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October 18, 2009

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Nadal in final as Davydenko tops Djokovic

RAFAEL Nadal reached the final of the Shanghai Masters when Feliciano Lopez retired last night, the second evening in a row when the top seeded Spaniard's opponent has withdrawn injured.

World No. 2 Nadal was coasting at 6-1, 3-0 when his compatriot Lopez, who had a foot injury, became the ninth player to fail to finish a match at the US$3.24 million tournament being played at the Qizhong Tennis Center in suburban Minhang District.

The Australian Open champion will face Nikolay Davydenko in the final after the Russian surprised second seed Novak Djokovic with a 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (1) victory.

Nadal, who benefited from Croat Ivan Ljubicic's withdrawal from their quarterfinal to reach the last four, has not played a tour final since May's Madrid Masters.

Sixth seed Davydenko lost twice to Djokovic at the Tennis Masters Cup here last season, the second in the final, but was an altogether different proposition this year.

The 28-year-old kept Djokovic under pressure throughout the three-hour contest before running away with the deciding tiebreak.

"The match today was long and heavy," Davydenko told reporters. "This was really difficult all match. I was lucky, he was lucky. In the tiebreak, I was more lucky."

Serbian Djokovic, who will move back to world No. 3 this week and was chasing back-to-back titles after his win in Beijing last Sunday, left the court dejected after falling to his first defeat in his last 11 matches in China.

"I'm disappointed because I think I played a great match but overall these two weeks have been great for me," said the 22-year-old. "There was no problem (in the tiebreak). He played too good."

The first set was a tight affair mostly contested from the baseline and it went with serve until the 10th game, when a string of poor first serves combined with four unforced errors gifted a 1-0 lead to Djokovic.

Davydenko mixed things up more in the second set and his hustling earned him a break, then two set points only for Djokovic to save them with a glorious whipped backhand and an ace.

The world No. 8 was not to be denied, however, and he evened up the match by serving out to love, rounding out the set with his fourth ace.

The Russian kept up the pressure on his opponent's serve in the decider without ever making the breakthrough, Djokovic hanging on to save for 3-2 after a marathon 10-minute game.

A brilliant lob at full stretch gave Djokovic a 6-5 lead but Davydenko raced through his next service and was 5-0 up in the tiebreak before his opponent registered a point.

Davydenko had the whiff of an upset in his nostrils by now and he stood firm to reach his fourth final of the year with a crushing forehand winner.

Djokovic has already qualified for next month's World Tour Finals and yesterday's win improved Davydenko's chances of joining him in London by taking one of the three spots still up for grabs.


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