x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Resilient Davydenko rallies past Nadal

The World No 6 produces a stunning recovery after a first set humiliation in the final of the Qatar Open to snatch the title from the crowd favourite.

Nikolay Davydenko acknowledges the crowd after the win over Rafael Nadal in Doha.
Nikolay Davydenko acknowledges the crowd after the win over Rafael Nadal in Doha.

Nikolay Davydenko produced the most stunning of recoveries from a first set humiliation in the final of the Qatar Open to snatch the title from the crowd favourite Rafael Nadal ahead of the Australian Open. The Russian, ranked sixth in the world but brimming with confidence following his semi-final conquest of Roger Federer, shrugged off the despair of a desperately poor start to the Doha final to take it 0-6, 7-6, 6-4 after 2hr 43min of fierce confrontation. He deservedly claimed the 20th title of his career after saving two match points in the second set tie-break which he eventually took 10-8 on his fifth match point and provided further evidence of his tremendous resilience by overturning an early break against him in a tense deciding set. Initially Davydenko looked like a man who wanted the Khalifa Complex court to swallow him up. Nadal was all over him from the start, producing a brilliant backhand winner from well behind the baseline on his second break point to seize the initiative which he endorsed by serving out to love in the next game to take a 3-0 lead.

It was clear from that point that Davydenko, who looked so assured and impressive against Federer, was ill at ease and a ruthless Nadal took full advantage to race through the set in only 32 minutes. Davydenko refused to throw in the towel after the despair of squandering three break points in an 11-minute opening game of the second set and he finally opened his account in the eighth game to earn a thunderous ovation. The winner of the ATP World Tour Finals in November, responded superbly to that support and when a second chance to break Nadal materialised in the fifth game he accepted it with relish, drawing Nadal to the net and then passing him with the most confident of winners.

With games going with serve after that, Davydenko held three set points at 5-4 but could not covert any of them as Nadal defended stubbornly from the baseline before earning a break-back point of his own thanks to a lucky net cord. Seeing it converted would have broken the heart of most players but not Davydenko who regrouped for the ensuing tie-break to keep alive his hopes after those two Nadal match points. The momentum was with Davydenko at that stage but Nadal thought he had turned the tide his way by breaking first in the deciding set. Davydenko would not be denied, though, and left a frustrated world No 2 lamenting over what might have been as he prepares to defend his Australian Open title. @Email:wjohnson@thenational.ae