Next stop: Australian Open [AFP]
Nikolay Davydenko welcomed in the new year with his first title win of the season with victory over Rafael Nadal in Doha.

The Russian saved two match points before rallying to beat Nadal 0-6, 7-6 (8), 6-4.

The result was Davydenko's third straight victory over the second-ranked Spaniard and improved his head-to-head record to 5-4.

He also became the 38th male player since the Open Era began in 1968 to win 20 or more titles.

Nadal however is still without a title for more than eight months and one week and there is only little over a week before he begins the defence of his Australian Open title

Surprise win

The third-seeded Russian said he was "surprised that I have won.''

"I was just fighting. I never thought about winning. I didn't think I could win," claimed Davydenko, though this seemed more like his professional psychology for taking each point as it came along.

"For every point I was fighting. And at the end it was just amazing."

It was a second consecutive title for Davydenko after winning the London World Tour Finals on November 29. He beat Nadal and Roger Federer in that event, as he did here.

David Nalbandian of Argentina is the only other player to beat Federer and Nadal in the same tournament on two occasions - at the Madrid Masters and Paris Masters in 2007.

Nadal started the match well, imposing a flatter-hitting, earlier-taken, more enterprising attack which he had been employing previously this week, and romped through seven games without reply.

When Davydenko began to play more as he had against Roger Federer in the semi-finals, taking the initiative wherever possible, hitting stridently and if necessary finishing the rally in the forecourt, Nadal fought back aggressively from 3-5 down, and looked odds on to close the match out in the tie-break.

On one of his match points, at 6-5, Davydenko played just too well, but on the second, at 8-7, Nadal earned himself a relatively pressure-free hit on the forehand from inside the baseline - and unaccountably put it into the net.

Confidence

Once he had also let slip an early break of serve in the final set, Nadal's lack of confidence, born from injury, a long sequence without a title, and doubts about his future, began to reveal itself.

He retreated more often into what he knew best - the style in which he contains his opponent's attacks from several feet behind the baseline, relying on mobility, tenacity, and change-of-paced winners from counter-hitting positions.

By the second half of the final set Davydenko was more often dominating the rallies and after two hours and 43 minutes of battling it no longer seemed a surprise when his turn-around was complete.

"In this tournament I came back to play my best tennis for a long time," claimed Nadal, making the best of his disappointment.

"Anyway I lost today (Saturday). He played unbelievable tennis - he was just better."

Source: Agencies