Fifth slam gives a second chance
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For two months shy of four years, Nikolay Davydenko was amongst the ten best tennis players in the world, his rankings fluctuating between three and six. Yet, the Russian never reached a Grand Slam final.
Similarly, for 36 months James Blake flirted with brilliance and tennis' elite. America's big hope peaked at four. But the three guys ahead of him plateaued his vision from the second Sunday of a Slam.
Of matching pedigree in today's circuit is the rottweiler from Valencia — David Ferrer, who has made the number five spot his own. A Slam final, however, has remained elusive. So, why does pro tennis not reward consistency, an attribute that every other sport takes pride in celebrating? The reason lies in its knockout format.
Place these Racquet Dravids, however, in the fifth most important event of a season and suddenly, the game changes. Here, Davydenko has won as many titles as Novak Djokovic. Blake has reached as many finals as Rafael Nadal and Ferrer could do what Andy Murray has never done.
But most importantly, here they play round-robin. Welcome to perhaps the toughest tournament in the calendar — the ongoing ATP World Tour Finals.
For a sport that celebrates two-week wonders, it is only right that the Davydenkos get their due. While a poor game or a set can knock you out of a Slam, the group stage format give you a second chance. Just ask the 2005 winner, David Nalbandian.
Having lost his opening group game to Roger Federer, Nalbandian beat Guillermo Coria and Ivan Ljubicic in his following round robin games to advance to the semis. On destroying Davydenko, the Argentine set up a final clash with the man he lost to first up.
Federer duly went two sets up again. But in a format that exemplifies second chances, Nalbandian returned to win what he considers the fifth Slam in five sets.
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