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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Humble Davydenko Takes Top Prize in Shanghai

APDavydenko reacting to the judges' decision that declared him the winner in the final of the Shanghai Masters tournament on Sunday, Oct. 18, 2009, in Shanghai, China.

It was fitting that Nikolai Davydenko should get his biggest win of the year on Sunday at a Shanghai Masters tournament dominated by injury retirements and a debate over the length of the season.

The 28-year-old Russian, who beat Spanish world No. 2 Rafa Nadal 7-6, 6-3 in the final, has long had a reputation as one of the hardest working players in the game, and his tenacity paid off in Shanghai.

The final point of the match delivered some drama when Nadal's forehand received a late out call by a linesperson. Davydenko thought he won the match, but Nadal challenged the call.

Awaiting the decision in a crouch, Davydenko leapt up in victory when the replay showed that Nadal's ball had landed long. He then ran to the side of the court to kiss his wife Irina.

The first set had a number of twists and turns before Davydenko hit a backhand winner down the line to clinch the tiebreaker.

Davydenko took advantage of his third break point in the third game and held it until Nadal broke back in the eighth game.

"Four-all in first set, I was feeling like I losing my chance to win the first set because he came back," Davydenko said. "I play very well in the tiebreak, winning, and then feeling I have a chance."

It appeared that Nadal was taking charge, holding a set point on Davydenko's serve in the 10th game. But he flubbed that point by hitting a casual lob that Davydenko answered with a crisp overhead winner.

From 2-2 in the first set tiebreaker, Davydenko successfully challenged Nadal's serve on the fifth and ninth points to prevail.

In the second set, Davydenko broke Nadal's serve in the sixth game when the Spaniard hit a backhand wide to take a 4-2 lead. 

Andy Roddick, who said on Monday that the careers of top players could be shortened if the season was not reduced in length, was one of nine players who subsequently failed to complete their matches at the tournament.

"It's good for me if everybody gets injured at the end of the year, because I didn't play the first three months of the year and everybody played already," said Davydenko, who now has a good shot at making the World Tour finals in London next month.

"Maybe I have more chance coming to London. Maybe everybody will retire in London and I can win London," he joked. Whippet-thin with a bald pate and an unflamboyant style of play, the 28-year-old baseliner is under no illusion that he is one of the sport's stars.

"I want to finish top 10 in this year, just this thing, for me, it's important. Everything else is not so important," said the current number eight.

"I don't want to have more fans. Okay, more money is always good. But I'm not the sort of person who wants to be famous.

"Nobody expects me to win a tournament. And so I have no pressure. If I win, it's good. If I lose, also it's okay. I just play and I do my job."

He is no journeyman either, racking up more than $10 million in prize money in a decade on the tour and finishing in the top five at the end of each season since 2004.

If Davydenko is known for anything, though, it is for the number of tournaments he plays.

Despite missing three months with a heel injury, Shanghai was the Russian's 19th tournament of the year. Last year he played 22 tour events, three Davis Cup ties and the Olympics.

"Some guys say [the season] is too long. Some guys say it's too short. Really, it depends how many tournaments you play and how many matches you play," he said.

"For sure if I get to the final every week then, yes, I'd say I want to finish in three months."

Davydenko has won at least one title in each of the last seven years but, despite his consistent success, has never been beyond the semifinals at a Grand Slam.

"Today was a two-set match," he explained. "In a Grand Slam, I need to play one more set against Nadal. I don't know if I can beat him in a third set, and a fourth and a fifth.

"It's difficult. Maybe if you change the Grand Slam to three sets I can win some."

(AP, Reuters)