Davydenko Wins His Biggest Title Ever
November 29, 2009 -- Nikolay Davydenko won the biggest title of his life today in London at the Barclay's ATP World Tour Finals against Juan Martin del Potro, setting the record straight that small doesn't mean a hill of beans when it comes to tennis.
Davydenko defeated all the men who claimed major titles in 2009, on his way to today's victory: Rafael Nadal (Australian Open), Roger Federer (French Open, Wimbledon) and the U. S. Open (Juan Martin del Potro). He also became the first Russian to win this year-end tournament, which began in 1970.
The Russian came into today's competition fresh off his first defeat of Roger Federer, a man Davydenko had never gotten a set from in twelve prior matches. A win as big as yesterday's semifinal for Davydenko could have made the difference today in his confidence, mental focus, and ability to stand down even the biggest of opponents, which is none other than six-foot-six del Potro.
Davydenko controlled the match from the first ball struck to the last point tallied, winning it 63 64. He goes home, or off to the sunny beaches of an out-of-the-way resort, with $1.5 million and 1,500 ranking points, which could elevate his ranking currently at #7.
Del Potro was a step behind Davydenko for much of the match, as he applied pressured redirecting the ball with precision and serving well at critical points. He saved three of three break points, perfectly demonstrating the level of tennis he achieved during the hour and a half match.
Thereafter, del Potro began to hammer Davydenko with flat forehands -- the shot that cornered Roger Federer in the U. S. Open final. But it's not nice to corner an angry Russian, especially if one of the mauling shots lands short -- thwack up the line with a razor sharp backhand. Del Potro's hands went up in disbelief. But he tried again, and at times angled the shot well enough to call it a clean winner.
Del Potro's serve stopped the onslaught frequently, too. However, Davydenko's serve was on! He had 7 aces to del Potro's 8. Davydenko's first service points won was a stellar 87%, and 58% on points won on second serves. His return game outshined del Potro's, which was one of the big man's chief assets.
Del Potro, however, stood too far behind the baseline for much of the match, especially when receiving serve. Davydenko sent serves out wide to the Argentine's forehand, clearing the court for a put away off his return. Had del Potro stood a bit closer to the baseline he would have, at least, cut down on the angles available to Davydenko.
Davydenko's movement and ball timing, though, won him the match. They consternated Federer, the master of taking the ball on the rise. They did the same to del Potro, forcing him to track ball after ball from the far reaches of the court and hit them off balance. Every time Davydenko got his opponent on the ropes, he timed a winner up the line or crosscourt. These shots were beautiful. Fans loved these points.
No one would put money on Davydenko eight days ago, even though he'd made the finals last year. However, how was he to slay the real giants of expectations -- the top four -- Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, and Murray? He never played Murray this week because of the round robin format. But he did play the other three, losing only to Djokovic in three tight sets.
Davydenko came in the Barclay's year-ending tournament with no expectations for himself. Maybe that mindset allowed him to dance through the tournament without a care in the world. He likes to lay low. Doesn't want attention on or off court. That way he can go about his life without attracting stray onlookers. Simplicity has its rewards.
In 2010, Nikolay Davydenko should make one goal -- win a major. If he can win this tournament, which is considered by many as the fifth Grand Slam of the year, he can win a major. You would think he had the game for grass, but he has never gone beyond the quarterfinals (2007) at Wimbledon. He has been to the semifinals once at The U. S. Open (2006) and twice at The French Open ('05 '07). He has made the quarters of The Australian Open three years running: 2005, 2006, and 2007.
The time is right, Nikolay Davydenko. Time has come more breakthroughs.
Congratulations on an outstanding championship.