in the quarter-finals of the China Open on Friday.

The Spaniard will regain top spot if he reaches the final regardless of what current number one Novak Djokovic does in Beijing.

Nadal, who took his grand slam singles haul to 13 this year by winning the French and US Opens, has not been ranked one in the world since July 2011.

Fognini, ranked 19, nearly put a spanner in the works though before Nadal earned a 2-6 6-4 6-1 victory to reach the semis.

"It's something that doesn't create more pressure for me," Nadal, who will meet either Tomas Berdych or John Isner in the last four, said.

"It's something that already happened in the past. If that happens again, it will be good, it will be special for me, but we'll see.

"I am going to have a very tough opponent in front of me. In the end, it's another match. True, it's a little bit more special for the circumstances, but nothing else.

"It is not the moment to think about number one. It is the moment to think about Berdych or Isner."