Like in the previous years, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal both decided to skip the last Masters 1000 event of the season in Paris 2006, offering their rivals a chance to fight for a notable title, not an easy task when they were around.
The third round matches provided one-sided encounters, and some solid indoor players reached the quarters, including the last year's champion Tomas Berdych. Tomas lost in the quarter-final to the 17th seed Dominik Hrbaty who advanced to the second Masters 1000 final, the first since Monte Carlo 2000.
Tommy Haas ousted the three-time champion Marat Safin in the quarters but had to retire against the Slovak in the semis, with Hrbaty setting up the final meeting with Nikolay Davydenko, who defeated three seeded players in a row to advance into his first Masters 1000 final.
It was the seventh ATP final for the Russian in his best season on the Tour, scoring a commanding 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 victory in swift an hour and 39 minutes for the tenth and the most prestigious title of his career up to that point.
Nikolay was the dominant figure on the court that week, losing serve just twice in five matches against Tommy Robredo in the semis and writing history as the last champion on the carpet surface and in the best-of-five title match in Bercy, with the event moving to hard and best-of-three finals from 2007.
Back in January, Davydenko had to come back from two sets to love down to topple Hrbaty in the fourth round at the Australian Open, but it was all about him on November 5, fending off all seven break points and stealing rival's serve six times from 13 chances for the most one-sided final in Paris since the beginning of the Open era.
Nikolay dominated with his first serve and kept the second serve safe to repel all those break opportunities and mount the pressure on the other side of the net. On the other hand, Dominik was powerless behind his initial shot, dropping more than half of the points in his games and never finding the rhythm that would steal the pace away from the Russian.
In 2006, Nikolay Davydenko stormed over Dominik Hrbaty to win Paris title.
Davydenko hit almost 20 winners more than his rival and forced more than 30 errors from Hrbaty, demolishing him in the shortest and mid-range points to control the scoreboard all the time and seal the deal in no time.
A service winner got Davydenko on the scoreboard, breaking Hrbaty in game two for an instant lead after moving around the court beautifully and hitting with depth and precision from both wings. The Russian closed the third game with a forehand winner and outplayed Hrbaty in the baseline rally to forge a 4-0 advantage in just 12 minutes.
Two winners in game five pushed Nikolay 5-0 up, closing the opener with a hold at love at 5-1 after only 21 minutes! Hrbaty won just eight points in the first seven games and had to raise his level significantly if he wanted to be more competitive against such a strong rival and fight for the title.
Instead of that, he netted another backhand to suffer a break in the second set's opening game, unable to move Davydenko from the comfort zone or impose his shots that had no impact. Nikolay fended off two break chances in game two with service winners and forced another error from Dominik in game three for the fifth straight break, rattling off nine out of ten games for a 6-1 3-0 lead!
A fantastic forehand down the line winner sent the Russian 5-1 up, wasting two set points on the return in the next game to allow Hrbaty to stay in the set at least for one more game. Another comfortable hold in the eighth game pushed Nikolay 6-1, 6-2 in front in less than an hour, marching towards the finish line and the title.
The Slovak saved three break points in the third set's third game before sending an easy backhand into the net in the fifth game to fall 3-2 behind, drifting further away from the positive result. Davydenko was returning from the baseline on both the first and second serve, taking the ball early and creating an advantage in the point right from the start.
The Russian had to work hard to cement the break, though, fending off four break points in the sixth game to move 4-2 ahead and earning another break in the next one to serve for the title. He saved a break point after a well-constructed attack and the crown was in his hands after a forehand crosscourt winner, celebrating his first Masters 1000 crown in a notable season that saw him becoming world no. 3 behind Federer and Nadal.