Monday, October 19, 2009

How will history judge Nikolay Davydenko?

Maybe you expected it, but if you didn't, no worries: I'll bet you're like about 95 percent of the tennis fans out there!

I'm referring to Nikolay Davydenko winning one of the ATP Tour's biggest stops, the Shanghai Masters. He followed up his near-classic semifinal win over Novak Djokovic with a straight-set defeat of Rafael Nadal, the top seed. This is Davydenko's fourth title of the season, all coming post-Wimbledon. I wonder if his legs are a little fresher after being sidelined in the early part of the year? (I still vote "no" on a shorter season!) But there I go again, making excuses for a Davydenko win.

You see, he regularly slips under my radar (and I don't think I'm the only one: Check out this posting at Tennis From Beyond the Baseline on that). But the fact of the matter is this: The dude can ball. Great strokes and excellent footspeed help him seriously grind down his opponents. I think he can open up a point in the middle of a rally almost as good as anyone out there.

Here's the thing, though: Why hasn't he won a Slam, or even made a Slam final.

It seems luck, mainly bad for him, has a lot to do with it. Aside from the loss to Mariano Puerta in 2005 at the French, his other pre-final runs at Majors have been ended by someone named Roger Federer. I thought this year at the French after Nadal lost that he was going to be the guy to make it to the finals from that side, but Robin Soderling blasted him.

Also, I used to have the idea that Tommy Haas was the best player in the Open era to never make a Slam final, mainly because of his career-high number-two ranking. Now I'm not so sure. Davydenko's gotten as high as number three and could realistically end his career with 30 titiles (more than two probable Hall of Famers, countrymen Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Marat Safin). If there's nary a Slam final on his resume, where does that leave him and his legacy in the game?

I guess as just a footnote, if that.

(Photo: Getty Images)


Deb195 said...

I like his attitude Van, I really thought it was funny that he said he likes to win so his wife has money to spend... that was classic. ;) Never really liked him much as he's so mousy but I do respect him mucho! Just get that man some chapstick.. He alwasys seems to have lip sores when he's on the court (or is it just me?)

van said...

He does have a withered, dried-up look to him, huh Deb?

I always, always underestimate him. I guess he likes proving me wrong!

Deb195 said...

well thats good for a laugh 'Withered and dried up' look... and the winner is...
HAHAHA got me in giggles here. Thanks, I needed it. ;)

Catherine Fryett said...

I have never played tennis and have only been watching it a year or two. But as soon as I saw Davydenko beat Nadal I predicted the next two wins and the third (as long as he could get his racket on Del Potro's serve, which he did - how could I ever doubt it?). Perhaps it was luck and Davydenko has just had a very long and uninterrupted run of exceptional form. But it didn't look like that did it? His focus and composure seemed to be coming from an inherently stable foundation, he doesn't need to: go to the towel, shout at himself, glare at the opposition or anything like that. He just gets on with it - undaunted. He moved too well for the lumbering big hitters, he struck the ball too well for the simplistic grinders, his "withered and dried up" (NOT) body held up better than younger and fresher ones, he out-witted them all. Yet the world of tennis seems to think he should not be able to do all this because he does not look or behave like a celebrity. Perhaps that is the very reason he can do it?. I hope he stops trying to please the public and remains the genuine, tennis-genius, article that he is at present. Not that you need it but: Good luck Nikolay, x Catherine

Meng said...

Catherine, you said it all. Davy plays sublime tennis IMO. Love him to bits. xxxMeng