In the first week of the 2008 season, Rafael Nadal played an epic match against his compatriot and good friend, Carlos Moya. The Chennai semifinal match lasted almost 4 hours and ended 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 in Nadal's favor. And although the Spaniard went on to lose miserably to Mikhail Youzhny the next day in the final, that match was remembered throughout the season as one of the most entertaining and competitive clashes of 2008.
The same time in 2009, Nadal opened his season with another unforgettable performance; against Gael Monfils in the Doha quarterfinals. He lost to the Frenchman, but once again, the level of athleticism, competition and tennis was remarkable, and of course the match easily made the top 10 list for the 2009 season.
Last week was the 2010 season opener, and Rafael Nadal delivered once again. The world number two, together with Nikolay Davydenko, gave us a Saturday to remember as they both schooled us on what true competition really means.
The common denominator in all the matches mentioned above is obviously Rafael Nadal, but it certainly takes 2 players to produce such gripping encounters and I must say that Davydenko played some jaw-dropping tennis last Saturday (in fact throughout the whole tournament) as he beat Nadal despite losing the first set 6-0. It's one thing to beat Roger Federer in the semifinals 6-4, 6-4, and it's certainly another thing to come back against someone like Nadal having trailed 0-6 down and saving match points along the way.
Davydenko and Nadal played like they were contesting a Grand Slam final. I can only imagine their disappointment when they realized after the match that this was only an ATP 250 event. Both players hit every shot possibly conceivable in tennis... MORE THAN ONCE. If anything, this match just gives us a glimpse of what we can expect from both players this season. It is officially time for Davydenko to take this form into a Grand Slam and, for once, make it to the final.
As for the Rafa skeptics, I think they should rest now or unleash their skepticism onto someone else because the Australian Open defending champion has shown that, what does not kill him, can only make him stronger (and I'm not quoting Kanye, people have been saying that for the longest time ok?).
Less than one week till the Australian Open, people. Who else is super psyched?
For now, you can enjoy these highlights from the Doha final.
Davydenko d. Nadal 0-6, 7-6, 6-4