So. Darn. Close. But…

Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images

Rafa and #6 Davydenko played in the final of the ExxonMobil Qatar Open today. Davydenko had won the last two matches these guys played on hard court and has been in excellent form of late, so everyone was expecting a battle. The first set, however, was a blowout. Rafa was doing whatever he wanted with the ball and he took it 6-0. Things tightened up in set two – way tight. Davy took it in a tiebreak 10-8. They exchanged breaks in the third until Davy got the set winning break in the tenth game to take it 6-4.


Nadal Davydenko
Statistics on Serve
Aces 1 2
Double Faults 2 4
1st Serve % 63% 74%
1st Serve Points Won 38/57 (67%) 45/73 (62%)
2nd Serve Points Won 18/34 (53%) 12/26 (46%)
Break Points Saved 5/8 (63%) 3/8 (38%)
Service Games Played 14 14
Statistics on Return
1st Return Points Won 28/73 (38%) 19/57 (33%)
Second Return Points Won 14/26 (38%) 16/34 (47%)
Break Points Won 5/8 (63%) 3/8 (38%)
Return Games Played 14 14
Statistics on Points
Total Service Points Won 56/91 (62%) 57/99 (58%)
Total Return Points Won 42/99 (42%) 35/91 (38%)
Total Points Won 98/190 (52%) 92/190 (48%)

As it happened blatherings:

Why is there skiing on my stream? *grumbles until I find another stream*

RafaNadalUnoffi: Davy wins coin toss and elects to receive and whoop we’ve Mo in the umpires chair

Rafa has a chance to turn his head-to-head against Davy back to a winning one today.

Ataraxis00: The little machine that could needs to lose today – that is all. He’s taken enough scalps the last 3 months. Enough already.

Second serve from Rafa. Error from Davy: 15-0. Second serve. Nice forehand winner from midcourt from Rafa: 30-0. Second serve. Down the line forehand from Davy goes just wide: 40-0. Second serve. Rafa holds.

Kalliopeia: look at him all up on that baseline!

Davydenko pulls Rafa wide and draws an error: 15-15. And again: 30-15. Second serve. Davy sends a shot long: 30-30. Davy nets a ball: deuce. (Sorry, getting ready to run out as soon as the match is over or 11am, whichever comes first and am missing some points.) Davy sends a shot wide and Rafa has a break point. Error from Rafa saves the bp for Davy: deuce. Long rally ends with a forced error from Davy: break point 2. A beauty of a backhand cross court passing shot gives Rafa the break. He’s up 2-0.

Rafa consolidates the break by holding at love. He’s up 3-0.

Kalliopeia: GAWWD I love it when Rafa’s like this, stalking the baseline and all growly and fierce and awesome. :D :D :D

TennisLuvah: Rafa holds at love! 3-0 Popsicle Hotness FTMFW!!!

Davy double faults to deuce. Second serve. Rafa nets a ball mid-rally: ad Davy. A nice forehand down the line from Rafa draws an error from Davy: deuce. A bizarre misshit return from Rafa (hitting the net and dropping over) gives him a break point. And Rafa breaks to go up 4-0.

Kalliopeia: I can’t get over how sharp he’s looking

TennisLuvah: Ooohh and the dirrty grunts from Rafa are starting. Totally fangirling over here! XDD

kefuoe: Between the commentators and the grunting, this match sounds great!

The net cord really loves Rafa today: 15-0. Rafa in the purple; Davy in the green. How lovely. 30-0.Davy sends a shot long: 40-0. Another love hold for Rafa.

Kalliopeia: the last few times I’ve actually been able to watch a whole match he’s looked kind of uncertain and unhappy, so this is lovely

Cat’s fed, shoes tied. House alarm prepped…go Rafa, go!

Rafa moving Davy all over the court to earn a break point. Everyone ready for breakfast? Rafa serves up a bagel and takes the first set from Davydenko 6-0.

Kalliopeia: he keeps this up I’m going to have those little glowy hearts for eyes like in the cartoons

uuuuuhhhh AH! uuuuuuhh AH! uuuuuh AH!

