Three years after losing that epic Miami final to Roger Federer from two sets to love up and two points away from victory, Rafael Nadal lost another title match in Florida to Nikolay Davydenko. On April 6, 2008, the Russian toppled the Spaniard 6-4, 6-2 in an hour and 31 minutes for his second Masters 1000 crown and the first for the Russian players in Miami, heading to Florida as the 4th seed and using the favorable draw to go all the way and pick up the second big title after Paris 2006. The 3rd seed Novak Djokovic suffered an unexpected loss to a qualifier Kevin Anderson in the second round. At the same time, Davydenko barely escaped the same fate, beating Ernests Gulbis 3-6, 7-6, 7-6 in two hours and 41 minutes for the winning start. Nikolay had to come from a set down against Simone Bolelli and Mario Ancic, playing his best tennis when he needed it the most to stay in the competition before the commanding 6-2, 6-1 triumph over Janko Tipsarevic that pushed him into the semis.
There, he ousted Andy Roddick 7-6, 6-2, settling into a great rhythm in the last two matches (Janko and Andy broke him only twice) and moving into the final. It was a much-needed one for the Russian after a mediocre 2007 season that came following the stellar 2006 when he was among the world’s best players. The 2nd seed Rafael Nadal advanced into the season’s fourth semi-final, missing a chance to win the crown in Doha, Melbourne and Indian Wells and hoping to change that in his second Miami title match. After three straight sets triumphs, Rafa overcame James Blake 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 to reach the semis where Tomas Berdych fell 7-6, 6-2 to secure another Masters 1000 final and chasing the notable crowd he was missing. Nonetheless, Davydenko proved to be too strong, scoring the first victory over Rafa in three matches and lifting the career’s most significant title.
In 2008, Nikolay Davydenko defeated Rafael Nadal in straight sets in Miami.
Despite those couple of losses, Nikolay was capable of beating Rafa on both hard and clay, pushing the Spaniard to the limits at the Masters Cup 2006 and in Rome next year when he stayed on the court for three hours and 39 minutes before Nadal prevailed into the final. There was only one player on the court in this Miami clash, though, with Nikolay controlling the pace to score dominant triumph and leave Rafa empty-handed, losing serve only once and scoring four breaks to move over the finish line in style. Davydenko was one of the rare players who could endure the baseline rallies with Rafa, covering the court beautifully and hitting the ball early to take away the timing from Nadal and keep the points on his racquet. The Russian finished the match with more winners, fewer unforced errors and more forced mistakes he drew from Rafa, destroying the rival in the mid-range rallies to forge the triumph.
Nadal held at 15 in the encounter’s opening game with a forehand winner, and Nikolay responded in the same way, making an excellent hold in game two and forcing Rafa’s error to secure the first break in the next one and move 2-1 up. World no. 2 broke back at love in game four, missing more chances at 3-2 and suffering a tough break at love at 3-3, allowing Nikolay to open a 5-3 advantage with a hold at love after a service winner. Serving for the set in game ten, Davydenko grabbed another comfortable hold for 6-4 in 45 minutes, gathering momentum and hoping for more of the same in set number two.
Nadal was in a very tough position when his forehand landed long in the second set’s opening game to experience a break. To make things even worse, the Spaniard failed to win a point on the return in the early stages and got broken once again at 1-3 when Nikolay fired a forehand winner. Serving for the title at 5-2, the Russian landed a forehand crosscourt winner to seal the deal and get his hands on the trophy after a thrilling performance against one of the fiercest possible rivals out there.