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Davydenko Beats Nadal To Win Qatar Open Title

PTI 10 Jan 2010, 16:28:45 IST

Rafael Nadal, who not so long ago was dominating the men's tour, is still without a title for more than eight months after an astonishing defeat in the final of the Qatar Open here on Saturday.

Nadal failed to convert two second set match points in a 0-6, 7-6 (10/8), 6-4 loss to Nikolay Davydenko - known as 'Mr Invisible' - which will once again raise the question whether he has the confidence to fight his way back to the

Little more than a week before he begins the defence of his Australian Open title, Nadal also let slip a 3-1 final set lead, and retreated into more defensive and containing patterns which contributed significantly to the courageous Davydenko revival.

When Davydenko began to play more as he had against Roger Federer in the semi-finals, taking the initiative wherever possible, hitting stridently and if necessary finishing the rally in the forecourt, Nadal fought back aggressively from 3-5 down, and looked odds on to close the match out in the tie-break.

On one of his match points, at 6-5, Davydenko played just too well, but on the second, at 8-7, Nadal earned himself a relatively pressure-free hit on the forehand from inside the baseline - and unaccountably put it into the net.

Once he had also let slip an early break of serve in the final set, Nadal's lack of confidence, born from injury, a long sequence without a title, and doubts about his future, began to reveal itself.

He retreated more often into what he knew best - the style in which he contains his opponent's attacks from several feet behind the baseline, relying on mobility, tenacity, and change-of-paced winners from counter-hitting positions.

But on hard courts that can be a risky ploy against so fine a striker of the ball as Davydenko, who had the ability to fashion quick winners from either wing and to apply a finishing volley confidently when required.

He had after all won the last four of their previous meetings on this surface.

By the second half of the final set he was more often dominating the rallies and after two hours and 43 minutes of battling it no longer seemed a surprise when his turn-around was complete.

It made the man who has become known as Mr Invisible for having so low a public profile only the second player to beat both Federer and Nadal in the same tournament twice - the other is David Nalbandian of Argentina.