And the Best Player in the World is…
Nikolay Davydenko. I recently read an article about how in 2002, the official World Number 1 wasn’t the same as the best player in the world. Lleyton Hewitt was number 1 but Andre Agassi was the best. Well, I think that applies for 2010, too. At least right now, since Federer hasn’t been the best since the US Open. Roger Federer might be a living legend, but it’s hard to say he’s the best or most feared player on the ATP. That honor goes Nikolay Davydenko.
The guy beat a lot of the hottest players of 2009 in the World Tour Finals and has continued his success by beating World Numbers 1 and 2, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, to win the 2010 Qatar ExxonMobil Open title in Doha. After nailing 100% of first serves in the first set against Federer, he went on to claim a comfortable 6-4 6-4 victory over the Swiss. This in no way means that Federer’s on the decline (as everyone likes to assume) because I’d like to see anyone beat a professional male tennis player when he’s hitting 100% of first serves.
Then Davydenko performed a true miracle in coming back against the tenacious Nadal after being bageled in the first set and saving two match points in the second. For Nadal, there are some good and bad things to take from this loss. The bright side of this loss is that he finally got close to winning despite losing. This was the first time he won a set in a loss since his loss to Robin Soderling at Roland Garros.
The ugly side is that he choked against a guy who used to be known as a huge choker. But Davydenko is really bull dosing whatever mental blocks he once had. I know this wasn’t a slam or even a Masters event, but give the guy some credit for knocking out Nadal and Federer in his second straight tournament win!
“[In the second set] I started to find my game and started to come back. I should have won the second set at 5-4 with set point, but I didn’t and I was lucky in the tie-break,” said Davydenko. “The match was long, I was really tired, but in the third set I still felt I had some power and maybe I could continue and win the match. I don’t know what happened to him at the end. He tried a winner at 4-4, he didn’t make it and it was 5-4 for me. I think he lost a little bit of concentration and lost the match. For me it was a really good fight today.”
You know a guy is feeling good and confident when he’s saying he should have won at a particular moment against Rafa Nadal.
“Sure, it’s better to win, especially when you have the chance,” said Nadal. ”But, that’s tennis and probably this match I needed a little bit more calm. But playing at this level I am sure I’m going to win [a title].” If only he hadn’t choked.”
Roddick no Davydenko, and Neither is Radek…
Andy Roddick claimed his first title since Memphis by beating Tomas Berdych in three sets in the semifinals and then a straight-set-double-tiebreaker win over Radek Stepanek in the finals. Andy Roddick served for the title at 5-1 in the second set, blew that. Then was up 6-1 in the tiebreaker, and almost blew that before winning it 9-7.
“I don’t think I’ve ever squandered a lead where I’ve been putting in first serves and making approach shots,” Roddick said. ”And in the breakers it was the same deal. I kept making first serves so that was helping me hold on to the last shred of sanity I had.”
Nice to see he’s put the Wimbledon final out of his head.
Stepanek said, ”I was able to come back from 1-5 down in the second set against a player such as Andy with a tremendous serve, to break him twice in a row… I was fighting until the last point; I never gave up.”
Stepanek’s a real wily player and he’s playing some of his best stuff late into his career. He’s still a jerk.
As far as I’m concerned, this was an absolutely great win for the American. He’s not like Federer or Nadal who rack up big titles year after year. Since roughly 2006, Roddick has been winning about one or two titles a year and they’ve rarely been overly important. This is a great win for him over a few quality players early in the year and it’s especially good after all the tough losses he suffered last year in title matches (Federer at Wimbledon and Del Potro in Washington).
However, Roddick claims his knee isn’t as great as he’d like it to be and I think that any limitations he may have will be a huge factor should he face the top dogs at the Australian Open. As for Stepanek, well, last year he beat Fernando Verdasco to claim this title then suffered a double bagel in the final two sets when they played in Melbourne. This guy will always be a threat in a best of 3-set format, but I don’t see him doing any significant, if at all, damage at the slams.
A Growing Trend?
Marin Cilic successfully defended his title in Chennai when he beat Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka in another double-tiebreaker final. Everyone’s saying how great this year is going to be because the competition is so even and everyone is so great and the whole bit. So all these tiebreakers should be expected, no? Even Nadal and Davydenko played a helluva tiebreaker in their final. While the double-tiebreaker thing seems coincidental, I have a feeling there will be no shortage of tiebreakers played throughout this season. I’m going to look up the most tiebreakers ever played in one season and compare it to 2010 at the end of this year.
As for Cilic, it’s always good to see an up-an-comer defend a title (we’re still waiting, Novak). Cilic has been showing real promise since 2008 but had to wait until the 2009 US Open to reach his first slam quarterfinal. I think he surpasses that this year at least once but he hasn’t shown the champion’s mentality the way del Potro did when he broke through in ’08.
After winning, Cilic said, “Starting the year well like this gives me a lot of belief and satisfaction in all the work that I did in the off-season. I’m very proud to defend my title and win twice here. This is the best way possible and gives me a great perspective for the rest of the year. Obviously winning the title here will give me more confidence going into the Australian Open. I’ll have a week off now, go to Melbourne, rest and have a few days of practice before the tournament starts.”
I think he can make some real noise at this year’s first slam.
There’s not much to say about Wawrinka. He’s a good player who’s had good results here and there and has wins over three of the top four, but he’s not a real threat to anything big. He has reached a Masters final and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him reach maybe 1 or 2 more at some point, but I don’t see him winning anything besides some small titles here and there.
Spain wins Hopman Cup over Great Britian…
Because Andy Murray blew it. Despite helping draw large crowds at Perth, Murray really disappointed in losing to Tommy Robredo when he had the chance to clinch the tie. Spain was too good in doubles but I have to say it’s pretty damn hard to win a doubles match when you’re partner is 15 and 4 feet tall and a girl (I thought Laura Robson might get fatally injured every time she served to Robredo).
Murray did dismantle Robredo in the first set before the Spaniard really started going for it. More of the same of being unable to beat aggressive and hot players from the Scot in ’10? I don’t know what he could’ve done differently, to be honest. Robredo just caught fire and was hitting lines off of everything. He could do no wrong. Murray played fairly aggressive but hopefully he’s got more in store when the Australian Open comes around.
Australian Open Predictions:
I’m going to update this at the end of next week and once the draw comes out, but as of right now, I’m going to make some bold predictions. I’m also going to assume the draw will play out in a specific way that is impossible to validate.
Davydenko def Cilic in semifinal 1, Djokovic def Federer in semifinal 2. Djokovic def Davydenko to reclaim Aussie crown.
Also Check Out:
Off Season, What Off Season? Early 2010 Player Schedules
Early Road Easy For Federer, Nadal’s Draw Tougher at Wimbledon
Andy Murray at Hopman Cup: “I Didn’t Feel Very Fit Today, Hopefully That Will Improve”
Djokovic Reaches SF, Federer v. Roddick Ahead in Shangai
Nadal, Federer Lead 7 of Top 8 as ATP Season Begins