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Old 01-17-2010, 07:44 AM   #68
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Article from Herald Sun ( Australia )

Nikolay Davydenko puts critics to sword Leo Schlink From: Sunday Herald Sun January 17, 2010 12:0

NIKOLAY Davydenko is international sport's most unlikely success symbol.
More accountant than athlete, reclusive Davydenko has operated on the fringes of world tennis for the best part of a fine career.

On the surface, he shapes as Mr Bland wielding Excalibur.

Beyond the stony face, Davydenko is one of the most perplexing characters on tour.

By turns, dour and hilarious, sincere and careless.

What is beyond dispute is the fact he was vilified after an investigation into a mid-match betting plunge in one of his matches in Sopot in 2007.

No charges were laid, but the damage was done.

If Davydenko is unfazed by accusations of being boring, charisma-free and mercenary, others are less enamoured by the slurs.

Beaten by Davydenko at the ATP World Tour finals in London in November after winning the pair's first 12 matches, Roger Federer rounded on the doubters and the accusers.

Asked if Davydenko was sufficiently respected, Federer said: "Well, I don't know if you guys (media) have respect.

"I have. I think it's most important that he has respect from his fellow players.

"I think he didn't have the easiest of last few years . . . where people suspected him of doing bad things in the sport.

"He had a cloud over his name for quite some time, which was not very fair.

"I think he handled it very well towards the end.

"To be able to continue playing this well by being asked always the same stupid questions must not have been very easy for him.

"So I respect him not only for that, but obviously for the player he is."

Dubbed the invisible man because of his low profile, Davydenko again claimed Federer's scalp in Doha to emerge as a legitimate grand slam contender.

He has been an under-achiever at the highest level, failing to reach a major final despite being a top-10 fixture.

The Russian struggles to explain his success, other than to point to the obvious -- hard work and a willingness to travel anywhere to play.

"I'm smaller (178cm and 70kg)," Davydenko said of his slight physique.

"It's like you can play different tennis. Not only big serve; you can get good return, running, good control baseline, play volley.

"How fast you running also is important, and, for sure, concentration. It's like everything together.

"I practise two hours a day. Much running."

Sages believe Davydenko would almost certainly have captured one of the big four by now if not for a slight hitch -- grand slam matches are mostly played outdoors, in the heat, and over best of five sets.

If the Australian Open was exclusively indoors and over best of three sets, Davydenko would rightly fancy his chances.

As it is, Davydenko is the most dominant player on the ATP World Tour, triumphing in last year's Shanghai Masters, ATP World Tour Finals and, a week ago, the Qatar ExxonMobil Open.

He not only defeated Federer in Qatar, he rocked Rafa Nadal by saving two match points en route to victory.

"The first set was 6-0, everybody saw it," the 28-year-old said of the Doha final.

"But if you saw the match, it was not so easy.

"I really had the chance to win some games, but I played a little bit slowly, he played much faster.

"(In the end) I think he lost a little bit of concentration and lost the match. For me it was a really good fight."

That is always the way for the baseliner. Should Melbourne Park escape its traditional January heatwave, Davydenko may yet vault to a success once considered beyond him.

If there are any doubts about that, run it past Roger Federer.
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