SHANGHAI // Nikolay Davydenko advanced to the semi-finals by beating Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 6-2. Knowing the winner would advance, Davydenko's defense and relentless groundstrokes were the difference, turning an expected tight match into a rout.
He broke Del Potro's serve four times in eight chances. "Today, I played so good," Davydenko said. "I feel great." Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France ended his Masters Cup drought with a 1-6, 7-5, 6-1 victory over Serbia's Novak Djokovic, who already had clinched a spot in the semi-finals. Del Potro was unable to put much pressure on his Russian opponent in the first set, connecting on only 42 percent of his first serves.
Serving while trailing 4-3, Del Potro double-faulted to set up break-point. Davydenko put away a forehand winner off a short ball for the game, then held at love for the set. After Del Potro held to start the second set, Davydenko won five straight games. Del Potro held to get to 5-2, but Davydenko finished it off in the next game. Tsonga, eliminated after losing his first two Gold Group matches in his debut at the season-ending tournament, also looked listless before coming alive and winning five consecutive games from 5-5 in the second set to take control.
Djokovic beat Tsonga in the Australian Open final in January for his first Grand Slam title but has now lost their past three meetings, including at the Paris Masters two weeks ago. Tsonga, who has won over fans in Shanghai with passionate play and powerful serve, was unusually subdued early in the match, showing only flashes of the form that carried him to the title in Paris, an event he had to win to qualify for this tournament.
Djokovic, continuing his efforts to end the stranglehold that Federer and Nadal have had on the top two spots in the rankings, broke Tsonga twice while finishing the first set in just 25 minutes. Tsonga pulled himself together in the second set, saving two breakpoints while serving at 2-2, then finally broke through as Djokovic served at 5-6. The Serb had four unforced errors in the game, sending a forehand long on set point. Another four mistakes handed Tsonga an early break in the third set. Tsonga broke again to take a 5-1 lead.
He then held at love, flicking a lob winner on match point. A four-time Masters Cup winner, Roger Federer also has to win tomorrow to get through. He faces Britain's Andy Murray, who has won both his games in the Red Group and already has guaranteed himself a place in the semi-finals. Gilles Simon of France still has a chance if Federer falters. He will play Radek Stepanek, who replaced Andy Roddick when the American pulled out with a sprained ankle suffered in practice.
* Associated Press