Nadal comes up short against inspired Davydenko
Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:50
Rafael Nadal is out of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals following another straight sets defeat in Group B against a player bang in form, losing 6-1 7-6(4) against Nikolay Davydenko.
Following Robin Soderling’s 6-4 6-4 defeat of the Spaniard on Monday, the world No.2 looked set to make an ignominious exit after being blitzed by the Russian in a first set that was over in less than half an hour.
But after slipping a break behind in the second set the Spaniard gave the sell-out crowd a glimpse of his trademark fighting spirit, recovering from a break down twice to reach a thrilling tiebreak.
It wasn’t enough to keep him in contention for either the match or the World Tour Finals against Davydenko, who thrived in the quick conditions at the O2 arena to post his first win in Group B after losing to Novak Djokovic on Monday evening.
It is the first time Nadal has failed to reach the semi-finals in his three appearances at the season finale.
“That’s sport,” said the Spaniard afterwards. “I didn’t arrive with the confidence you need to win these matches. In the moments I had to play well, I didn’t play well. I made mistakes.
“I fought a lot in both matches, tried my best, had a positive attitude, but it wasn’t enough. But like I said, that’s sport. You have some better moments, some bad moments. When you have the bad moments, you have to work to improve.”
None of that should detract from another impressive performance from Davydenko, who raced into a 3-0 lead as he played an aggressive brand of tennis that Nadal simply couldn’t come to terms with.
A double fault from the Spaniard helped the Russian break for the second time, closed the set out with an ace, and carried on in the same vein at the start of the second set, with many assuming the job was done when he broke for a 3-2 lead.
But Nadal responded in style as Davydenko, perhaps affected by the notion of posting such a high-profile victory on the big stage, handed the break straight back.
The world No.2 crouched in celebration before unleashing a string of signature fist-pumps, and when the Spaniard took a 5-4 lead the match looked to be back in his hands. But the shaky confidence of the past few months returned, and Davydenko broke to serve for the match, only to be broken himself once more and sending the second set into a tiebreak.
With both men giving it everything early on, the Russian came out on top, finishing the match with a forehand winner.
Davydenko refused to get overexcited by a second consecutive victory over Nadal. A win over Robin Soderling, the first semi-final qualifier, on Friday will see him progress.
“I’m not so happy,” said the Russian, who apologised to the stadium fans for “disappointing” them by beating the popular world No.2 “It’s a round-robin, it’s not like I’ve won the tournament. I showed my best tennis today, and we’ll see if I can do the same thing on Friday.”
In the doubles, the Bryan brothers posted a 6-3 6-4 win over Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes to keep their bid to regain the year-end No.1 spot alive.
The American pair lost their opening match against Max Mirnyi and Andy Ram, but were always in control against the Czech/Indian duo and need to win all three matches to oust Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic.