Davydenko Soars Past Nadal, Federer

Qatar Open 2010
By Hiland Doolittle, January 11th, 2010

Will the real Nikolay Davydenko please show up in Melbourne? The 28-year old Ukrainian star marched past Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal for the second consecutive tournament. As usual, anyone who beats the top two players in the world deserves to win the tournament. Davydenko set Federer down in the semis and stormed past Rafa in the finals to claim the Qatar ExxonMobil Open.

Davydenko continued his late season mastery of the world’s top players with a surprising win over a very sharp Nadal. Nikolay is far and away the hottest player on the tour. It seems like the winner of the Melbourne title will have to play through the surging Russian force to claim the title. These days, that is no easy feat. In the wake of his sweep at the year-ending Barclay’s World Tour Finals, the Qatar champion has now won nine consecutive matches. He is only the second player in history to defeat Roger Federer and Nadal in successive tournaments.

With the win, Davydenko becomes just the fifth active player to win at least 20 WTP events. He is the 38th player since 1968 to accomplish the feat. Impressively, he has established himself as a clutch player having won his last 6 ATP World Tour finals.

The way the day started, he seemed an unlikely winner. Nadal stormed out of the warm-up, winning the first seven games of the match. Nadal’s play in this stretch was impeccable.

Down 0-1 in the second, the third seeded Russian came into form to gain a 5-4 advantage. But, Rafa was ready and sprung the break to knot the set. In the tiebreaker, Nikolay charged the net and either hit winning volleys or forced Nadal errors to jump ahead 4-1. After several breaks, he sealed the set with a backhand winner.

Nadal got a quick break in the final set to go ahead 2-1. Davydenko broke back at game 6 and won the match with a break in the 10th game. On paper, the final result reads 0-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4. In reality, the win is bigger than that. A bit on wonder must be on the minds of the world’s two top seeds. “Who is that bald, masked man?”

Despite the loss, Rafa was pleased with his play. Always selling his game, Rafael Nadal wants the tour to know that when e played well, he played very, very well. “Sure, it’s better to win, especially when you have the chance. But, that’s tennis and probably this match I needed a bit more calm. But playing at this level, I am sure to win a title… I don’t know if I will win Australia, but I think I’m in a very, very good way.”

In his heart, he may have seen enough of Davydenko for a long while.

Roddick Serves to Victory

When the outcome seemed inevitable, strange things happened. Yet, Andy Roddick persevered in a match that provided huge momentum swings and tow tiebreakers. When it comes to tiebreakers, the hard serving Andy Roddick dials up his big weapon and goes to work, just as he did in the finals o the ATP World Tour Championsho0m in Brisbane.

With a 7-6 (2), 7-6(7) straight set win over defending champion Radef Stepanek, Roddick served notice that he has healed from the hip injury that sidelined him for five weeks after his heartbreaking loss to Roger Federer at Wimbledon.

The first set was balanced. Each player held serve throughout. With Stefanek serving, Roddick had a set point at 4-5 but Rafek was able to hold. In the tiebreaker, Roddick har4d serving and aggressive play led to many unforced errors by Stefanek.

In the second set, Roddick continued the momentum, jumping out to a 4-1 lead. Again, Stepanek elevated his game and stopped pressing shots. He climbed ahead at 5-6 and had a break point for the set. Roddick blazed a first serve winner to stem the tide and force a tiebreaker.

Again Roddick started fast and stormed to a 6-1 lead. Again Radek bounced back only to be undone by a fault at match point.

With then win, the American moves ahead of Lleyton Hewitt in third place among active players with 20 or more wins. He is the only active player to have won at least one ATP title each of the last ten years. Play was not on a par with Nadal and Davydenko, but it was a vintage Roddick win. Andy does not lose matches he should win and he wins a few when he is the underdog. That is a formula for success.


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