Nikolay Davydenko literally appeared to be in all corners of the court at the same time during his three hour shootout with Novak Djokovic in the Shanghai Open Masters semifinals. Eating up the quick pace of Djokovic’s shots allowed Davydenko to hit winners from varying angles causing one commentator to compare the Russian to the “matrix”.
Davydenko’s 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (1) win puts him in the final against Rafael Nadal who won over Feliciano Lopez 6-1, 3-0 (retired). Lopez said he woke up that morning with a right foot infection and then twisted his ankle later on the match.
Nadal has now won two matches on retirement and should be the favorite since he has played less tennis than Davydenko. Yet the Russian has not been been beaten in the other three finals he’s been in and a win in Shanghai will put him good shape for qualifying for the ATP London finale later this year.
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The quarterfinals of the Shanghai Masters Open saw more drama and unfortunately more retirements.
Nikolay Davydenko improved his chances of making the ATP London finale by taking out Radek Stepanek 6-1, 4-6, 6-1.
He will face in the semis Novak Djokovic who passed a stern test by Gilles Simon winning 6-3, 2-6, 6-2.
The surprise of the day was Feliciano Lopez’s defeat of No. 9 seed Robin Soderling 7-6(4), 6-3. Lopez, known more lately for his good looks than good results, has changed coaches and cut his trademark locks and it seems to be working. Soderling couldn’t figure out Lopez’s massive lefty serve and silky slice backhand.
Lopez will next face Rafael Nadal who survived an onslaught by veteran Ivan Ljubicic 3-6, 6-3 (ret). Ljubicic, you guessed it, had to retire in the third set after suffering a groin pull.
At this point who will win the whole thing is anybody’s guess. It is nice to see Lopez playing well again. But the real question is, do you like his new look?
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Two more players retired yesterday at the Shanghai Masters event upping it to seven total. Stanislas Wawrinka retired due to stomach pain in his match against Radek Stepanek while Gael Monfils had a bad back in his match with Ivan Ljubicic.
Meanwhile, Jo-Wilifried Tsonga crashed out in the third round by losing 6-3, 6-3 to Robin Soderling. In the first set, Tsonga had a break point at 3-4 and hit what looked like a winning down the line backhand. But it was called out by the linesmen.
Tsonga didn’t hear the call or score and proceeded to win the next point. He thought he’d won the game but when the umpire called deuce it was only then Tsonga realized he’d lost the previous point. He claimed the umpire didn’t allow him a chance to challenge but it was actually Tsonga’s fault for not paying attention. By the way, an unofficial computer review showed the ball was in.
Tsonga never really got over that call and sulked his way through the rest of the match. But all credit to Soderling who served very well, including three aces in the final game. Soderling looks very good going into his quarterfinal match against Feliciano Lopez and I would make him the darkhorse to win the whole thing.
In other matches, Nikolay Davydenko kept his lock on Fernando Gonzalez by winning 6-3, 7-5 improving to 6-0 lifetime against the Chilean. Also Rafael Nadal won easily over countryman Tommy Robredo 6-1, 6-4 while Novak Djokovic eased past Rainer Schuettler 6-4, 6-2.
Getting back to Roddick, with the early round losses of Fernando Verdasco, Gonzalez, and Tsonga, it looks like Roddick will qualify as soon as next week for the ATP finals in London.
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Marat Safin’s love affair with Asia continues. Even though he lost his second round match in Shanghai to Tomas Berdych 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, he was the one asked to hit the autographed tennis balls into the stands. Of course there was another mini-ceremony at the end with video of Safin back in his “movie idol” days with the appropriate “Wild Thing” as the soundtrack. Safin did take time to thank all of the fans in both Beijing and Shanghai for their support.
Meanwhile, injuries and the debate over them continues to mar the event. Juan Martin Del Potro and Tommy Haas both retired in their matches. Rafael Nadal, who joined Andy Roddick in complaining about the tour’s grueling schedule, looked ok in his win over James Blake.
Lleyton Hewitt, who knows a thing or two about injuries, lost a tough three setter to Gael Monfils 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. Monfils who wavered between playing fifteen feet behind the baseline to then coming up with vicious forehand winners finally decided on an attacking style of play that saw him the last six games of the third set.
Other winners included Robin Soderling, Tommy Robredo, Gilles Simon and Novak Djovokic. Ivan Ljubicic scored the biggest upset of the day taking out Fernando Verdasco.
Tomorrow’s key match ups will be Soderling/Tsonga and Gonzalez/Davydenko as all are trying to make it to London.
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With shades of an Asian horror flick, it seems like Andy Roddick is double cursed. After losing first round in Beijing, Roddick lost again in the first round of the Shanghai Masters to Stanislas Wawrinka after Roddick retired due to a left knee injury in the first set.
This is where it gets “creepy”. Wawrinka is the same guy Roddick played and ended up with a strange injury in their semifinal match in Rome back in ’08.
It gets worse. Roddick who was hoping to pick up a few wins to qualify for London is still on the bubble and may have to hustle up something special in the Paris Masters a few weeks ago to help his chances. But Roddick said afterwards he was more concerned about his health than the final event so who knows if he will even play London.
In other first round play, Tomas Berdych outlasted China Open finalist Marin Cilic 7-6 (8), 3-6, 6-4. Nikolay Davydenko blew past Igor Kunitsyn 6-4, 6-2 while Lleyton Hewitt dismantled a rather lethargic John Isner 6-2, 6-4. Hewitt played sharp returns and even handled Isner’s looping kick serve that would sail several feet over Hewitt’s head.
Wednesday’s action sees another Rafael Nadal vs. James Blake match while Juan Martin Del Potro takes on Jurgen Melzer of Austria.
Since early round play in the ATP Shanghai Masters 1000 event has kicked off, I will do a very quick preview.
Obviously the main interest will be who will qualify next for London but I think whoever wins Shanghai will get a much needed boost into 2010.
Andy Roddick just needs to win a round or two to qualify for London but that won’t be easy. His first match will either be against Lukasz Kubot who took him out in Beijing or Stanislas Wawrinka who as we all know can beat anybody or lose to anybody depending on his mood. If Roddick survives that, he could potentially face either Fernando Gonzalez or Nikolay Davydenko in the quarters and I like Roddick against either of those guys.
Novak Djokovic in his section could face Tommy Haas early and then find himself up against Gilles Simon or Marin Cilic in the quarters. But Djokovic feeds off confidence and I see him getting through his section and facing Roddick in the semis where I actually like Djokovic in that one.
Fernando Verdasco and Gael Monfils must do well in Shanghai if they want to qualify for London. They are both in Nadal’s section and I like their chances of maybe getting through to the semis as Nadal still looks shaky to me.
On the bottom draw is Juan Marin Del Potro who could face off against Jo-Wilifred Tsonga in the quarters. Del Potro should be well rested after getting bounced first round in Tokyo. Tsonga needs another strong event but I can’t seem him winning two titles back to back.
So for the semis, I’m going with Roddick/Djokovic in one and Verdasco/Del Portro in the other potentially setting up a Djokovic/Del Porto final. But of course it’s the end of the year so maybe John Isner will use his new muay thai skills to blow everybody away.