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13th time lucky for Davydenko

London: Roger Federer was eliminated from the ATP World Tour Finals on Saturday, losing to Nikolay Davydenko 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 in the semi-finals.

Federer, who was broken three straight times in the first set, came within two points of winning while leading 5-4 in the third set. But Davydenko held on and then broke Federer to take a 6-5 lead before serving out the win.

It was the Russian’s first win over the top-ranked Federer in 13 matches.

Federer again struggled with his serve and his shot-making for much of the match, but he looked invincible while serving throughout the third set and held easily through 5-4. And with Davydenko serving to stay in the match, Federer took a 30-0 lead when he returned an overhead smash from Davydenko by running across the court and jumping high to get his racket on the ball.

Davydenko was stunned by the acrobatic return, but he still won the next four points to hold serve. Federer, who clinched the year-end No. 1 ranking after winning his second group match at the season-ending tournament, again didn’t look like himself at the O2 Arena, often misplacing his usual dominating forehand and struggling to hold serve against a player he had never before lost to.

Even the fans may have questioned who it was on the court when the scoreboard operator mistakenly put a red-white-and-blue-striped Russian flag next to Federer’s name for a portion of the match. It was, however, quickly replaced by the familiar Swiss symbol of a white cross in a red background.

Federer lost the first set in each of his three Group A matches, but managed to beat Fernando Verdasco and Andy Murray before losing to Del Potro — the same man who beat Federer in the US Open final.

On Saturday, Federer was stellar in the opening two games, first holding at love with a pair of aces and then earning a pair of break points in the second game. But Davydenko saved them both, and he then went on his streak of breaking Federer three straight times.

The 15-time Grand Slam champion broke back once. To start the second set, Federer slowed down his powerful serve, thereby raising his first-serve percentage, and held easily throughout.

However, he still showed his frustration early in the set. After sending backhand return into the base of the net, the ball came bouncing back toward him and he kicked it over to the other side of the court. That, too, went wide.

But leading 5-4 in that second set, he managed to break Davydenko for the second time when the Russian sent a forehand wide on Federer’s second break point.

“I waited for a very long time to beat Federer, losing 12 times, and to beat him in London it’s very special,” the 28-year-old Davydenko, who first lost to Federer in 2002, said on court after an admirably muted celebration on matchpoint.

“I knew Federer would try and come back and he tried to win at 5-4 on my serve but he didn’t and I came back. When he hit that smash I thought he was lucky again, I thought: ‘No, not again, 13 times in a row, to lose again’.”

Davydenko came into the match on Saturday afternoon after playing well into the night the day before, when he needed three sets to beat Soderling 7-6 4-6 6-3. The win sent Djokovic spinning out of the tournament

Davydenko edged into second spot by virtue of a 5-3 sets record compared to the 4-3 compiled by Djokovic, whose hopes of defending the title he won last year in Shanghai and climbing to world number two above Nadal were crushed.

Despite exiting the tournament, Djokovic refused to blame the group format that caused complete chaos the previous evening when tournaments officials took an age to work out the final standings in a tight Group A.

”I think in Masters Cup, in World Tour Finals, (the round-robin system) it's actually good,” Djokovic, who beat Davydenko earlier in the tournament, told reporters before discovering his fate.

”In my situation maybe not now, because my destiny does not depend on myself but that's the way it is.

”Maybe the fact that every set counts and every game counts puts a little bit more pressure on you,” added Djokovic, who was left to rue a second-set capitulation against Soderling earlier in the week that ultimately proved costly.

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