After failing to win a set against David Ferrer, Richard Gasquet and Rafael Nadal on his Masters Cup debut in 2007, Novak Djokovic was ready to compete on a much higher level in Shanghai in the following season. Novak spent the entire 2008 as world no.
3, claiming four titles overall and lifting his first Major crown at the Australian Open, together with two Masters 1000 trophies. Determined to show his class at the last edition of the Masters Cup in Shanghai, Novak went all the way and defeated Nikolay Davydenko 6-1, 7-5 in an hour and 43 minutes on November 16 to lift another big trophy at the age of 21.
Rafael Nadal had to withdraw from the event, opening the door for Gilles Simon who joined Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the draw for the first Masters Cup tournament with two French players since 1986! There was an interesting scenario with alternates as well, with no one from the top-20 wanting to travel to Shanghai and wait for a chance, leaving Radek Stepanek and Nicolas Kiefer as the players who were hoping for an opportunity at the premium ATP event.
In the Red Group, Roger Federer had failed to pass the round-robin stage for the first and only time at the Masters Cup, losing to Gilles Simon 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 before beating Radek Stepanek (he replaced Andy Roddick after the first round) 7-6, 6-4 to stay in contention.
On the last day of the round-robin action, Andy Murray took down Roger 4-6, 7-6, 7-5 to send the Swiss out after five straight finals reached at this tournament, with the Briton and the Frenchman advancing into the semis.
There were some incredibly tight matches in the Gold Group, with many tie breaks and chances for all to go through. Novak Djokovic defeated Nikolay Davydenko and Juan Martin del Potro to qualify before the final round-robin meeting with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga that the Frenchman won for his only victory in Shanghai that year.
In one of the most dramatic clashes of the week, Nikolay Davydenko ousted Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4, 6-7, 7-6 and toppled Juan Martin del Potro 7-5, 6-3 to join Novak in the last four. There, Novak needed two hours and 52 minutes to prevail against Gilles Simon 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, setting the second encounter against Davydenko who took down Andy Murray 7-5, 6-2.
As we already said, the Serb defeated the Russian 6-1, 7-5 in the title match to become the champion, fending off three out of four break chances and delivering four breaks from 11 opportunities to find himself over the top.
Novak had more winners, fewer unforced errors and more mistakes that he forced from Nikolay's racquet, outplaying the rival completely in the shortest and mid-range exchanges to seal the deal in straight sets and lift already his sixth notable title in a young career.
Nikolay served at 47% and his initial shot was under constant pressure all the time, unable to impose his strokes and move Djokovic from the comfort zone or draw more errors from the youngster. It was a solid resistance from the Russian in the second set, giving his best to level the score at 5-5 before Novak claimed the last two games to seal the deal and finish the season on a high note.
Djokovic broke in the second game after a backhand error from Davydenko, holding at love with an incredible forehand crosscourt winner to move 3-0 up after just ten minutes. Finding nothing in his arsenal that would keep him in the rallies, Nikolay sprayed another backhand mistake to suffer another break and fall 4-0 behind, with Novak landing an ace that propelled him 5-0 in front in no time at all.
Davydenko finally held serve in game six after deuce to avoid complete disaster, wasting two break chances in the next game and allowing Novak to close the set with a perfect backhand crosscourt bullet that drew an error from the Russian for a 6-1.
The youngster grabbed another break in the third game of the second set following an incredible defense, landing an ace in the next game to open up a 6-1, 3-1 advantage after swift 54 minutes. Nikolay fended off two break chances in game five to avoid an even bigger disaster, facing two match points on his serve at 3-5.
He saved those with some brave hitting and held thanks to a service winner that pulled him back to 4-5. Untroubled on serve so far, Djokovic lost his focus a little bit in the tenth game, hitting a double fault to give serve away and keep Nikolay in contention in the closing stages of the set.
Nonetheless, Novak was determined to finish the job without playing a decider, breaking at 15 in game 11 when Davydenko netted a forehand and hitting two winners in the next game to move over the top and celebrate the title in what was the last edition of the Masters Cup in Shanghai before moving to London from 2009.