Can Davydenko return to the fore?
Originally published on: 22/02/12 10:36
When Nikolay Davydenko decides the time is right to hang up his rackets, the Ukraine-born right-hander will probably go down in memory as one of the most mysterious players the tour has ever seen.
The infamous match-fixing scandal that clouded the Russian’s name in 2007 only added to the enigma but with the exception of that unsavoury Soport episode, Davydenko has drawn remarkably little press attention for a player who ranked at No.3 in the world in 2006.
In recent years, you could easily attribute that to his lack of success on the court. Davydenko has won just two tour titles since 2009 and has had sporadic results ever since fracturing his wrist in Rotterdam in 2010.
This year, the 30-year-old began the season by losing three of his first four matches – including a five-set defeat to world No.76 Flavio Cipolla at the Australian Open. Last week in Rotterdam, however, he showed that he is still able, beating Robin Haase, Paul-Henri Mathieu and Richard Gasquet before pushing Roger Federer to three sets in an engrossing semi-final.
Yesterday, the world No.40 defeated Andreas Beck 6-1 7-5 to set up a bout with Juan Martin del Potro for their first meeting since Davydenko won the biggest title of his career in 2009.
The silent partner at the top table of tennis for so long, the Moscow resident put his name alongside the greats of the game two and a half years ago when he defeated the Argentine to win the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.
He joined Brian Gottfried, Alex Corretja and David Nalbandian as only the fourth champion in the history of the 42-year-old competition without a Grand Slam title to his name after ending a 12-0 losing streak against Roger Federer in the semis and beating del Potro in the final.
Though overlooked as a Grand Slam contender in his heyday despite twice reaching the semi-finals of the French and US Opens on four occasions between 2005 and 2007, the quick-footed Russian is still a dangerously offensive baseliner on his day despite dropping outside the top 50 at the turn of the year for the first time since 2004. Indeed, he is one of the few players to hold a winning record against Rafael Nadal, having won six of their 10 encounters, not that he would force you into acknowledging that stat.
Content with his lot out of the public lens and with his wrist troubles consigned to his past, while we’ll never be privvy to all sides of the man himself, can Davydenko at least move his form on from the recent mystery?
With 435 tour wins and 21 tour titles to his name by age 30, it’s only right that there are more to come.