Are we in for a final “Shanghai Surprise” when Rafael Nadal and Nikolay Dayvdenko meet for the title Sunday? If the week’s results offer any predictive value then we’ll probably see Davydenko turn his ankle in the warm-up, but win the match when Nadal retires mid-way through the first set with a stomach virus.
Of course let’s hope that scenario doesn’t happen, but the way the week has gone it’s safe to say to expect the unexpected, which is just what we had more of today in the semifinals.
Few gave Davydenko a chance against the streaking Novak Djokovic especially after the Serb won the opening set 6-4. But the Russian turned the tables and clawed his way back to win in a third set tiebreak 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(1) after 3:03 of play.
“The match was three hours [in duration] and decided [on a] tie-break,” said Davydenko, “Who was better? I don’t know. He was better, but I won. He made many mistakes and also [lost] concentration.”
Said Djokovic who had won nine straight matches: “There was no problem. He played too good. I’m disappointed, because I think I played a great match.”
Meanwhile, for Nadal, no such marathon against his buddy Feliciano Lopez. After running his lefty countryman ragged from the baseline in the first set, Lopez, who woke up with an infection in his right foot, finally retired because of that same foot problem at 6-1, 3-0.
Said Rafa: “I’m in the finals, so that’s really important and really good news for me. It’s my first final after my comeback from the injuries. So it’s a very good result for me, and I’m very happy.
“Every week it’s really important for me. Every week [my] victories improve, improving my confidence, and that’s another important result in the final. So, sure, if I win tomorrow, it’s going to be [an] important change for me. I don’t know if I am in my best rhythm right now, but I saw the results, and the results are doing well, so that’s the good news.”
Lopez’s retirement was the ninth(!!) of the tournament which has to be close to some sort of record. Again, if the players are trying to collectively send the message that the season’s too long, consider it message received however it’s going to fall on deaf ears. Realistically, little can be done and there are far too many differing interests and parties involved.
And if you’re a big money event in Asia you have to be scratching your head a little bit after what transpired at the WTA stop in Beijing last week and the issue with all the retirements in Shanghai. It seems like the players just don’t want to travel that far this late in the season. Perhaps putting these events in concert with an extended Australian/Asian season may be worth investigating.
As for the Sunday, Both Nikolay and Rafa have very impressive records in finals. Davydenko comes in at 17-5 while Nadal is 36-10. Rafa also leads to head-to-head 4-2 however Davy does lead 2-1 on the hardcourts. And as I’ve said before, I think because he takes the ball early, hits the ball flat and can really dictate play with his backhand, he really matches up nicely against Nadal.
Dayvdenko is coming off consecutive three set matches while Nadal should be fresh having played just 3.5 sets in the last two days thanks to two consecutive retirements. And with a chance to finish No. 1 on the line (Rafa can close within 600 pts of Roger Federer with a win), I think Nadal finishes the job in Asia.
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