November 11, 2008

Djokovic Battles Past Davydenko To Clinch Semifinal Berth

Novak Djokovic
© AFP/Getty Images

Serbian World No. 3 Novak Djokovic became the first player to reach the Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai semifinals after securing his second win in the Gold Group with a 7-6(3), 0-6, 7-5 win over No. 5-ranked Russian Nikolay Davydenko at the Qi Zhong Stadium on Tuesday. The match lasted two hours and 19 minutes. It was the pair’s second meeting, following a Davis Cup World Group first round clash in February.

"It's a great achievement for me, going through the semifinals, which kind of gives me a relief of the upcoming match," said Djokovic. "But as I said on the court, every match is important, so I will try to win against Tsonga."

Davydenko took advantage of a slow start by Djokovic to open up a 2-0 lead and maintained the service break to 5-3, when Djokovic – this year’s Australian Open champion – started to make a comeback. The Serbian returned to top form with a service break in the 10th game of the first set and rattled Davydenko into a number of errors in the tie-break.

Davydenko regained his composure and breezed through the second set in 18 minutes and survived two break points in the opening game of the deciding set before Djokovic snapped a seven-game losing streak with a crucial service hold. At 2-1, Davydenko received treatment on the court for a left ankle injury.

Another tie-break looked on the cards, but Djokovic secured a service break with two successive errors from Davydenko – a missed backhand down the line and a poor volley to gift Djokovic an easy winner. The Serbian clinched his second victory in the Gold Group with a powerful forehand that Davydenko could only scramble up and hit into the bottom of the net.

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Djokovic, who improved to 62-16 on the season, struck six aces and won 66 per cent of service points. He saved two of four break points. The 21-year-old has captured three titles – including his first Grand Slam trophy at the Australian Open (d. Tsonga) – from six finals this year. On Sunday, he beat Juan Martin del Potro 7-5, 6-3 in one hour and 57 minutes.

"Last year wasn't that much fun for me [0-3 in 2007]," said Djokovic. "But I gained from that experience. It's different this year, because I'm coming here as a Grand Slam winner and [as a] more mature player, stronger mentally and physically on the court. When you have more confidence and believe more in yourself, and of course, you're physically well rested and fit for challenges, then things are going more smoothly."

Davydenko, who must now beat del Potro to secure his place in the semifinals, won 39 of 48 points on first serve and hit eight aces. The 27 year old dropped to 54-20 on the season, which includes from titles. In March, he captured his second career ATP Masters Series shield at Miami (d. Nadal).

On Sunday, Davydenko beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-7(6), 6-4, 7-6(0) in two hours and 43 minutes on his fourth Tennis Masters Cup appearance.


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