Raise your hands if you had Novak Djokovic and Nikolay Davydenko in the final of the Tennis Masters Cup at the start of the week. Well, I’m betting not many folks did and of course I’m one of them, but that’s what we are left with for the best-of-three set final on Sunday, a true Shanghai Surprise.
Djokovic today nudged out surprise semifinalist Gilles Simon 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 in a hard-fought affair while a gassed Andy Murray didn’t have it against the steady and stoic Nikolay Davydenko, going down to the Russian 7-5, 6-2.
While the results today weren’t terribly shocking, what is is the final we are left with. What a strange way to end the year, with no Roger Federer, no Rafael Nadal in the final nor one of the many new faces that really burst onto the scene in 2008 and qualified for Masters Cup.
The D&D match will still make for some good tennis, but the shine will certainly be off the final a little bit.
Murray though has nothing to hang his head about. No doubt losing to Nikolay is disappointing, but beating Federer like he did Friday may prove more beneficial down the road than had he lost to Swiss and won today. You could spin it either way which is good for Andy who has now defeated Federer in four of six meetings.
Federer should also be feeling good about the way he literally got up off the mat and nearly stole one from Murray. Fed would be now advised to skip his Asian exo swing, heal-up and start thinking about 2009 because if he thought 2008 was difficult, well 2009 is going to be that much tougher and he’s going to need all the energy he can get.
As for tomorrow, Djokovic always seems to rise up when Roger and Rafa fall and this time it’s no different. And I’m impressed with how he’s handled himself this week which is really an important one in that a strong Shanghai performance keeps him in the No. 1 conversation next year, and he got it with a chance to add to his points tomorrow against Dayvdenko.
Djokovic of course already beat Nikolay during the round-robin. The Serb is also the favorite, the better player and he has far more firepower than the Russian, but I’m going to lean on Nikolay to win this one. And this may sound silly (and feel free to prove me wrong), but I’m picking him because I don’t think a player in the modern era has won the Masters Cup after having lost a set 6-0 leading up to the final. Plus, that 6-0 bagel set Novak lost, that was to Davydenko!
Ah, sweet revenge for the Russian on the ATP which defiled him with all those gambling accusations. Maybe this final is fitting after all…
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