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Davydenko Caps Dream Week With Victory Over del Potro

London, England

Nikolay Davydenko© Getty ImagesNikolay Davydenko won his fifth ATP World Tour title of the year.

ATP World Tour No. 7 Nikolay Davydenko capped a dream week Sunday as he defeated Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 6-4 to capture the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals trophy at The O2 in south-east London.

Davydenko, who finished runner-up to Novak Djokovic at the season finale in Shanghai last year, is the first Russian to win the year-end title in tournament history (since 1970). His efforts this week see him rewarded with $1,510,000 in prize money; he will also overtake Andy Roddick at No. 6 in the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings on Monday.

“I was [looking at the trophy], until 2008, [there are] so many names there, like Djokovic, Federer, everyone, [Pete] Sampras,” said Davydenko, who was contesting his fifth straight year-end championship. “In 2009, [it says] Davydenko forever on this trophy. I think it's amazing. [In the] history of the [Finals], for my name to be there is something amazing for me.”

En route to winning the biggest tournament of his career, Davydenko defeated the winners of all four Grand Slam titles in 2009 – beating Australian Open champion Rafael Nadal in the round-robin stage, overturning a 0-12 record against Roland Garros and Wimbledon champion Roger Federer in the semi-finals and defeating US Open champion del Potro for the title.

“It's really interesting next year for me because winning the last tournament of the year, it's something amazing. I know for five years [the tournament will] be in London now. I know it was a good stadium, was really good. Everything was perfect. For sure we enjoy next year here in London. I hope the organisation [will] be the same or even better.”

“This tournament has a great champion, like Nikolay,” said del Potro, a winner of three tour-level titles this season. “He worked hard to beat every player here this week. So maybe I have to improve a little bit the little things. But he played much better than me, and that's it. He played unbelievable tennis. He beat me in a good way.”

Following a phenomenal effort to edge 2009 ATP World Tour Champion Federer 24 hours earlier, Davydenko came out firing in his fourth meeting with del Potro and raced to a 4-1 lead. The Russian held his position on the baseline, dictating play and forcing del Potro well back, not allowing the Argentine a chance to exhibit his famous forehand.

Davydenko nearly allowed del Potro back into contention after double faulting in the sixth game to trail 30/40, but he responded with an ace and was not to be troubled further as he closed out the first set in 38 minutes, having dropped just five points on serve.

The fifth-seeded del Potro showed glimpses of his best form in the early stages of the second set, drawing gasps of awe from the 17,500 capacity crowd on centre court with some booming forehands. He was able to save two break points in the fifth game and gave the many Argentine supporters reason for cheer as he earned his first two break point chances of the match in the following game. Davydenko was ruthlessly efficient, though, not giving del Potro a chance to get a foot hold in the points and holding for 3-3.

Tremendous play by Davydenko proved decisive in the latter stages; the Russian out maneuvered del Potro with his forehand to earn three break points in the ninth game and he broke serve to love as Davydenko once again moved the Argentine out of his comfort zone and forced the error. A sixth ace from Davydenko brought up championship point in the following game and he wrapped up victory after 84 minutes as del Potro returned a powerful smash into the net.

“I was surprised it was 6-3, 6-4, [only] one hour and 24 minutes,” commented Davydenko. “Before I was playing three set matches, pretty tough, mostly two hours. [In the] final, I don't know, maybe I had good concentration. I was surprising. I was coming in from the first point with hundred per cent concentration. It was, I think, important for this match today.”

“He's very strong,” complimented del Potro. “I never beat him on hard court or indoors.  He's very fast. He plays like PlayStation. He runs down everything. It is very difficult to hit winners [against him]. But I think he is a great champion. Nobody knows how we can beat him.”

The 28-year-old Davydenko has won all five ATP World Tour finals he has contested this season, with all of his successes coming since July. The Russian was restricted in the first five months of the season with a foot injury, leaving him unable to defend his Sony Ericsson Open crown in Miami, but returned with aplomb in the second part of the year.

The Volgograd resident won back-to-back titles for the first time in his career at the International German Open (d. Mathieu) in Hamburg and the ATP Studena Croatia Open (d. Ferrero) in Umag, before later lighting up the Asian swing with titles at the Proton Malaysian Open, Kuala Lumpur 2009 (d. Verdasco) and the Shanghai ATP Masters 1000, presented by Rolex (d. Nadal).

He has now amassed an impressive 18-5 record in ATP World Tour finals. It is the second time in his career that he has won five titles in one season, also doing so in 2006 – the same year he won the first of three ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophies at the BNP Paribas Masters (d. Hrbaty) in Paris (Bercy).
 

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