ATP Tennis 360

January 10, 2010 5:40 AM

Davydenko, what a comeback!|

davydenko_doha.jpgIn about half an hour Nikolay Davydenko was trailing 06 01 in the Exxon Open final. After over two hours of exhausting battle he lifted up the trophy after a someway bewildering 06 76 64 victory. Two photograms of an exciting afternoon when almost everything happens.

Rafa easily clinched the first set with a bagel in 32 minutes: 28 points to 11, 4 errors to 15, 10 winners to 4. Undoubtedly his best tennis since last June.

The Russian, who hit only 10% of his rally shots inside the baseline in the first set, introduced the "Playstation mode" in his game. Aggressivity, timing, anticipation, and some efficient, although far from esthetic perfection, volley. After a seven games streak, Davydenko won his first game cheered by an ovation from the crowd. In every other situation, this is not a good signal. Kolya started there his match.

Suddenly, he returned in Shanghai-form, adding pressure and touch, power and intelligence, to his strategy. More and more self-confident, he cracked Rafa from the baseline, forced the Mallorcan on the ropes and often clinched the points with astonishing solutions, like the crosscourt backhand volley or the backhand pass with unbelievably acute angle he showed to produce his first set point at 5-4 in the second set. Performance anxieties have always negatively affected his results, and returned in Qatar: he wasted three, not consecutive, set points and gifted Rafa the break with a bleeding double fault (the same Davydenko who against Federer served 27 first serves in out of 27 in the first set).

It's tiebreak time: Kolya dashed out 4-1, but a double fault (again!) let Rafa not to drown. In an instant we are at 4-4 and Nadal seemed near to the finish when he went serving at 6-5. Davydenko rushed to the net and forced Rafa to hit a pass into the tramlines. A crosscourt backhand winner let him serve for the set at 7-6. Kolya went wrong again. Two errors and Rafa served for the match again, but netted an easy forehand. In the end of the day, Davydenko imposed himself 10 points to 8.

The momentum definitely shifted towards the recent World Tour Finals champion, breaking soon in the third after a seemingly impossible crosscourt forehand pass.

When Rafa wasted two break points that could have launched him 4-1 up, in the sixth time Grand Slam champion's face some sign of frustration started to appear. The mental conditions are key for Rafa's game, and his self-confidence from that moment on fatally slowed down. First serve percentage started to worsen, his forehands remained deep but weren't destroying as before, and Davydenko returned to almost everything with even more powerful shots. The Russian dominated the rallies from the baseline, dictated strategies and times, and was capable of 52 winners (most of them arrived with solutions from the baseline).

Finally Rafa incredibly offered two matchpoints to Kolya with three errors. And the Russian finished the match with an unreachable crosscourt forehand.

In this way Kokya became the second player after david Nalbandian to have beaten twice both Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal in the same tournament.

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