No one like Nikolay (cont.)
Posted: Wednesday February 21, 2007 10:57AM; Updated: Wednesday February 21, 2007 11:24AM
Is Davydenko a purist? The man [has few endorsements] and is likable for all his misfired English comment about a tournament that supposedly no one cared about. He is so shortchanged in the tour for years now. For one, during the Australian Open, he got no exposure. Was that a punishment for that one bad tournament comment? I root for him most of the time. He deserves so much better for his dedication.
I absolutely agree. At a time when most stars want to play fewer events, here's a guy who plays every opportunity he can. He's completely devoted to his craft. He trains as hard as anyone. He's upgraded his game. If his ranking is perhaps inflated by his sheer industriousness, so be it. The guy works hard and he gets ahead. He's not tanking matches or gaming the system. How do you begrudge him?
As for his exposure, I think there are several forces working against him. First, he's a late bloomer and most companies want Next Big Things, not overachieving veterans. Second, he is, in essence, a man without a country. Third, he has the audacity to speak imperfect English. Fourth, his game isn't particularly sexy, the way, say, Fernando Gonzalez's is. (Still, the guy is the No. 3 friggin' player in the world!)
This would be a good time to mention, too, that the above interview was conducted perhaps 20 minutes after he lost a heartbreaking five-setter to Tommy Haas in the Australian Open quarterfinals. Players aren't good guys and bad guys based on how they respond to media requests, but I think Davydenko's willingness to cooperate and his self-deprecating answers were revealing.
If talent and work ethic are the two primary factors that account for a tennis player's ranking, what percentage of each of those factors would you ascribe to account for Davydenko's ascension to No. 3 in the rankings? What players currently outside the top 20, who have never reached the top three, could attain that ranking if they had Davydenko's work ethic?
Obviously, work ethic is trumping talent in this case. But I would add "physique" as another factor in Davydenko's success. I don't care about his listed weight, the guy can't possibly tip the scales at more than 160 pounds. We're talking Petr Korda on Atkins. This might compromise his power but he's very light on his feet and, if not immune to injury, at least well-positioned to avoid wear and tear on his body.
Is it true that Davydenko stole Marcos Baghdatis' girlfriend last year?
That rumor had been floating around last year -- the source has been traced to a dashing British tennis scribe -- and it's completely not true. Maybe it stemmed from this article by Ian Katz of the Sun-Sentinel during last year's Nasdaq:
"When you see Nikolay Davydenko you think, 'This guy's No. 5?' With his fair complexion, triangular face and thinning blond hair, he looks like a computer hacker who gets caught sending viruses from his parents' house. ... That's probably why he was upstaged by Camille Neviere, the girlfriend of Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis, during the first day of practice. ...
"On the court next to Davydenko's, Baghdatis is hitting with 18th-ranked Dominik Hrbaty. Of the 40 or so people sitting in the stands, only one -- Neviere -- is wearing a black dress. Anyone who watched this year's Australian Open on TV would recall ESPN2's love affair with the French model. As Baghdatis and Hrbaty are hitting, some fans are watching the ball move east and west. Other fans, mainly young men, are watching Neviere. Even fewer are watching Davydenko, the fifth-best player on the planet. Davydenko, however, won sweet ironic justice: In a third-round match Sunday, he beat Baghdatis 7-5 in the deciding set."
My girlfriend thinks maybe Nikolay is an unreconstructed Marxist, and he has eschewed the excessive profits of clothing endorsements for political reasons. What do you think? Surely he could have a contract if he wanted one, but he chooses to keep his bankbook in the manageable seven figures.
First, if you found a girl so into tennis that she's devoting gray matter to Davydenko's political and philosophical leanings, marry her immediately. But if Davydenko is a Marxist, Kafelnikov is a socialist. No one who plays 40 weeks a year and has the attitude, "I need to make my kizz-ash while I can," (we paraphrase) can be accused of being a Marxist. ("We have nothing to lose but our best-of-18 result Dusseldorf.")
Did you know that the name Davydenko is an anagram of "Deny Vodka?" Perhaps this has something to do with Nikolay's training regimen.
Nice. But there goes the likelihood of a Stoli endorsement. And here I thought Martina Hingis' anagram -- I am tarnishing -- was as good as it got.
OK, we return to "normal" questions next week.
Want to go to the 2007 French Open as an accredited journalist? The Tennis Channel is holding a writing contest and there's a rumor yours truly is one of the judges. Enter here.
Another reminder to read this interview of Pete Sampras by my colleague Richard Deitsch. As Hollis Griffin of Suburbia, N.Y., notes: "He is so gracious and so professional re: Roger Federer that it warrants more attention. While this could provide him with an opportunity to bash Federer and be arrogant, he is laudatory and kind instead. He got such flack while he played for being boring, that this is yet another instance in which he proves both his mettle as a player and value as an icon. This shouldn't get lost in the rampant Federer love."
Another blow to the noble (read: failed) experiment that is round robin, the Stella Artois Championships will retain its traditional knockout format when the event gets underway on June 11 at The Queen's Club in London. After a detailed examination of the round robin format as proposed by the ATP, the tournament management team has decided against its introduction in '07.
An eloquent (and, I have to admit, awfully convincing) defense of Lleyton Hewitt. Still, I must ask: why must "will" and "grace" be an either/or proposition?
Tickets for the '07 Davis Cup quarterfinal tie between the U.S. and Spain at the Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, N.C., April 6-8, will go on sale starting Monday, Feb. 19, at 10 a.m. ET. Tickets are sold as a three-day series with prices ranging from $90 to $390, with VIP packages available, and can be purchased by calling 888-484-8782 (USTA).
Ivan H. of New York City saw "the guru" and sends this week's long-lost siblings: Davydenko and Paul Bettany. "Ironically, Bettany starred as the unseeded Wimbledon winner. And Nikolay's results on grass have been more than desirable."
Have a great week, everyone!