Davydenko beats Federer to a final against Nadal in Qatar
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World number one Roger Federer ended his first tournament of 2010 in defeat after losing against Nikolay Davydenko (6-4, 6-4). The fierce-hitting Russian will face Spaniard Rafael Nadal (pictured) in the Qatar Open final.
AFP - Roger Federer, who ended the 2009 season with a surprise loss to Nikolay Davydenko in London, ended his first tournament of 2010 with another defeat to the surprising, little celebrated Russian.
Federer was not at his best, never serving particularly well, and mistiming a few important balls on the backhand side, but the more remarkable thing about his 6-4, 6-4 defeat how he was often bullied by Davydenko's fierce flat-hitting from the baseline.
Davydenko's excellent performance carried him into a Qatar Open final against Rafael Nadal, perhaps increasing the chances of the former world number one from Spain winning his first title since triumphing in Rome in early May.
However Davydenko, who appears to have gained more aura and self-belief since capturing the ATP World Tour Masters title, has won four times out of five on hard courts against Nadal, and was bristling with confidence after his second successive win over Federer.
"Before I lost 12 times in a row to Federer, but because I beat him in London I felt like I really could win," Davydenko said. "I still had the level I had in London, and that was good - but I don't know how long I can keep it up."
Federer, who has had six matches in eight days, did not seem too concerned about the setback, taking comfort in the quality of his preparation he has had for the Australian Open, a Grand Slam title he would love to regain from Nadal.
"I have to get my unforced errors down, but apart from that I moved well and I didn't think my performance was too bad," Federer said, though there was a suspicion that six matches in eight days, sometimes in cool conditions, had left him with a painful arm.
"Nikolay played well when he needed to play well. He got ahead and got the momentum and that helped him. Then he played the big points well and deserved to win."
A corollary was that Federer started modestly. By the time all of the spectators had found their way to their seats, the Wimbledon and French Open champion was already two breaks of serve down to the bustling, piercing-eyed Davydenko.
That advantage not only helped elevate the Russian's general level, as Federer indicated, but it also had an inspiring effect on his serving.
Davydenko managed a 100 percent first service record in the first set - 27 first serves out of 27 - and Federer did well to manage even one break back before Davydenko closed the set out.
The second set saw Federer covering acres of ground, sometimes defending tenaciously in an attempt to pressure Davydenko into error, but it rarely happened.
Instead the surprising third seed broke again for 2-1 and reached 3-1 - at which stage Nadal, due for his post-match press conference, stopped to watch the action on the monitor instead.
Federer saved one match point on his own serve in the penultimate game, and never gave up, but could not get anywhere near preventing Davydenko from serving out for the match, which he did brilliantly to love.
Nadal's comfort will be the excellence of his own performance in a 6-1, 6-3 win over Viktor Troicki, the fifth seeded Serbian, which was even more one-sided than the score makes it seem and suggests that he is back not far from his best.
Nadal took 18 points in a row from the second game of the second set, generating such a sense of freedom that he began flattening out his drives, hitting harder, and experimenting with fiercer serves and the occasional successful volleying foray.
That gained him 11 games in a row before Troicki rescued a measure of dignity with three late games - but it did not hide the degree to which he had been outplayed.
"It all worked," said Nadal. "I feel that I am ready (to win a tournament again). I can't tell if the opportunity will come here, or in Australia, or in Indian Wells, but I feel it will come. And I'm ready."
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