Double fault from Rafa gives Davy double break point. Rafa pulls Davy into the net and then flicks a beauty of a down the line winner. Service winner: deuce. One short ball and Davy’s all over it – fierce down the line shot and he has another break point. Davy nets a ball after a long rally: deuce. Davy moves Rafa well, but then hits a ball just barely wide: ad Rafa. Davy bosses a point and comes into the net: deuce. Good wide serve draws an error: ad Rafa. Rafa sends a shot just long: deuce. A well constructed and executed point gives Rafa another game point. After 13 minutes, Rafa finally holds.

Davydenko gets on the score board with a well-played service game.

Rafa hits a fierce forehand from the doubles area and follows it into the net: 30-0. Service winner out wide: 40-0. Second serve. Rafa holds at love for 2-1.

Davy moves Rafa and then follows it up at the net with a nice slice volley. He holds at love: 2-2.

Second serve ace? Sexy. Marc! is mesmerized by his tournament ID. Down the line backhand passing shot from Rafa goes just wide: 15-30. Second serve. Good deep shot from Davy that Rafa can’t get back: double break point. Rafa smacks a winner from the net: 30-40. Rafa hits some so-so volleys at the net, Davy passes and breaks. Rafa lets out a few curse words (if my Spanish lip-reading is up to par).

Davy has found his wide serve and re-direction follow-up – damn difficult to defend against that. Davy holds – he leads in the second set 4-2.

I have to leave to get my hair cut (job interview on Monday and this was the only appointment I could get), so I leave you in the capable hands of Kalliopeia.

(Kalliopeia here now, I’m new at this, be gentle)

Rafa breaks back! 5-5.

Ace! Davydenko challenges, and it was JUST out. Boo.

Davydenko hits it long and Rafa is serving for 6-5. And Davydenko hits long again off a very pretty forehand from Rafa. Rafa leads 6-5. WOOO!

Davydenko holds at love. Tiebreak!

Rafa’s letting Davydenko run him around way too much. Remember that aggressive thing, Rafa! 2-1 Davydenko.

Rafa gets it back on serve, but Davydenko gets back up a minibreak 5-4. And Davydenko makes an error, back on serve 5-5.

And Rafa gets to 6-5, match point!!

Davydenko comes to the net and Rafa missed the backhand pass. 6-6.

Davydenko with a forehand winner for 7-6, but makes an error off some brutal hitting from Rafa to go to 7-7.

Davydenko nets the forehand, match point again. COME ON RAFA.

Sigh. Rafa nets a shot, 8-8. His mom is very “haha wtf?”

Nice forehand from Davydenko gives him set point. This is getting ridiculous. And set to Davydenko.

I’m stressed out after that tiebreak. I shall look up hummus recipes to calm down.

Some gorgeous shotmaking and a nice dropshot gives Rafa the break! He celebrates with some major lawnmower fistpump action! 2-1!

And promptly goes down 0-30 in his next service game, even though he seems to be in control of the rallies until the end. Service winner for 15-30, and another for 30-30. Lucky net cord sets up the win for 40-30, and a brutal forehand winner gives him an important hold.

Break point for Rafa, 15-40. I hate it when commentators say things like “Match point for Nadal, surely.” NO IT IS NOT. Davydenko holds, 3-2.

I left the room for five minutes and Rafa is broken. Back on serve 3-3.

4-4. Rafa has a pretty easy hold, with a little help from the net cord.

Davydenko gets away with a challenge he probably shouldn’t have been allowed, but it didn’t matter since Rafa’s ball was good. 15-30. Rafa’s being way too passive, though, and lets Davydenko back in. Rafa cannot afford to give Davydenko short returns, he will murder them. Davydenko manages to hold.

And Davydenko wins. Rafa must be unhappy with himself.

230 Responses

  1. Rafafan says:

    After losing the first set 6-0, I thought I had no chance of winning,” said the Russian. “In the beginning, he was on top and I had to fight for every point. However, as the match wore on, Rafa lost his concentration and made too many mistakes.

    “Really, I wasn’t sure of winning till I had three match points

    “I’m happy with the way I performed. I played unbelievable tennis in the first set. That just shows I’m back to my best, maybe, like how I played in 2008. It’s a huge morale booster,” he said.

    “After losing the tiebreaker (10-8), I don’t know what went wrong. I lost to one of the best players in the world,”

    Interesting the above 2 quotes. Rafa saying he don’t know what went wrong! – Uncle Toni you better get the vid out, and sharp and let Rafa watch for himself. Even Davy knows that Rafa lost concentration and made too many mistakes.

