Davydenko's tennis game back on track in slow return from injury

Nikolay DavydenkoEstoril, Portugal  - 2003 ATP winner Nikolay Davydenko showed the healing effect of a three-month injury break as the Russian second seed powered into his second tennis semi-final in three weeks with a 6-4, 6-3 defeat of Mardy Fish at the Estoril Open Friday.

Davydenko, last year's losing finalist against Roger Federer, didn't touch a racket from January through March due to a heel problem, which left him unable to run.

But the time away for the 27-year-old proved to be a benefit for his tennis, after years of grinding week-in, week-out tournaments on the ATP.

"Since I've come back I've been playing well," said the No. 11. "Everything's not about tennis anymore for me, I have family and other interests.

"I hardly think about my matches, I just go out and play, it doesn't matter how you are playing, it's your mental state."

Davydenko will wait for an opponent as fourth seed James Blake faced Florent Serra, the French eighth seed.

Joining Davydenko in weekend play will be Chile's Paul Capdeville, a winner over Spaniard Oscar Hernandez - 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, who faces either top seed Gilles Simon or Alberto Montanes of Spain.

Davydenko left the ATP before the Australian Open with his physical problem, tried his hand at Rotterdam in February, then did not play until a Monte Carlo quarter-final last month.

He showed his powers of recovery as he took on Rafael Nadal in a Barcelona semi-final, then lost his opening match in Rome a week ago.

"Physically I'm not as strong as I can be, but mentally I'm very tough," he said. "I've never had such a long time away from tennis.

"I'm still not playing my best tennis, it's too early for that, but I'm surprised that I have won some matches."

The women's final Saturday will feature Russian Ekaterina Makarova facing Belgian Yanina Wickmayer.

Makarova beat German Anna-Lena Groenefeld 6-3, 6-1; Wickmayer advanced in 13 minutes when Israeli Shahar Peer retired due to a foot injury. (dpa)