Nikolay Davydenko Continues To Struggle, Falls to Anderson at Sony Ericsson Open

Michael PerchickCorrespondent IMarch 24, 2011

KEY BISCAYNE, FL - MARCH 23:  Kevin Anderson of South Africa hits a backhand return against Nikolay Davydenko of Russia during the Sony Ericsson Open at Crandon Park Tennis Center on March 23, 2011 in Key Biscayne, Florida.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

Kevin Anderson used his overpowering serve to knock off Nikolay Davydenko 6-4, 6-3 in the first round of the Sony Ericsson Classic Wednesday afternoon in Key Biscayne, Florida.

Anderson controlled the flow from the beginning, breaking Davydenko’s first serve, and winning the first seven points of the match.  

Throughout the opening set, Davydenko could only muster four points off of Anderson’s serve, never winning more than one point in any game.

Up 2-1 in the second set, Davydenko had his best opportunity to get back in the match when Anderson uncharacteristically double-faulted twice, giving the Russian a chance to take a commanding 3-1 lead. 

But Anderson was able to hold his serve, and then broke Davydenko to take a 3-2 lead that he never relinquished.

"I remember that game.  I hit a pretty good serve at 30-all, so I was fortunate,” Anderson told  “Definitely felt the beginning of the second set was important just to keep my momentum going, and I was able to control my service games really well which went a long way in the outcome of the match.”

Davydenko’s struggles continued, as he had trouble returning Anderson’s serve all match.

Coming into the tournament, Davydenko had dropped five of seven matches, all on hard court, where he is notoriously tough to beat.  But he was knocked out of a tournament before the third round for the sixth consecutive timea far cry from his impressive run to the finals in Qatar to begin the year.

The victory was another big step in the right direction for Anderson, the 6’8'' South African, who is currently enjoying a breakout season. 

He won his first ATP title in his native country, winning the South African Tennis Open in February, and made a nice run in the Brisbane International Tennis Tournament.

 Both players had history with the tournament. 

Davydenko won the tournament the last time he played in 2008, but has had to miss it the last two seasons due to injuries. 

Anderson also missed the tournament the last two seasons, but captured his first win over a top-10 opponent here when he defeated Novak Djokovic in the second round in 2008.

Prior to the match, Anderson and Davydenko had met once before, a five-set, four-hour thriller in the first round of Wimbledon that saw Davydenko prevail.  The story was the same in that one, with Anderson picking up 36 aces in the match, and starting off strong, winning the first two sets. 

However, he ran out of energy as the match went on, allowing the more experienced Davydenko back into the match. 

This time, Anderson made sure to shut the door on any potential comeback.            

“His serve’s pretty tricky,” said Anderson to  “He mixes up his first serve.  I thought I did a great job on his second serve, which I struggled with a bit the first time.  For me, it was just important to try to dictate play.”

The match also had big rankings ramifications, with Davydenko the 41st-ranked player in the world, and Anderson the 40th-ranked player in the world. 

While Anderson is enjoying his highest-ever ranking, Davydenko has not been ranked this low in seven years, and needed a strong showing at the tournament to improve his seeding. 

Anderson faces 26th ranked Guillermo Garcia-Lopez next round, an opponent he has never faced before.  But he’s going into the match with a positive attitude.

 “I will have to talk to my coach about it and try and assess it and see how he plays," Anderson told "Most importantly is just have a good day tomorrow and continue playing my game.  I think that will serve me best.”