    \I have to be honest this (+FO) is one of the worst losses for Rafa – he has never, ever lost when so close on match points. If anything this will set back his confidence. I just hope it doesn’t so much so that he will resort to defensive again. We shall see. I am gonna have to watch the match again today to try and believe what I am seeing seeing (and check out the unforced errors) – too nervous b4 and analyse where it all went wrong. My ex also taped it for me so can analyse a third time. Oh hell this has ruined my day and will be grouchy for the week now until the begining of Aussiland.

    Rafa if nothing else just please play aggressive and be confident by serving first in the match!

    • Rafafan says:

      I expect you don’t but if anyone wants to see the highlights it on 4.30pm today on Eurosport – well it says ATP tennis so assume. Would be intereting to see what the commentators said. Heard Rafa now off to aussie to practice and there was a comment to say that he is going to win the AO! That’s our boy – a lot of positive aktitude needed!

      Maybe with this defeat it has put extra blood in his belly – he gonna come out fighting and be extra aggressive no?

      • Emma R says:

        Getting my head straight now. He has had a great week, he has improved so much since before Xmas, and very nearly took out a player who is playing very well at the moment. Kick ass at the AO treasure xx

      • faeaki7 says:

        Agree with everything you say Rafafan and hope you are wrong about the confidence issue. Just finishing watching the highlights, too shorter balls at times always felt that he needed to win that 2nd set to take the match.

        I hope he can take the positives from this match like bageling davy in the 1st set..!

  2. Marley says:

    A heartbreaking loss indeed, and just have to express my thoughts as it’s really distracting me from my studying for the medical boards.

    A tough loss it was…but hopefully, he can only learn from it and be better because of it. It was also a good match to prepare him for the big one—the Australian Open!

    He played a fantastic first set—it was just so unbelievable!!!!—and I hope he remembers how that felt like. Sadly though, he went back to his defensive mode and it let Davydenko back into that match. Aggressive tennis is the way to go with the top players on hardcourts, and I can only hope that he will keep progressing in his aggressive mindset.

    The important thing is that he IS healthy and moving so well, and that he’s almost back to his old form. Rafa is indeed playing great tennis at the moment—just need to find his “calm” back and stick to the winning gameplan. I believe he is ready for his title defense—just need to BELIEVE and DO it!!!

    So cheer up Rafa fans, from the depths of his bad defeats and losing streak from late 2009, things can can only get better. Bring it on, Australian Open!

  3. naaz says:

    Didn’t c any part of the match. Boy, m i glad!!!! Checked the computer, Rafa was up 5-0, and when i checked after getting back home, he had lost. I couldn’t believe that he went on to lose this match after such a strong start!!!!!! SO UNLIKE HIM.
    But i’m hoping that he’ll do well in AO. These few months have been so tough on him, i just want him to defend his title. I have decided 2 forget everything and just remember that he always comes back strong after a injury & keep my fingers crossed for AO

  4. jungle says:

    i can’t believe how painful it is for me as a spectator to see rafa go through this. i don’t want to get my hopes up for other tournaments. he is playing really well but i think he has to deal with his “problems in the head” first because they have been messing with his game. i want to see him confident because i know that his lack of confidence in himself is one of the biggest hurdles that’s effecting his performance. *sigh*

  5. sunset says:

    This match hurt too much. Perhaps the most painful loss to date (or one of the most) in his career, and I don’t imagine Rafa was taking it too well. I sure am not.
    There is no way to go around it–an honest assessment should only help Rafa in the long term. It did two things at once: showing that his brilliant game is still there and never deserted him; and on the other hand how vulnerable his mental state nowaday is.
    “The newborn ox does not know the fear of tiger”. Well Rafa is not a newborn ox any more. He is maturing into something else, something yet to take shape. I always imagined that Rafa’s career would be bi-modal—he reached the peak that takes many others years to reach, prodigy-style; the next peak is yet to come.
    He will get there one step at a time–and I’ll be watching.

    • Rafafan says:

      Couldn’t agree with you more Sunset. Had to watch it again and see where it all went wrong, Watching it a second time I was sick to my stomach – him having 2 match points and dumping an easy forehand in the net on the second in the second set.

