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Gasquet vs. Davydenko: Doha Final Preview and Prediction

MASON, OH - AUGUST 16:  Nikolay Davydenko of Russia leaves the court after withdrawing from his match against Novak Djokovic of Serbia  during day six of the Western & Southern Open at Lindner Family Tennis Center on August 16, 2012 in Mason, Ohio.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images
Nick NemeroffCorrespondent IIJanuary 5, 2013

The first ATP final of the 2013 season has dawned upon us in Doha as Richard Gasquet of France and Nikolay Davydenko of Russia contest the crowning match of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open. 

At stake is 250 points and a check for just over $180,000 for the champion.   

Gasquet comes in as the world No. 10 and the tournament's No. 2 seed, while Davydenko is ranked No. 44 and has blazed into the final unseeded.

 

Road to the Final 

Round of 32: Davydenko d. Hanescu 6-3 6-2; Gasquet d. Hernych 6-3 6-4

Round of 16: Davydenko d. Youzhny 7-5 6-3; Gasquet d. Zemlja 6-7(7) 6-4 7-6(3)

Quarterfinals: Davydenko d. Bolleli 6-1 6-1; Gasquet d. Lacko 6-1 6-3

Semifinals: Davydenko d. Ferrer 6-2 6-3; Gasquet d. Brands 7-5 7-5

 

Keys for Davydenko

Nikolay Davydenko is one of the most potent and effective ball-strikers in tennis.  One who enjoys flattening out his shots and taking the ball on the rise, Davydenko needs to ensure he is limiting the time Gasquet has to execute his lengthy groundstrokes. 

Davydenko should look to target the Gasquet forehand, which is extremely segmented, protracted and susceptible to breaking down, especially due to the fact that Gasquet uses an unorthodox continental grip on his forehand.   

As someone who thrives upon dissecting the court and taking the ball off the rise, Davydenko will seek to reap all the advantages of such a strategy against Gasquet, who like his fellow Frenchman Gael Monfils finds himself well behind the baseline on a majority of points.  

Davydenko often serves at a high percentage, which will be important in propagating his aggressive, first-strike style.

 

Keys for Gasquet

Gasquet will be facing one of the most potent returners in all of tennis, so it will be absolutely critical for the Frenchman to serve at a high percentage and to hold Davydenko accountable by introducing a variety of spin and placement off the serve.

The niche Gasquet has developed behind the baseline will have to broken in this match if he wants to maximize his chances of being successful. As stated earlier, Davydenko will be taking the ball on early, which will significantly reduce the amount of extended, grinding rallies characterized by heavy spin.   

If I were Gasquet, my goal would be to keep the Russian on the move, drawing him into as many low-percentage shots as possible. Moving the former world No. 3 side to side and being aggressive when given the opportunity will be vital.

In addition, Gasquet will need to really stay solid on his forehand and look to establish as many backhand-to-backhand rallies as possible.  

 

Prediction

Seeing that Davydenko hasn't dropped a set the entire week and just recorded a stunning and convincing victory over David Ferrer, the Russian is certainly brewing with confidence.   

Gasquet's journey has been much more difficult and strenuous, and he nearly saw the exits against Grega Zemlja in the second round.  

The Russian should have Gasquet off balance and out of sorts by taking away his time and taking him out of his typical game plan. 

I'm forecasting Davydenko to even up the head-to-head in this matchup, which is currently 3-2 Gasquet, by taking out the Frenchman in straight sets.

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