Re: ATP Finals
In a remarkable final at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open Saturday, World No. 6 Nikolay Davydenko recovered from a bagel first set and saved two match points to edge No. 2 Rafael Nadal 0-6, 7-6(8), 6-4 and win his 20th ATP World Tour title.
By virtue of winning the ATP World Tour 250 hard-court tennis tournament, Davydenko received 250 South African Airways 2010 ATP Ranking points and $185,850, while runner-up Nadal earned 150 ATP Ranking points and $97,350 in prize money.
Victory takes Davydenko’s winning run to nine matches unbeaten, having closed 2009 with victory at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London. At both the season finale and in Doha this week, Davydenko recorded victories over Roger Federer and Nadal, making him the second player to defeat them during the same tournament on two different occasions after David Nalbandian beat them at ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments in Madrid and Paris in 2007.
The 28-year-old Davydenko maintained his stellar record in ATP World Tour finals, improving to a 20-5 mark. The Russian is the 38th player in the Open Era (since 1968), and the fifth active player, to win at least 20 ATP World Tour titles. He has now won his past six ATP World Tour finals, with his last loss coming at the 2008 Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai against Novak Djokovic.
It seemed unlikely that the Russian would maintain his winning ways, though, when Nadal won the first seven games of the pair’s ninth meeting to race to a 6-0, 1-0 lead. In a dominant display, Nadal surrendered just one point on serve in the first set. It was the first time in 338 matches that Davydenko had lost a 6-0 set and the 10th time overall in his career. He had never before recovered to claim victory.
“The first set was 6-0, everybody saw it," said Davydenko. "But if you saw the match, it was not so easy. I tried every point but Nadal had very good concentration and played very well every point. I really had the chance to win some games, but I played a little bit slowly, he played much faster."
The third-seeded Davydenko gradually rediscovered the form that had seen him overturn ATP World Tour Champion Federer in the semi-finals, though, and broke through to lead 3-2 in the second set with a rifling forehand pass up the line. However, the Volgograd resident could not serve out the set at 5-4, paying the price for some loose errors as Nadal levelled at 5-5 before forcing a tie-break.
Davydenko employed the tactic of approaching the net with great success to create a 4-1 lead in the tie-break, but again could not maintain his lead and Nadal hit back to hold match point at 6-5. Davydenko once more attacked the net to pressure Nadal, though, and was rewarded as he drew level at 6-6. In a spell where neither player was able to win a point on serve, Davydenko squandered a set point and quickly Nadal held a second match point at 8-7. A rare forehand error from the Spaniard proved costly though and Davydenko hit back to level the match with a backhand winner down the line on his second set point.
Nadal looked to be back on track early in the third set, quickly re-establishing the advantage by breaking to lead 2-1. The Spaniard allowed Davydenko back into contention in the sixth game, though, and lost his serve again in the 10th game as the Russian claimed a dramatic victory after two hours and 43 minutes.
"[In the second set] I started to find my game and started to come back. I should have won the second set at 5-4 with set point, but I didn’t and I was lucky in the tie-break," said Davydenko. "The match was long, I was really tired, but in the third set I still felt I had some power and maybe I could continue and win the match. I don’t know what happened to him at the end. He tried a winner at 4-4, he didn’t make it and it was 5-4 for me. I think he lost a little bit of concentration and lost the match. For me it was a really good fight today."
“I think I played an amazing level in the first set," reflected Nadal. "I had the match in my hands a few times in the third set and the second set, with two match points. I must be happy that I played against one of the players with the best performance on the tour (at the moment) and I was playing better than him during a lot of the match."
Davydenko improved to a 5-4 mark against Nadal and is the only player to have beaten the Mallorcan at least five times and hold a winning record against him. He also defeated Nadal in their two previous matches, triumphing in the final of the Shanghai ATP Masters 1000, presented by Rolex in October and in the round-robin stage of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, both times in straight sets.
Defeat for Nadal sees the left hander’s title drought continue. The reigning Australian Open champion last lifted a trophy on the ATP World Tour in early May with victory over Novak Djokovic at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome.
“Sure, it’s better to win, especially when you have the chance," said Nadal. "But, that’s tennis and probably this match I needed a little bit more calm. But playing at this level I am sure I’m going to win [a title].
“I think I did the most difficult thing and that was playing all the time at my best level. I’m probably playing better than ever, for the moment. There was one moment in 2008 maybe where I played like I did today in the first set. So that’s a very positive thing for me. I don’t know if I will win in Australia, but I think I’m in a very, very good way.”
After a stellar first five months of the 2009 ATP World Tour season, Nadal was hindered by knee tendonitis, that forced him to miss Wimbledon, and later an abdominal strain that affected him during the North American hard-court season. He closed the season on top form, though, leading Spain to the defence of the Davis Cup title.