      It looked like our Rafa was about to explode – and he almost hit his racket to the ground and retrieved after the last minute. (Perhaps I wish he did like the Fed and get all that mental strain out of his head! may have helped and blow to Uncle Toni!) Boy when he broke in the third set he did explode – pumping his fists and pulling the lawn mower act about 6 times. I can honestly say have never seen him quite as emotional. Yes its definitely the mental side, not the tennis – although he should never have let Davy in with those volleys at the net – he should have come in more himself when the game plan had changed.

      Oh sunset – this match hurt me so match, and I feel like I felt at the FO when he lost to the SOD. Maybe worse – coz at least we knew he was injured then. This match he had match points and lost. Never has that happened before to Rafa. I can’t imagine Rafa taking this lightly particularly with the emotions he showed on court. Davy did want to hug Rafa and he pulled away – can’t blame him. I do have to say Davy played some brilliant tennis to claw back and seemed to be able to read Rafa’s game again. Rafa needs to play smarter – basically aggressive and harder. Rafa maturing into something else – bi – modal? What does that mean and prodgiy style. Do you think he has reached his peak and now on theh decline? Gosh I hope not. The positives I guess is that he is playing much better than he did the last few months. He needs a win and a big win quick. Roll on AO x

      • Rafafan says:

        By the way Davy did 26 winners in the 2nd set compared to Rafa’s 12. So tells the story how could Davy was and Rafa reverting to defense

        • sunset says:

          Sorry about throwing weird jargons around. Bi-modal is what they use in statistics to describe something with two peaks. Prodigy because Rafa started to win slams at the age of 19. In my opinion the fresh vitality and passion of his youth led him to his first peak, but 7 years of a pro career are long enough to wear those qualities down a bit in just about anyone. He must find other sources of strength now to see him through–and I am hopeful that he will.

          • Rafafan says:

            Yes understand – its like boy to adolescent to mature 20s thing and early 30s. Gosh I hope so. Rafa is maturing but like everyone says you have to take one step back to gain 2 steps forward. I think he is gelling is game to be the complete player but when he gets tense he reverts to the defensive and I think he should play like Davy did today, if I am gonna lose and could be on the cards, will go down with a fight by being aggressive until I can’t go anymore.

            I think Rafa is trying to learn this but gets “scared” but he will learn and as I said before “this is the blessing in disguise”. He will be that progidy again but be smart, to the net, deep and good serves out wide. You mark my words xxxx

  6. faeaki7 says:

    He will get there one step at a time-and I’ll be watching.

    Well said, I sure hope he does, these kind of losses are no good for him at all.

  7. jimmy says:

    Rafael Nadal travelled to Australia today for the defence of the last of the three grand slam titles which he held early in 2009, without having won a tournament in eight months.

    A 0-6, 7-6, 6-4 defeat to Nikolay Davydenko in Saturday’s Qatar Open final, from match-point up in the second set, indicated the crisis of confidence from which the former world No1 is suffering.

    Not only did it increase the feeling that Nadal’s Australian Open title will go the way of the French Open and Wimbledon crowns that he relinquished in 2009, but it heightened the question of whether the 23-year-old Spaniard with the dodgy knees can ever again be a dominant figure in tennis.

    “I needed to be a bit more calm,” Nadal said when asked about a startling forehand miss from inside the baseline on the second of his two match points in the second-set tie-break against Davydenko. “Probably because I have not won a tournament for a few months I did not win this one.”

    It’s normal to miss a couple of pts, and everyone gets tight. But it’s a little strange how many opportunities Rafa missed yesterday: 2 MPs, 3-1 at the 3rd set and 2 chances to get a double break; 0-30 at 4-4 in the 3rd. This match was similar to the 3-0 against Delpo in Miami 2009.
    Nadal got in a winning position in this match several times, but he couldn’t finish it. This indicates that his mental strength is not where it used to be. I winced at that netted forehand at Match Point when the whole court was open. That’s not like the usual Nadal ( They don’t call’em “Nads” for nothing ya know :) )

    I guess Rafa summarized it best saying that because he’s not won a tournament for several months he did not win this one. That’s very perceptive. It’s clear that all the injuries, personal problem, RG-Wimb loss and beatdowns on HCs have taken their toll. It’s sort of a chicken egg situation: He needs to win to get his confidence back, but the confidence is precisely what is preventing him from winning in the 1st place. Still I’m heartened by the fact that he hasn’t lost his game forever. It’s just the nerves which are letting him down, not his technique. He has to keep trying harder, but the AO may be a little too soon for him..

