Helluva match. Helluva way to open the 2010 tennis season!
Nikolay Davydenko has really come to play some ball this year, at least so far. Just a few hours ago Davydenko completed another improbable double – beating Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the same event – this time in Doha. Denko stormed back from a 0-6 fist set destruction and two matchpoints to outlast Nadal in the end 7-6(8), 6-4 in a terrific first title match of the new decade.
This was the Russian’s second straight win after his year-end victory in London where he also beat Federer and Nadal. Remarkable!
Davydenko has now won five of nine career meetings with Rafa including three straight and four of five. The guy just matches up really well with Rafa. It’s no surprise. His backhands, court positioning and angles really offset a of what Nadal offers.
Hell, the guy shook off a bagel still got Nadal. A great feat! How many can say they’ve done that?
In the bigger picture, we know Dayvdenko’s playing well, but well enough to reach a major final or even walk away with a Slam title? I’m still not convinced mentally he has that in him. He’s shown flashes in the past at the majors of semifinals but was never able to get over that hump. Maybe these recent wins will give him that added boost. Remember, he’s always been an “under the radar”, the underappreciated guy. Now he’s slowly stepping out of that role and maybe into a new one as favorite. Let’s see how he handles it.
For Nadal, no real cause for panic, yet. Winning isn’t easy when you haven’t won. Justine Henin had her foot on Kim Clijsters’ throat today, but couldn’t finish the job. Nadal had his on Denko’s, same result. Both players are great champions, but both haven’t won titles in so long – Nadal’s last in Rome, Henin a few year ago – that when you haven’t held up a trophy in a while it can be tough crossing that finish line. I think a little of that figured into what happened to both of them today, and of course the opponent as well.
Then again, I also have to ask when the last time Rafa had a real big match win in a tournament? This would have been it, but really since his win over Novak Djokovic in that epic Madrid match, he’s been thin on the quality wins. And that’s a little worrisome with the Australian Open just ahead where I’m sure he’ll run into another top player.
But Nadal should be encouraged by the week assuming his body/knees were fine afterward, and for him that’s the key. And he did feed Davydenko a bagel in that first set!
Overall, with the Clijsters-Henin and Davydenko-Nadal finals, what a spectacular way to begin the year – let’s hope the rest of the year can measure up! And we still have a potential good one later today with Andy Roddick and Radek Stepanek in Brisbane. I’ll pick Red, White and Blue in that one.
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