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Djokovic Edges Nadal But Misses SF Spot

Posted by on Nov 28th, 2009 and filed under  Top Stories, Latest News, Tennis. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Novak Djokovic defeated Rafael Nadal 7-6(5), 6-3 in his final Group B round-robin match Friday afternoon at The O2 but later learned he had missed a spot in the semi-finals.

Despite the win, the defending champion was never in control of his own destiny and learned that he had not survived the round-robin stage after Nikolay Davydenko defeated Robin Soderling in three sets in the final round-robin match of the tournament. All three players ended group play with a 2-1 match record, but Soderling was the group winner with a 5-2 sets record and Davydenko finished second with a 5-3 sets record (eclipsing Djokovic’s 4-3 sets record.)

Nadal was once again denied his 400th tour-level match win and remains on a 399-91 mark. He will have his chance to reach the milestone, and become the first player to accomplish the feat in less than 500 matches played, when he represents Spain in the Davis Cup final against the Czech Republic next weekend on his favoured clay in Barcelona.

Reflecting on his three losses this week, Nadal said: “[It’s not very disappointing. It’s disappointing if you arrive here with the feeling that you have a big chance to win. But I didn’t arrive here with that feeling. I know before the tournament that [it was] going to be really tough. But I tried. Every day I tried my best. I think I improved a little bit. But that’s tennis. I’m playing against the best players in the world. It wasn’t enough on this surface.”

“I am confident [about the Davis Cup final. I know [it is] going to be a difficult final. The change on clay, going to be a big change. But that’s a big motivation for me, [to] finish the year winning. And I have the opportunity there to play well, to play good tennis on clay and to win, to win something important for my country and for my friends.”

The 22-year-old Djokovic played 97 matches this season, the most of any player on the ATP World Tour. “I think the season that I had this year has taken its toll on me a little bit in this tournament,” assessed Djokovic. “I’m not saying that I should have done some things different. You try to win every match you play. Unfortunately for me, the exhaustion came in the tournament where I should have been the freshest – here. But, still, I managed to get two out of three wins. If I finish today the season, I will be very happy to finish in this way, and just hope to rest well for 2010.”

A scrappy start to the match saw three successive service breaks before Djokovic was able to carve out a 3-1 lead, saving a break point in the process. Both players hit an uncharacteristic number of unforced errors.

A resurgence from Nadal, however, saw the Spaniard level in the eighth game as he raised his level and intelligent use of a backhand slice forced Djokovic into error. Nadal quickly grew in confidence and, with the crowd urging him on, was able to force a tie-break. It was Djokovic who produced the better tennis in the first part of the tie-break, moving Nadal around with a drop shot-lob combination to earn a 6-2 lead. A brief lapse in concentration from the Serbian saw Nadal fight back to 6-5, but Djokovic was able to sneak over the line as a forehand error from Nadal – one of 35 unforced errors he committed in the match – handed him a one-set lead.

Australian Open champion Nadal required a medical timeout to receive treatment on his lower back early in the second set and Djokovic immediately pounced in the fourth game, taking advantage of errors from Nadal to lead 3-1.

The level of both players was far improved in the latter stages of the match. Sensing the end was in sight; Djokovic stepped forward at every opportunity to end the points quickly. Djokovic was forced to break through stiff resistance from his Mallorcan opponent in the final game, saving one break point, but the right-hander’s willingness to take the ball on paid dividends in the end and he was able to wrap up victory in one hour and 57 minutes.

It was Djokovic’s third straight meeting over Nadal, reducing the deficit in the head-to-head to 14-7. The Belgrade native defeated Nadal in their past two meetings, both on hard court, in the semi-finals of the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters in Cincinnati and the semi-finals at the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris (Bercy).

Djokovic leads the ATP World Tour with 78 match wins (including 53 on hard court) in 2009 and has captured five ATP World Tour titles. He came into the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals as the most in-form player, following successive victories at the Davidoff Swiss Indoors Basel (d. Federer) and the BNP Paribas Masters (d. Monfils). Going back to a runner-up finish in Cincinnati (l. to Federer) in August, he was won 29 of 33 matches, also winning the China Open title (d. Cilic) in Beijing.

Djokovic had the chance to overtake Nadal and rise to a career-high No. 2 in the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings had he won the title.

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