    • Marley says:

      I agree with your last point, jimmy. I am consoled by the fact that by 1) Rafa is healthy at the moment and 2) his great tennis is still there. I was surprised that he can play this well when he was playing so badly just a month ago. And while this loss may have been tough for him, I believe that he knows that his getting back to top form (both physically and mentally) is going to be a process and may take time and that he’s willing to try harder to get there. Fed had a ~7-month stretch of not winning a title and found his way back…so I have every hope that Rafa, who is even more mentally strong than Fed, can also bounce back.

    • faeaki7 says:

      I read this article too JIMMY this morning, and was saddened by it, the media and critics are all over him.
      I was just watching the Soderling match today out of curiosity and in his match against Davy he played so much better, more aggressive and his shots were vicious skidding through the tapes of all the lines, at least in the first set.
      In the Soderling match the balls were shorter by a good margin and here again he missed 2 match points at 5-4 on Soderlingd serve! at 6-5 on Rafa’s serve Soderling nets a ball at 40-30 GAME SET MATCH Rafa!
      I thought he was defensive here and it wasn’t a gutsy win although over the right opponent, and a win is a win but he won’t get away with this always it was a bit luck after all.
      Against lower ranked players he will finish with an ace or a vintage loopy forehand down the line, but against the top players he faulters, the nerves setting in, even Wimby 2008 was won on a Federer error, ok it may have been drawn from a good serve, but there again on the tie-break those damn match points!
      What I am saying is Nadals nerves have been present for sometime now and they don’t seem to be getting better, we have seen the likes of Federer play lights out tennis only to lose mentally too, if Rafa doesn’t deal with this issue, and I wouldn’t know how, he may have a tough road ahead of him.

      • Rafangel says:

        Yeah but at Wimbledon he did find a way to win eventually – he always does. He’s always had nerves, and has learnt how to manage them. Give him time, he’ll get there. Look at all the progress he’s made already! If he’s still doing this sort of thing (and is without a trophy) this time next year, I’ll start to worry. Not before then.

        • Rafafan says:

          Yes Rafangel

          He def has nerves and has always had them! I am afraid if you look back on all the victories it has been where the other guy has gone into errors.

          Thus I was amazingly impressed by Davy. He just seemed to hit the ball harder and flatter – so much harder than Rafa. For the 2nd set and a half Rafa couldn’t get anywhere near it and was dictating. It was horrible to see.

          I god just hope Toni shows him the video – a) not to stay so behind the baseline with the defense and b) aggressive, aggressive aggresive. It’s the only way he will win now that most of the top players have sussed him out. Yeah – Rafa definitely choked at this match and it’s not the first time – he has just been lucky before with the other opponents making mistakes. Sorry to be hard about this but it’s a fact! Apart from the FO 2008 (but I have to say Fed wasn’t playing that great in the whole 3 sets anyway so doesn’t really count).

          If Rafa could maintain the form like in the first set of Davy – he will win against everyone. So pleeeeease Rafa beat your demons CONFIDENCE CONFIDENCE GO FOR IT xxx

          • sia says:

            What ???

          • Ch F says:

            I’m not sure understood your point… Are you basically saying Rafa has been incapable of closing out matches anyway? That he won because the opponents made mistakes? Well if we follow that line then it was the same now against Davy, so no problem. But I don’t think this is the case. If you cause the error it means you put pressure on the opponent so it’s not that you do nothing and it just happens. Unless you mean the others made UEs or that you would expect Rafa to end it with a winner every time.

    • Ch F says:

      I also find it worrying that Rafa started the match in such a spectacular way playing every point like a match point and then at match point he didn’t actually play it like one. He usually does the opposite, starts slow, then improves, probably loses a bit of focus at some point but then recovers to win the match. So I agree this is could be a problem and that’s the only thing that really worries me.

      But as you stated, jimmy, the technique is there and it came back much faster than we expected. Remember two months ago he had neither the technique nor the confidence. Now at least half the job is done. More than half actually, cause he has new ideas, his serve is better, his backhand is back and his forehand was lethal for a whole set against a top seed. If someone plays astronomical tennis for one set against a player like Davydenko, he can certainly do it again, and for longer.

