Nikolay Davydenko awed by winning ATP Finals

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

LONDON -- Gazing at the big trophy beside him, Nikolay Davydenko was awed. His name was etched next to those of some of the greats: Roger Federer, Pete Sampras, Bjorn Borg.

Davydenko had won the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals, beating all three Grand Slam champions of 2009 along the way. The Russian defeated U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 6-4 in Sunday's final.

"I think it's amazing," Davydenko said.

In one week, he downed Rafael Nadal, Federer and Del Potro and all but one of the Grand Slam finalists. The only player to escape him was Andy Roddick, who withdrew from the tournament with an injury.

For good measure, Davydenko overtook Roddick in the rankings, moving from No. 7 to No. 6.

"All four, five matches. What I did here, first it was very good concentration. Physically, I don't know what I can explain," said Davydenko, who practiced for only three days heading into the tournament. "Step by step, from first match against [Novak] Djokovic, maybe first match give me more chance, more confidence, maybe everything."

The tournament, renamed the ATP World Tour Finals from the Masters Cup, was played at O2 Arena for the first time and drew near capacity crowds of about 18,000 per session.

Davydenko opened play in Group B with a loss to Djokovic -- the same man he lost to in last year's final, which was played in Shanghai. But he rebounded by beating Australian Open champion Nadal and then French Open finalist Robin Soderling.

In the semifinals, the energetic Russian defeated Federer, the man who completed a career Grand Slam by winning the French Open and then broke Sampras' major record by winning his 15th at Wimbledon.

"He did well," said Federer, who lost to Davydenko for the first time in 13 career meetings but still managed to claim the year-end No. 1 ranking for a fifth time. "I thought he played strong throughout, even though I don't think it was our best match we ever played against each other."

Before winning the title Sunday, Davydenko may have been best known for being linked to a betting scandal, but the four-time Grand Slam semifinalist has been cleared of any wrongdoing. And now that he has a big trophy to put on his mantel, the pressure will be on Davydenko to win his first Grand Slam title in 2010.

"If Grand Slams come best-of-three sets, yes," said Davydenko, who acknowledges the matches at majors are tough on his body. "I need to have very good physical preparation for the five-set matches in Australia. You need to run not like two hours; you need to run for four hours."

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