Davydenko advances to semis at ATP World Finals
AP Sports Writer
LONDON (AP) – Nikolay Davydenko grabbed the last semifinal spot at the ATP World Tour Finals by beating Robin Soderling 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-3 Friday, knocking defending champion Novak Djokovic out of the tournament.
Davydenko, Djokovic and Soderling all finished with two wins in the round-robin phase, but the third-ranked Serb was eliminated on sets. Soderling had already secured advancement and finished at the top of Group B.
Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal 7-6 (5), 6-3 earlier Friday, handing the Spaniard his third straight loss at the tournament.
Davydenko will face top-ranked Roger Federer in Saturday’s first semifinal match. Soderling will take on U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro later in the day.
Davydenko, who reached the final of the lucrative season-ending tournament last year, broke Soderling for the first time to take a 4-2 lead in the decider and converted his second match point when the Swede missed an easy forehand at the net with a wide-open court.
The Russian, who double-faulted on the first match point, reacted with a stunned look of disbelief before letting out a celebratory yell.
“I was thinking now (it will be) deuce, I already need to think about my serve,” Davydenko said. “I could not believe, he cannot hit (it) out because these balls should be in. I don’t know why he (made the) mistake.”
In a match that featured plenty of big serves but few memorable rallies, Soderling was up a mini-break at 4-3 in the first-set tiebreaker but lost four points in a row. The Russian converted his first set point with an overhead smash.
Soderling, who reached his first Grand Slam final this year at the French Open, slipped when running to the net while serving at 4-3 in the second set and fell hard to the ground. He got up seemingly unscathed and later got the first break of the match to go up 5-4 before serving out the set.
Both players allowed few break opportunities, with Davydenko winning 80 percent of the points on first serve to 78 percent for Soderling.
Davydenko has struggled with a sore left leg this week and said he did not practice on Thursday, opting to get treatment on the tight muscle instead. Now he has little time to recover ahead of Saturday’s early semifinal match against Federer.
“Today was less pain, and I could run,” he said. “For sure, I need to be fit for tomorrow.”
Nadal struggled for the third match in a row and finished with nearly three times as many unforced errors as winners – 35 to 12. He needed medical treatment on his lower back at 2-1 in the second set, then was broken in the next game.
The second-ranked Spaniard saved two match points in the final game before sending a backhand wide on the third.
Djokovic had even more errors (37) but hit 21 winners and made fewer mistakes than Nadal when it mattered.
Nadal had broken back twice in the first set to reach the tiebreaker, where he shanked a couple of forehands and quickly fell behind 6-2. He saved three set points before sending a forehand wide.
Nadal said he lacked the “necessary calm” at decisive moments.
“For example, the forehand in 6-5 of the tiebreak, was an easy ball,” he said. “And when you are playing good, that wouldn’t be a problem, that ball. But, you know, I had the mistake, I lose the set, and with that set the match.”
Nadal leaves the tournament without having won a single set, and is now on a four-match losing streak after falling to Djokovic in the semifinals of the Paris Masters this month. It’s his worst streak since finishing 2003 with consecutive first-round losses in Basel, Madrid and Lyon and then starting 2004 with a loss to Thierry Ascione in Chennai, India.
Djokovic entered the tournament on a 10-match winning streak after taking back-to-back titles in Basel and Paris, but said his recent successes have taken a toll.
“I’m exhausted from the season,” he said. “I think it’s obvious on the court that I’m not moving, and I’m not that energetic as I was maybe in Paris or Basel.”