Nadal Beats Davydenko, Advances to Semis

Friday, November 17th 2006, 8:45 am
By: News On 6

SHANGHAI, China (AP) _ Rafael Nadal rallied to beat Nikolay Davydenko 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 Friday and set up a Masters Cup semifinal against top-ranked Roger Federer.

Nadal is 6-2 overall against Federer, and the only player in the elite eight-man draw with a winning record against the Swiss star.

Federer defeated Andy Roddick, defending champion David Nalbandian and Ivan Ljubicic to finish atop the Red Group in the round-robin stage.

Nadal lost to American James Blake in his opening match and recovered to beat fellow Spaniard Tommy Robredo and No. 3 Davydenko to qualify second from the Gold Group.

Blake was assured of a top spot in the group before his match later Friday against No. 6 Robredo. He will play Nalbandian in the semifinals of the season-ending tournament.

It was the first meeting between No. 2 Nadal and No. 3 Davydenko. Nadal has won five titles in six finals in 15 tournaments this year, while Davydenko won five titles in 31 events.

Davydenko ran out of energy in the deciding set against Nadal, as he did after leading Blake by a set and break before losing. In the first set, Davydenko controlled from the baseline, using fast, flat ground strokes to work Nadal from side to side.

Davydenko faced the first break points, needing to fend off three as he rallied from 0-40 to hold in the seventh game. He held at love in the next game and then broke Nadal in the 12th game, finishing the first set in 66 minutes on the 20-year-old Spaniard's double-fault.

Nadal broke Davydenko to open the second set and evened it at one set apiece.

Nadal needed a medical time out after the second game of the third set for treatment below his left knee. But it did not appear to hinder him, closing out the match when Davydenko's forehand went out.

In doubles matches Friday, second-seeded Jonas Bjorkman and Max Mirnyi finished the Gold Group round-robin stage unbeaten with a 6-3, 7-6 (7) win over Fabrice Santoro and Nenad Zimonjic.

Mark Knowles and Daniel Nestor also advanced 6-3, 6-3 over Poland pair Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski.

In the semifinals, Bjorkman-Mirnyi will face Martin Damm and Leander Paes, while Knowles and Nestor take on Red Group winner Paul Hanley and Kevin Ullyett.