Pretty much what I expected.
Nole looked solid this tournament and I just don't think Rafa can compete with him on this surface at this time of year.
First 3 games confirmed that as they were over in a blink of the eye. Nole held serve very easy, attacked Rafa's serve and had him on a string in rallies. Nadal tried to compensate for the speed by standing in closer, but that also causes him to hit more unforced errors.
After that start, we saw Rafa really fighting to hold his games and Nole pretty much breezing through his service games with pinpoint accuracy on a solid first serve.
2nd set, with Nadal up 40-30, and losing that point on a mis-hit, I figured that may be all she wrote. Sure enough, Nole capitalized and never let his "A" game slip while Rafa just didn't have the weapons to compete.
For Nadal to compete with Novak on this surface, he is definitely going to have to tweak his game even more. Nole already is taller and has an easier time with Rafa's topspin to his backhand, but on this surface, those balls don't get any air and seem to spin right into Djoker's strike zone. This means, that Nole has no problem going into Rafa's forehand to set up space on that backhand side.
Plus, Nadal has to just put out too much in his service games. He is fighting for every service game, and that is his character, but just a little too much to ask I think here.
All in all, a great match from Novak. It reminded me a bit of the end of the 2nd and 3rd set at the US Open, when Novak absolutely dictated and dominated play against Rafa (before faltering). Right now, this may be Nole's time of the year for the foreseeable future. I don't really see Murray getting to him much either on these surfaces.
I would like to say that here at the China Open, Novak reminded me a bit of vintage Federer when he was hitting the corners of the service boxes with his groundstrokes in rallies and making it look so easy. His game can be a beautiful thing to watch.