      Rafa is a slow starter. His way to victory will be like these breath-taking, nail-biting matches of his. It just wasn’t for this time round. Or at least that’s what my hope is, for him and for tennis in general. (ok, for us too ;-) )

  8. Rafafan says:

    Jimmy – I love your take on things. Just my thoughts too, although I wish we were wrong. Also no amount of practice will help with this. So lets say this defeat is a “blessing in disguise”. He will learn from Toni giving him the tape to watch. I think to be honest he got over excited with that forehand into the net!! Thinking this is it. I am 100% sure of that. And therefore it backs it up with Rafa saying the fact he hasn’t had a title for months – nerves, excitement, at last something to celebrate, get the media off my back etc. etc! Like you heartened he hasn’t lot his game forever. Remember a few weeks ago we were criticsing him no end – you know not aggressive, 2 mtres from baseline – nearly in aussiland already, not serving deep, short balls etc. We now know a third thing last year – the shoulder problem which he didn’t discuss or mention. If you remember on miri’s site, there was a vid of him trying to serve but doing a very different motion – Uncle toni was helping him. Can’t find the link. So let’s not be down too much with our boy!

    OK he lost when he should have won! That’s one up. He played 3 sets, when he hasn’t since FO in May? So his fitness may have come into question? – short balls at the end. The mentality to go the distance and forget about his squandered points. This is the beginningn of the beginning of great things. Jimmy – do you agree? I know we can be a bit negative and tell him how to play the game but heah is AO really too soon? Look what happened last year. And …. I think this loss has brought more fight in him than ever – and now that he is 100% fit and the fire, my god did we not see it on court with all that vamos, lawn momer movement and nearly smashing the racket!! If anyone deserves it more it is Rafa. Put it this way when he won the AO last year he said he felt empty afterwards, as if there was nothing more to win – well what a turnaround and I am sure this has given him incentive if nothing else. See you and email you all on 18 Jan!

  9. faeaki7 says:

    Thanks for all the positive thoughts RafaFan, need them right now!

    • Rafafan says:

      Thanks positive aktitude indeed! But I confess I do agree with you about the mentality bit. All started after RAfa lost to del potro when up 4 – 1? Was that miami. Then he sort of mentioned “slipped out personal” and everything is history. I also think he has now had an overwhelming feeling of talking through everything that it has now become an “issue”. B4 Rafa was very cagey, not talking too much to the press, what is up his sleeve, but now I think he is talking too much and giving vibes to his opponents. If he says he has been under confident – the players are gonna love that.

      The media (I think they actually love Rafa – it keeps the tennis alive) and they think he is a great story – you know the ups and downs of tennis. Every press person likes to knock someone down who has been at the top and loves the struggle to rise up. Otherwise it would be boring and nothing to report all the time. So in a way the media love to hate rafa, and then see him come good again. They know it makes it exciting and when he wasn’t at Wimby, althogh the final was an epic, everyone knows how much Rafa was missed and in the last few months without his tennis. Although they are knocking him again, they really deep down knew he should have won and can’t wait to see him at AO.

      • k says:

        What i hate most is if Rafa took one of those match points, today the press would be all about how Rafa was back to his best..Now they write about if he can ever dominate again..He lost MPs in Wimbledon final in 2008, then he eventually got it, those things happen. It’s was just a few points and Rafa is a lot better against Davydenko now. Even if we forget about the first set, it is still true..

        • Ch F says:

          I wouldn’t rely on the media for their opinion on Rafa’s game, I might be repeating myself here but it’s their job to exaggerate.

          • k says:

            Ofcourse anyone who really cares shouldn’t rely. Even a few days ago they were writing about Rafa’s comeback. No sane people would beleive what they are talking about. My point is to say how useless and annoying they are unless they just stick to the facts.

      • Rafangel says:

        Not much point him denying he’s got a confidence issue – everyone can see it so he’s not giving ammo to his opponents. Actually I think it’s a cannier (and more honourable) approach than the complete denial Fed went into. Once you recognise your problem (and aren’t expending energy trying to hide it from everyone else when they can see it anyway), you’re going to be able to deal with it quicker.

