London: Rafael Nadal will not be carrying home any fond memories from his trips to London this year after he became the first player to be knocked out of the ATP World Tour Finals on Wednesday.
Five months after limping out of Wimbledon without defending his title due to aching knees, the Spaniard bore little resemblance to the player who once terrorised his opponents as he slumped to a 6-1, 7-6 defeat by Russia's Nikolay Davydenko.
"I fought a lot. I tried my best all the time but it wasn't enough to win these matches. That's it, no?" summed up Nadal, who lost both of his Group B clashes in straight sets.
While Nadal was left to lick his wounds, Swede Robin Soderling became the first qualifier for the semi-finals when he battered world No.3 Novak Djokovic 7-6, 6-1 for his second major shock of the tournament.
Soderling, only competing in the year-end showpiece at London's O2 Arena after Andy Roddick's injury-enforced withdrawal, backed up his opening win over Nadal with another magnificent exhibition of power and precision.
It was the kind of display Nadal would have been proud of but instead the Spaniard spent more time shaking his head in frustration than producing winners during a lopsided first set against Davydenko that flashed by in 27 minutes.
Trailing 4-2 in the second set, Nadal appeared to be heading towards one of the worst defeats in his career when a child's voice boomed out from the darkened arena: "Wake up Rafa, remember you're the No.2 in the world."
Nadal appeared to heed the call and thumped his chest as he twice came from a break down to force Davydenko into a tiebreak, though after a tight battle featuring long rallies, crafty angles and thumping smashes, the Russian managed to seal victory.
Nadal has no chance of progressing any further in the elite eight-man event even if he beats Djokovic in his final round-robin match on Friday.
Djokovic has played almost 100 ATP matches this year and it showed as he appeared to throw in the towel in the second set.
The Serb, winner of the tournament 12 months ago when it was held in Shanghai, barely had enough energy afterwards to answer questions and he will have to pick himself up quickly for his match against Nadal if he is to reach the semis.
"I didn't enjoy playing today's match, that's for sure," Djokovic, told reporters. "I'm just fatigued from the whole season.
"He absolutely deserved to qualify for the semi-finals. I think he's the best player so far in the tournament."
The only surprising thing about the match was that Djokovic managed to drag the first set into a tiebreak, which the Swede sealed with a big first serve.
Soderling won a tremendous baseline exchange to seal the first service break of the match at 1-1 in the second set, splintering Djokovic's resolve in the process, and raced away with the second set in just 29 minutes.
"There are top nine guys in the world here and I've won two matches in straight sets against the No.2 and 3 in the world," Soderling said.
"I couldn't have asked for anything more."
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