No one like Nikolay
Meet Davydenko, underrated No. 3 player in the world
Posted: Wednesday February 21, 2007 10:57AM; Updated: Wednesday February 21, 2007 11:24AM
He's the third-ranked tennis player in the world and yet he could walk around your town for days without being recognized. In fact, he could probably walk around his town for days without being recognized. But that's about to change.
As promised, this week's mailbag (some of it, anyway) will be devoted to Nikolay Davydenko, or Ni-Da, as he's known in hipster circles. To consolidate so many of your questions, we interviewed the guy and tried to get a sense of the man behind the mystique.
The concept "lost in translation" echoes throughout this conversation. But I think you'll agree that this is a man with a q-rating waiting to explode. Nike, Coke, Microsoft, Google, unfurl those endorsement contracts while there's still patch space on the guy's sleeve. The world is on notice: It's Davydenko Time.
SI.com: What would you like people to know about you?
Davydenko: I'm from Russia. I live in Germany most of the time because my brother lives there. I buy a house there, too.
SI.com: You can do better than that.
Davydenko: I like fishing. I was just in Mauritius. I got married last year.
SI.com: You mentioned fishing before your wedding --
Davydenko: I caught a tuna and barracuda, but no marlin. I was fishing every day for three weeks.
SI.com: So congrats on the endorsement with Aimess.
Davydenko: Yes, it's a new company. A new sponsorship for me.
SI.com: This isn't just free gear, right? You're going to make some cash here.
Davydenko: Yeah, I'm gonna make some money! For three years! I still have Prince rackets.
SI.com: When will we be able to buy an Air Davydenko?
Davydenko: What you mean?
SI.com: Is there a shoe endorsement, too?
Davydenko: I can play in whatever I want because [Aimess] doesn't make shoes. I get some shoes from different company. But I have to like the shoes, you know. I can't move in Nikes! The new models, what I get, I don't like them. In Adidas, same. So I try some Filas Dmitry Tursunov gave me. Diadora too. I try different ones.
SI.com: So the No. 3 player in the world isn't buying his own shoes.
Davydenko: I buy if I like them. Normally, every company gives me shoes, I don't have to buy. But sometimes I like the old models and I buy those. Why not? My foot is more important than [free shoes] for me. I don't care. It's important that my feet are comfortable.
SI.com: Who's your best friend out here?
Davydenko: Nobody. I'm with my brother and my wife. That's my team. In tennis, if you're a singles player there are no friends.
SI.com: Are we going to see you play 30-some events this year?
Davydenko: I'm starting not so bad! But we'll see how I feel in the middle, how I finish the clay-court season. If I make big results at Monte Carlo or Hamburg, maybe I rest, play less tournaments. [Pause.] But maybe not.
SI.com: Seriously, what do you think it is? All the players want to shorten the schedule and you want to work overtime. Is it your body, your game?
Davydenko: I like to play. I like to spend time at tournaments. I have no kids. My wife comes with me. This is what I need to do: play tournaments. Why not all those weeks? Especially if my wife is with me, why go home?
SI.com: Does she work with you at all on a professional basis?
Davydenko: She's a psychologist.
SI.com: Right. Do you ever say, "Here's what I was thinking at 5-5 in the fifth set"?
Davydenko: No. Never professionally.
SI.com: You're No. 3 in the world. What do you make of your profile?
Davydenko: Maybe making this interview will help!
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