        • Rafafan says:

          Interesting thought. I hadn’t thought of it this way. But admitting it doesn’t it make you more vulnerable, like if he admitted to the injuries b4 the match etc. Don’t really know what the difference would be, except playing into their (opponents) hands, but understand the energy of trying to keep everying “under your sleeve” but that’s life and sucking up or not to the journalists no?

  10. xta says:

    i remember the video of rafa working with toni on a new service motion, and i remember at the time that i thought it was being done to protect his abs…who knows, maybe his shoulder was hurting because he had been “cheating” on his serve trying to protect his abs…
    in any case, i’m seeing the glass as more than half full…rafa’s definitely got game right now…there’s certainly some space in the glass for his mental game, but i’m hanging in there in the belief that it will come…he knows he lost because he’s been losing…he also knows he’s got game to spare…and I know that he’s rafa — what more could anyone ask of him ???
    VAMOS !!!
    i’m going “down under” next week (so excited) — will any of the rest you be heading to the AO ???

    • Rafangel says:

      “rafa’s definitely got game right now…there’s certainly some space in the glass for his mental game, but i’m hanging in there in the belief that it will come…he knows he lost because he’s been losing…he also knows he’s got game to spare…and I know that he’s rafa — what more could anyone ask of him ???
      VAMOS !!!”

      Perfect summary, thanks :)

  11. Eva says:

    I keep thinking about this match and cannot avoid the concern that this loss could be quite demoralising for Rafa’s still shaky confidence. And with a GS just a week away…
    I really hope he is building on the positives – his game is in very good shape, he won a tournament (even if an exho) beating Söderling, and he improved his Doha result compared to last year. VAMOS!

    • Stf says:

      I don’t think it would be demoralising. After all, he lost to possibly the man to beat these days, Davydenko. Federer lost to him the previous day and he hasn’t even had those confidence issues that Rafa might’ve had. I think he played his best tennis in a while and if we know it, then he definitely knows it as well. He’s getting there, he just needs to be a little more “with colm” when it matters. I’m sure he won’t miss a second chance at winning a tournament.

      I’m very optimistic. So optimistic that I think he will once again dominate the clay court season. If he played this well in only the second tournament this year on a hard court, then I can only imagine what he’ll do on clay. Oh, the joy I’ll feel if he lifts that RG trophy again, shutting everyone up at the same time. ;)

      • jba says:

        just recently i was reading through articles about rafa and he said that doha has been a morale boost for him because he’s been playing really well. he even compared his recent performance to his level of play in 2008 saying that he believes that the way he played in the first set against kolya was how he played in 2008. i’m really looking forward to seeing him do well in australia. he just has to stay positive and stop with the self-doubt. he is playing great, he just has to believe in himself a little more.

      • Rafangel says:

        Whoop whoop! Good to hear! *reclines in happy tent*

  12. Ch F says:

    There was something very strange about this match that totally bothers me cause I can’t define it. Something unnatural about this blitz tennis of the first set and then this choking at the important points.
    But I keep thinking he’s too much of a champion to never get over this. At some point it will click for him. I only hope he’s healthy and that he still feels that eagerness to win and the determination that goes with it. No practice can fix the absence of that.

  13. patzin says:

    Perhaps being under the radar for Oz this year, so similar to last year being under the radar, meaning not expected to win, brings some comfort. Let’s just pray for steady progress throughout the tournament with the same result.

  14. jba says:

    found this blog at really good insights if you ask me.

    Cues from the Match, Nikolay Davydenko Vs Rafael Nadal, Doha 2010


    Analyst Written on January 09, 2010

    Watching this match would be one of the most disappointing experiences for a Nadal fan—well, for most of the fans who did watch the match.

    But if one takes the result away, what is left is some splendid tennis, full of great shotmaking, intense mental exchanges, and extreme drama.

    What do we take back from this match? A look at the same…

    1. No one is going to beat Rafael Nadal by exchanging groundstrokes with him in this kind of form. His topspin forehand in the first set was penetrating the court and biting the dust on the baseline.

    When someone paints lines, or rather removes the paint from the lines like that, with such an amount of topspin, the concept of “taking it early” doesn’t exist. You will feel the full weight of the stroke on your hands. It is fatiguing, and the probability is greater that you will not hit it cleanly enough.

