Now that the World Tour Finals have ended at the attention is about to shift to Davis Cup, it’s time to take a look back on what transpired in London. Who was good? Who was bad? Who was merely decent?
A-plus - Nikolay Davydenko. Despite losing his very first match of the tournament against Novak Djokovic, Davydenko went on to win the year-end championship. And he did not even do it at the expense of worn out or injured opponents. He did it with absolutely incredible tennis. After taking out Rafael Nadal and Robin Soderling to reach the semifinals, the 28-year-old Russian scored his first-ever victory over Roger Federer (7-5 in the third) and then hammered Juan Martin Del Potro 6-3, 6-4 for the title...a title that is, to date, the biggest of his lengthy career.
A – Juan Martin Del Potro. Since winning the U.S. Open, Del Potro had been plagued by wrist and abdominal injuries and struggled to win any matches at all. He had even retired from his quarterfinal match at the Paris Masters in early November. Many thought Del Potro, like Andy Roddick, would not even be able to show up in London. Well, he ended up doing a lot more than that. The 21-year-old Argentine lost his opener to Andy Murray, but he bounced back for victories over Fernando Verdasco (7-6 in the third) and Federer. Del Potro then survived Robin Soderling (also 7-6 in the third) before running into an on-fire Davydenko.
A-minus – Robin Soderling. Needing a Roddick withdrawal just to get into the event, Soderling quickly became the talk of the tournament with two consecutive straight-set drubbings of Rafael Nadal and Djokovic. The underdog Swede, however, lost to Davydenko in his final round-robin match and then blew a break lead in the third set against Del Potro in the semifinals. While it did not turn out to be the dream week that it appeared to be in the early stages of the tournament, Soderling still did better than expected.
B – Roger Federer. Federer had not been playing especially well heading into London, having lost to Djokovic in the Basel final and having been upset by Julien Benneteau in his Paris opener. The world No. 1 did not play great tennis at the World Tour Finals, either, but it could have been much worse. He lost the first set in all four of his matches and was two points away from round-robin elimination before pulling out the second set against Del Potro to qualify for the semis. Federer even showed flashes of brilliance (in the third sets against Verdasco and Murray), but he was merely decent against Davydenko, and “decent” was never good enough to beat Davydenko last week.
B-minus – Fernando Verdasco – Verdasco went winless in London, but he was a considerable underdog in every match he played. And the Spaniard wasn’t that far from going 3-0 in round-robin play. He led Federer 6-4, 5-5, 0-30 on Federer’s serve before falling in three. He also came back from a set down against both Murray and Del Potro, but Verdasco eventually lost both matches in third-set tiebreakers. Making his performance all the more commendable is that Verdasco most likely needs minor foot surgery after the Davis Cup final this weekend.
C+ - Andy Murray. Favored to reach the semifinals, Murray missed out on a spot in the last four, but he was close enough that tournament officials had to sit around for 20 minutes following the final round-robin match of Group A punching in numbers on calculators. As it turned out, Del Potro edged Murray by a mere one game (in percentage of games won, which was the necessary tiebreaker after total record and percentage of sets won both resulted in ties). The 22-year-old Scot did not play any bad matches in London, but he failed to score any convincing wins. Getting blown out by Federer in their third set and losing the second set to Verdasco sealed Murray’s fate of early elimination.
C – Novak Djokovic. Like Murray, Djokovic was eliminated in round-robin competition despite compiling a 2-1 record (Soderling and Davydenko knocked him out via percentage of sets won). But the Serb, who was the hottest—maybe even too hot—player going into the World Tour Finals, bowed out with far less fanfare. He struggled through a victorious three-set match against Davydenko only to get handled by Soderling in straight sets two days later. Although Djokovic needed just two sets to get past Nadal on Friday, the tennis from both players was lackluster. Perhaps the world No. 3 simply ran out of gas at the end—well, before the end—of a simply grueling 2009 campaign.
D – Rafael Nadal. Some people (probably Fedtards) will argue that Nadal deserves an ‘F’ for his performance in London. After all, not only did Nadal fail to win any matches, but he also failed to win any sets. However, Nadal easily could have won the first set against Soderling had he challenged what should have been an ace—his point—on game point at 4-5. The second-ranked Spaniard took Davydenko to a tiebreaker in the second set of their match, and also pushed Djokovic to a tiebreaker in the first set of their showdown. No, Nadal was not good in London; he played the worst tennis of all the participants. But he wasn’t--contrary to popular opinion--a complete failure.
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