November 5, 2006: The day Davydenko won the shortest ever Paris Masters final

Every day, Tennis Majors takes you back to one of the most memorable moments in tennis history. On this day in tennis history, Nikolay Davydenko beat Dominik Hrbaty 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 in just 90 minutes to clinch his first Paris Masters title

Davydenko 11_05 OTD

What exactly happened on that day?

On this day, November 5 in 2006, Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko defeated Dominik Hrbaty in the shortest best-of-five sets final in the history of the Paris Masters (6-1, 6-2, 6-2). In the process, the Russian also clinched his career ATP Masters 1000 title. Alhough several top players skipped the event in order to prepare for the Masters Cup, the Russian displayed an impressive level of play all week long, and his triumph propelled him to No 3 in the ATP rankings, the highest in his career.

The players involved: Nikolay Davydenko and Dominik Hrbaty

  • Nikolay Davydenko: the Russian ball machine who was a solid top 5 player

Nikolay Davydenko was born in 1981 in Russia (then the USSR). He turned pro in 1999 and broke into the top 100 in late 2001. He claimed his first ATP title in January 2003 in Adelaide (defeating Kristof Vliegen in the final, 6-2, 7-6). The same year, he entered the top 50 after winning a second tournament in Estoril (defeating Agustin Calleri in the final, 6-4, 6-3). In 2004, he added two more titles to his list of achievements, including the prestigious Kremlin Cup (where he beat Greg Rusedski, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5).

Davydenko finished the year as world No 28, but his breakthrough season at the top level came in 2005. That year, he reached the quarter-finals at the Australian Open (lost to Andy Roddick, 6-3, 7-5, 4-1, ret.) and the semi-finals at Roland-Garros (defeated by Mariano Puerta, 6-3, 5-7, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4). He qualified for the Masters Cup but fell to David Nalbandian 6-0, 7-5 in the semis and finished the year as world No 5. The Russian remained in that spot for almost a year, and had a solid 2006 season where he claimed five titles (including a second Kremlin Cup, defeating fellow Russian Marat Safin in the final, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4), reached the quarter-finals at both the Australian Open and Roland-Garros, and reached the final four at the US Open (lost to Roger Federer, 6-1, 7-5, 6-4). Davydenko played at a very fast pace and took the ball on the rise. His consistency in this game style earned him the nickname “ball machine” from Tommy Haas.

  • Dominik Hrbaty: The Dominator from Slovakia
Dominik Hrbaty, 2004
Dominik Hrbaty Image Credit – Photosport / Panoramic

Dominik Hrbaty, from Slovakia, was born in 1978. Nicknamed “Dominator”, he turned pro in 1996 and was named ATP’s “Newcomer of the year”, after taking the leap from world No 315 to No 78 in 12 months. He won his first title in 1998 in San Marino, defeating Mariano Puerta in the final (6-2, 7-5). In 1999, he obtained his best Grand Slam result at Roland-Garros, where he reached the semi-finals, only to be defeated by Andre Agassi (6-4, 7-6, 3-6, 6-4).

In 2004, he began the year by winning his two first tournaments of the season – Adelaide (defeating Michael Llodra, 6-4, 6-0) and Auckland (beating Rafael Nadal, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5). He then picked up a third tournament in Marseille (defeating Robin Soderling, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4). After reaching the US Open quarterfinals (lost to Tim Henman, 6-1, 7-5, 5-7, 6-2), he climbed to No 12 in the world rankings, his highest ranking yet. In 2005, along with Karol Beck and Karol Kucera, he led the Slovakian team into the Davis Cup final. Although Hrbaty won his two singles matches against Mario Ancic and Ivan Ljubicic, his team was defeated by Croatia, 3-2. In November 2006, he held the 27th spot in the ATP rankings.

The place: Paris, France

The Paris-Bercy Indoor Open was established in 1986. Held annually in early November, it was usually the last tournament on the tour before the Masters Cup and the Dais Cup finals. One of the most prestigious indoor events in the world, it became a part of the Super 9 category (the former name of the Masters 1000) in 1990. Amongst former champions were legends such as Boris Becker (1986, 1989, 1992), Andre Agassi (1994, 1999), Pete Sampras (1995, 1997) and Marat Safin (2000, 2002, 2004). 

The facts: Davydenko needs only 90 minutes to win the best-of-five set final

Arriving in Paris as world No 5, Nikolay Davydenko was the 4th seed in the draw, but after the last-minute withdrawal of the top three seeds (Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and David Nalbandian), the Russian became the favourite for the title. Davydenko confirmed his status as the man to beat right from the get go. Parked on the baseline, hitting the ball on the rise while aiming at the lines, the world No 5 blanked Christophe Rochus in the first round (6-0, 6-0), before crushing compatriot Dmitry Tursunov in the second round (6-2, 6-2). In the quarter-finals, it was Mario Ancic’s turn to be swept off the court (6-3, 6-3).

“There’s nothing to do when he plays like this, apart from running or maybe sitting aside and watching him play”, said the Croatian. In the semi-finals though, Davydenko dropped a set against Tommy Robredo, world No 7, but prevailed easily in the decider (6-3, 5-7, 6-2).

His opponent in the final, Dominik Hrbaty, was exceeding expectations by making it to the final. The world No 27 eliminated defending champion Tomas Berdych in the quarter-finals (6-4, 1-6, 6-2), and in the semi-finals, his opponent, Tommy Haas, retired after the Slovak took the first set, 6-4.

The final proved to be one of the most one-sided finals in the tournament’s history, and it was the shortest. Davydenko won the first five games before taking the first set 6-1. In the second set, the Russian took a 4-0 lead, before winning it 6-2. Hrbaty managed to stay even until 2-2 in the third set, but that was as much excitement as the French crowd could witness that day. In 90 minutes, Davydenko sealed the victory, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2, claiming his first Masters 1000 crown.

What next? Davydenko wins two more Masters 1000 titles

At the Masters Cup, Davydenko would be eliminated in the round robin stage. In the following years, he would reach Grand Slam semi-finals again in 2007, at Roland-Garros and the US Open, but was defeated by Roger Federer. He would claim two other Masters 1000 crowns, one in Miami in 2008, and the other in Madrid in 2009, getting the upper hand over Rafael Nadal in both. His career would peak at the 2009 Masters Cup, where he would claim the most important title of his career, beating Juan Martin del Potro in the final (6-3, 6-4). After this triumph, the Russian would decline but remain a top 50 player until his retirement in 2014.

Hrbaty would never reach an ATP final again. He would leave the top 100 at the end of 2007 and would never make his way back into it. At the end of 2010, holding the 417th ATP ranking position, he would officially retire from professional tennis.

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