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November 16, 2008

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2008 Tennis Masters Cup
Shanghai, China - November 16, 2008
Editorial by Jane Voigt


Jane Voigt Photo
Jane Voigt

Novak Djokovic Wins TMC, Zimonjic and Nestor Win Title & Number One Ranking
November 16, 2008 -- Novak Djokovic didn't want to make too many unforced errors today in his final of The Masters Cup against the #5 seed Nikolay Davydenko. The #3 seed here in Shanghai had racked up 55 unforced errors in his previous match with Gilles Simon. However, with as much control and mastery of the ball he'd shown at the Australian Open in January, Djokovic ended the year with a book-ending defeat of Davydenko: 61 75.
"I'm extremely satisfied," Novak said in a one-on-one interview reported by the ATP. "The way I started the year is the way I ended it."
With a combination of precise and powerfully deep groundstrokes, and serving superiority, Djokovic took his place on court with a demeanor that radiated his intentions -- stay on task, be patient point by point. He controlled the match and attacked aggressively when positioned well. It seemed that he had waited for this very match to unload his brilliant version of tennis. He was relentless, a man with a blind ambition and mission.
Davydenko's first serve percentage -- 47% -- left the court wide open for Novak's dominance in second return points won: 63%. Davydenko had served poorly in other finals, but this was his first major final and fans expected that what they witnessed yesterday against Murray would have carried over to today. It didn't. The audience tried to revive his troubled game with applaud and standing ovations at times. After one brilliant drop volley, as Djokovic served for the match the first time, a wry smile floated across the Russian's face as if to signal fans that he might mount a counterattack. But even when the pressure was off, he couldn't find any rhythm. He couldn't find a groove. In the end Djokovic was not to be denied.
After he won a point, he would turn to his box, pump his fist, grit his teeth, and fill his chest with pride. At times, he and his supporters seemed alienated from the thousands of fans there to witness this match. A tone of defiance and arrogance, which has been assigned to Djokovic in the past, was difficult to watch at moments. The divisive nature announced a "you versus me" platform, something tennis may do well without. However, it was what he needed to do to win. For that, he cannot be faulted.
However, this platform of superiority and aloofness drew negative applause between serves, as he went for the title at 5/4. He'd missed the first serve. People clapped as if to say, Aha... even you the prideful one makes mistakes. Novak raised his racquet, in reply, and clapped it in a sarcastic gesture of more defiance. He lost the game. The score was evened: 5/5. Davydenko had his moment. Get another game. Get to a tiebreak. Get to a third set. But, he couldn't. And like his match against Simon, Novak needed a second attempt to close the match, which he accomplished: 7/5.
The awards' ceremony was one of the biggest gatherings to adorn a center court in many years. On hand were sponsors, government representatives and players. The Vice Mayor of Shanghai kicked things off with an elongated speech. The audience booed and chortled, trying to force her to stop. She went on about the tournament itself, "the great ATP," the generous sponsors. The Vice Mayor has definitely learned the basics of marketing. In the last segment of her speech, she praised the transition of Shanghai from its current year-ending status to its status as a Masters 1000 Series stop in 2009. Nikolay Davydenko did not laud Djokovic for his victory, in his acceptance speech. English is not his first language, and his nerves probably rattled him to the extent that he simply forgot to extend the normal accolades to his opponent. But he did congratulation sponsors, the Chinese government (they had to be coached on that), the ATP, and the audience... "Especially the Russians," he said. Djokovic dedicated his win to his country. (He lists his residence as Monte Carlo, though.) He was kind and generous in his comments to all supporters of the event. This major achievement was his fourth of the year.
"I'll work hard in my off season," Novak said, as reported by the ATP. "I'll try to prepare and be consistent with the results next year. I look forward to defending my title at the Australian Open." In the doubles competition, Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic (also from Serbia) dethroned Mike and Bob Bryan from their #1 doubles rankings with a straight sets win of 76(3) 62. Nestor and Zimonjic played together on tour for the first time this year; therefore, their victory and rise to the number one ranking spot made this occasion remarkable. The Bryans and Nestor and Zimonjic had played four times. Each match went three sets. However, today with three break chances the twins couldn't convert one, which may have made a difference in the score. Before the beginning of the 2008 doubles season, almost all top-ten teams switched partners in an effort to unseat the Bryan brothers.
When the South African Airways singles rankings come out tomorrow, the top three men will be unaltered: Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic.
One detraction from his title -- Djokovic didn't play either Nadal or Federer to win in The Tennis Masters Cup. Many may hold that against Novak, but the purity of his win today should be enough to etch his victory solidly into the minds of fans.
A few changes are coming up for the ATP schedule in 2009. Shanghai won't host the year-ending championships, as it has done for the last three years. It will be, instead, a Masters 1,000 event October 12-19, with a 54-person draw. The Tennis Masters Cup will be presented in London, at Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, November 23-30. Madrid moves to May 11-17 as an outdoor clay court tournament, not a fall indoor hard court tournament. The Roger's Cup will move from Toronto, Ontario, to Montreal, Quebec, as a Masters 1000 stop from August 10-17.

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