Russian Nikolay Davydenko held strong to prevail 6-7(6), 6-4, 7-6(0) against France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the second Gold Group round robin match at Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai on Sunday.
Ranked ATP World No. 5, Davydenko is making his fourth straight appearance at the prestigious circuit finale. His best result came on debut in 2005, when he went 3-0 in round robin action to reach the semifinals (l. to Nalbandian).
The Volgograd resident was made to work hard for his opening victory against Shanghai debutant Tsonga. The Frenchman won a tight first set on a tie-break, as Davydenko’s high backhand volley found the net. But Davydenko hit back, stealing the second set with a marvelous backhand return winner up the line off a kicking Tsonga serve delivered with the Le Mans native trailing 4-5, 30-40.
Davydenko was quick to seize the initiative in the final set by racing to a 3-0 lead. The 27-year-old looked to be on the verge of victory as he earned match point with Tsonga trailing 2-5, but the Frenchman played a daring drop shot, won the point and consequently the next three games to level at 5-5.
However, the recent BNP Paribas Masters champion could not see out the victory, making a series of errors in the tie-break that Davydenko capitalized on to triumph after 2 hr., 43 min.
Davydenko, who has won his opening match on two of his previous Tennis Masters Cup appearances, also defeated Tsonga in the Moscow first round last year and extends his series lead to 2-0.
In compiling a 54-19 match record on the season thus far, Davydenko has titled three times from four finals. The right-hander won his second ATP Masters Series shield at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami with victory over Rafael Nadal and also triumphed on clay at Poertschach (d. Monaco) and Warsaw (d. Robredo), during which he posted his 300th ATP victory. In the Estoril final against Roger Federer he was forced to retire with a left leg injury.
The 23-year-old Tsonga was the penultimate qualifier for Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai, securing his place in dramatic fashion in the final of the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris, where he collected his first ATP Masters Series shield with victory over David Nalbandian in the winner-takes-all clash.
At the start of the season, the right-hander reached his first ATP final at the Australian Open, defeating Nadal in the semifinals before falling to Novak Djokovic in the final. He avenged that loss to the World No. 3 when he won his maiden ATP title at Bangkok in September.