    For this reason, Davydenko’s strokes were pretty ineffective in the first set, and the difference between them was clearly as much as the difference between their physiques.

    2. Nikolay Davydenko probably is the Andre Agassi of this era. Or, rather, he has become that. It is hard to believe that anyone can take the ball earlier than he is at the moment.

    This ability to take the ball so early, coupled with the fact that even when taken early, Nadal’s forehands are at the height of your shoulders, means that when you receive them short, you can create amazing angles stepping into the court. But you need a great backhand for that, like the Russian has.

    And the Russian started nailing all of them on the sidelines from the beginning of the second set—thus almost winning the point.

    When a top-spin forehand is hit deep, it has more horizontal pace; it literally climbs on you, putting you on the back-foot and hence on the defensive. But when it is short, it climbs more vertically, and you can adjust how much you need to move forward to be in the comfort zone.

    If you do it correctly, you are in an attacking position. It is a pretty difficult thing to do, which is why Nadal has only a few bad matchups.

    3. Nadal has improved the depth on his returns. In the first set, when Davydenko was not really having the best of times serving, it was Nadal’s first delivery that set the tone for the point.

    He has started looping the ball a bit (not “moon-balling” by any means) loaded with top-spin, aiming for the baseline on the other side of the net, which buys him time to make his way to the middle of the court. This in most cases pushes the server back, getting Nadal into the point.

    But when the serve is deep, flat, and more powerful like how the Russian served in the second, he ends up landing the balls shorter, but it again has the top-spin loaded on it. This gets a player like Davydenko into the point.

    4. Davydenko is amongst the toughest fighters on tour. He is ready to dig deep to win, even against the best players. A few players recently have refused to wilt under the “aura” that Federer and Nadal have had in the past, and Davydenko is a front-runner now.

    After losing innumerable set points in the second set, and against Nadal’s own championship points on the Nadal serve, Davydenko hung on. Nadal again had a break of serve in the last set, but Davydenko again broke back to level the match, and then he had the decisive break.

    After the second set, they were probably on equal footing in the third, but then to edge somebody as tenacious as Nadal takes a lot of courage.

    5. Nadal is retooling his game. He is playing a few great volleys at the net and with better touch and feel.

    His serve speed has improved, but his serve percentage has dipped. He is winning a few aces and service winners too. This corroborates with reports that he has been studying tapes of his service action at the behest of his uncle.

    He is also stepping inside the court more often nowadays than before, to shorten points and gain better control, especially with the backhand and the forehand down the line.

    But his passing shots have been a bit absent this whole tournament. On the few occasions the opponent forayed into the net, he either tried giving them topspins or hitting at their feet with a few passes here and there.

    Anyway, one can see an attempt to graduate into an all-courter. The pieces have to fall in place a bit better. But in that attempt, he needs to flatten out his crosscourt forehand as well.

    6. Davydenko has a great all-around game. Well, good enough to beat Nadal firing on all cylinders.

    It was pretty evident from the first set that he was not going to stay at the baseline and get the better of Nadal. He had to change things and get outside his comfort zone.

    He started serving better, started constructing points better, and started finishing them off at the net. Taking time away from Nadal was not going to be simply a matter of taking it early today. Also when you show that you have an option to approach the net, the opponent is kept guessing.

    He started reducing Nadal from an offensive baseliner to a defensive player, destroying his rhythm. He planned his approach shots pretty well, covered the net very well, and even so well that he hit a lunging crosscourt drop volley off a Nadal pass coming from way outside the tramlines.

    Once Nadal’s rhythm was not really there and he started feeling uncomfortable, he started defending more.

    This attitude and resourcefulness are what makes Davydenko a top contender for a Slam, most probably the Australian Open.

    7. Finally, Rafael Nadal is way better than he was at the end of last year. If he remains physically fit, he will surely be there on the last two days of Australian Open, unless the draw throws him early surprises.

    Great Slam contenders work their way into form through the period of the tournament and peak at the right moment; in all likelihood, Nadal will have things sorted out by that time.

    Davydenko is another frontrunner for the Australian Open title. The only thing that is not really certain is his fitness. But that can be said only in light of the fact that we have not seen him in this kind of form at a Slam. At the end of his Doha final, however, he was good enough to play on.

    That’s all for now.