Djokovic turns things around, beats Simon to earn Masters Cup final berth
SHANGHAI, China -- With everyone tired and aching after a long season, Nikolay Davydenko may be at his best. He knows how to take advantage of a weary opponent.
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"Murray was very tired," Davydenko said, adding that the Scotsman looked as if he were ready "to die."
Davydenko will play for the title Sunday against Novak Djokovic, who earlier rallied to oust France's Gilles Simon 4-6, 6-3, 7-5. Now, Davydenko gets another opponent who is less than fresh -- Djokovic needed nearly three hours to defeat Simon.
Murray went all out against Federer even though he already had clinched a spot in the semis. He added that he gave 100 percent against Davydenko, but getting to bed at 2:30 a.m. after defeating Federer didn't leave much left in his tank.
"I beat probably the best player of all time," Murray said. "I have no regrets about doing that. To beat him . . . means a similar amount to winning a tournament like this. Ideally, I would have liked to have beaten him easier . . . and given myself a slightly better chance to prepare for this match."
Murray often looked as if he were trudging through mud. He had only seven winners to 33 for Davydenko, who last played on Thursday, giving him plenty of time to recover.
"I don't want to try to make excuses," Murray said. "He played much better than me. I did the best that I could with what I had. My legs just weren't like they were in the rest of the matches. I wasn't getting the balls . . . that I usually do."
The final will be a rematch of a round-robin match this week, when Djokovic edged Davydenko in a 7-5 third set.
Despite consistently being ranked in the top five, Davydenko has never reached a Grand Slam final. He's been to the Masters Cup three times before, with his best showing a semifinals loss in 2005.
But he was steady and relentless against Murray. Both players struggled with their serve early. They swapped breaks to open the match, and Murray had to fend off three break points in the third game. Murray served at 5-5 and went up 40-15, but was swinging his racket in anger between points as Davydenko pulled to deuce.
Murray thought he had an ace to save a break point, but it was overruled. Murray wasn't convinced, walking toward the net for a look, then sent a backhand wide for the break. Davydenko ran off the last five games of the second set as Murray looked increasingly dispirited.
Djokovic lost all three of his matches at last year's Masters Cup.
"I didn't have such a great time here last year," he said. "Didn't win a single set. But I learned something. Took the best out of it and used it this year."
Simon was added to the field when No. 1 Rafael Nadal withdrew with a knee injury, then beat Federer in their opening group match.
Djokovic struggled against him in the first set, committing 21 unforced errors. But the Serb pulled himself together, mixing stinging groundstrokes with deft drop shots from behind the baseline. Djokovic served for the match at 5-4, but double-faulted on a break point.
"I was pretty exhausted, had to save some energy," he said. "I went for the shots. I wanted to make the points shorter. I risked, and the risk didn't pay off in that game. But it paid off afterwards."
He broke right back and converted his second chance to finish the match, then got down on his knees and kissed the court.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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