Monthly Archives: November 2006

2006 WTA Championships: Justine, an appreciation

The truth is that I’m learning to appreciate Justine Henin-Hardenne.

I’d glumly expected Maria Sharapova to advance to the finals at the WTA Championships this week. She had a nineteen game winning streak and she hadn’t lot a set yet. It’s not that I don’t like her, I mean in that abstract way in which we like or dislike athletes as though we know them personally although we don’t. It’s just that Sharapova’s time will come and I’d like to see the current generation, Amelie Mauresmo, Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne, yes, even Justine, do well.

At the age of twenty-four, Henin-Hardenne is five years older than Sharapova but that’s a generation in the tennis world. Tennis players don’t usually hang around long beyond the age of thirty. Andre Agassi was an exception but he had to suffer through a few years of very painful sciatica and far more cortisone shots than any human should take and that’s a tough way to go out. And don’t talk to me about Martina Navratilova, she’s from another planet.

When baseball players started hitting career high statistics in their late thirties, that was our signal to start testing for steroids. Clijsters is exceptional at the other extreme, she plans to retire at the end of next year at age twenty-four. After her semifinal match with Mauresmo, she should rethink that decision. It was by far the best match of the week and for my money, the best knockdown, drag out tennis fight of the year on the women’s tour and it ended rather strangely but I’ll get to that in a moment.

After splitting the first two sets, Clijsters and Mauresmo went toe to toe. If Clijsters hit a running, dipping passing shot, Mauresmo came right back with a gorgeous volley. If Mauresmo pulled Clijsters out of the court, Clijsters whipped a crosscourt forehand winner. If Clijsters broke Mauresmo, Mauresmo broke right back. Clijsters was serving at 3-4 when they hit a fifteen stroke slamfest. Clijsters retrieved two sure Mauresmo winners then slipped and put a backhand into the net giving Mauresmo a break point.

Then it happened. Clijsters half-heartedly hit a forehand out and held her hand up to call for a challenge. She was sure Mauresmo’s previous shot had landed out. She was wrong and it cost her the match. She had lost her serve and now Mauresmo could serve for the match.

The first thing I thought of was the end of the Chicago Marathon a few weeks ago. Robert Cheruiyot made it all the way to the finish line then slipped and knocked himself silly. You can see it here. He won the marathon because his feet crossed the finish line but Clijsters gave up before she got to the finish line. She challenged a call in the middle of a point while facing a break point. That is never a good idea unless the ball is at least a foot beyond the baseline.

Sharapova didn’t make it to the final because she came out flat, flat, flat. Henin-Hardenne won the first set easily and held on long enough to take the second set and the match. And here you see a perverse benefit of the injury epidemic that has been creeping up on the WTA the past few years. A player who’s been injured is fresher than one who hasn’t been injured because they’ve had time off. Sharapova has played in three tournaments since her U.S. Open title and won the last two. Henin-Hardenne hasn’t played on the tour since she injured her knee at the Fed Cup finals in the middle of September.

I don’t know whether to admire Henin-Hardenne for winning so much despite her physical health or question her string of retirements this year. When she retired in the Australian Open, it gave Mauresmo the title – and pissed people off. When she retired in the Fed Cup doubles match, it gave Italy the 2006 Fed Cup title. At least it was a knee that time and not an upset tummy. I’m beginning to wonder if the injury epidemic isn’t just a way to take necessary breaks from the overlong tour schedule.

The truth is that I’m learning to appreciate Justine Henin-Hardenne. I do not find myself liking her, again, in that abstract kind of way, in fact I find myself looking for and not finding anything that might attract me – a few more smiles, some self-doubt, a bit of earnest apology here and there. I don’t see them. Her little “allez’s” on the court seem programmed rather than spontaneous and I don’t see joy in her celebration. But respect is creeping up on me.

Henin-Hardenne beat Mauresmo in today’s final by hitting the ball harder and playing more aggressively. That make four grand slam finals – she won the French Open – and now the WTA Championships in one year. Steffi Graf was the last player to do that thirteen years ago and she won twenty-two slams in her career. Graf isn’t from another planet, she’s from another universe.

Henin-Hardenne also won the year end number one ranking by getting to the semifinals. It’s amazing if you think about it because she’s almost a part-time player – she played in only twelve regular tour events this year. She reminds me of Steve McNair, a well known quarterback in the NFL. When McNair played for the Tennessee Titans, he was so banged up he’d miss practice all week then go out on Sunday and play such high caliber football that he was the co-MVP of the league with Peyton Manning one year. It takes tremendous focus and skill to do that and I would be cold-hearted and cruel not to give Henin-Hardenne full credit for her accomplishments.

Now, if I could just find a few reasons to like her, I’d be a full-grown Henin-Hardenne groupie.

See also:
2006 WTA Championships: Gonna Cry And Beg For Mercy
2006 WTA Championships: A Year Of Returns
2006 WTA Championships: Last One Standing

2006 WTA Championships: gonna cry and beg for mercy

It’s just that it used to be possible to distinguish between advertising and content and it’s not anymore.

Sorry, the server was down so I’m late with this post but here goes.

The marketing firm that chose the opening sequence of the WTA Championships broadcast must also represent World Wide Wrestling and possibly even the roller derby. Check out the lyrics of the theme song:

You’re gonna fall behind me
You’re gonna cry and beg for mercy
Cause you’re not ready baby
And you got nothin’ on me

The song is performed by The Donnas and it’s titled You’re Gonna Fall Behind Me. You can watch the sequence by clicking on the youtube video clip here. Versus Network posted it on youtube as an ad. Youtube is fast becoming the tool of choice for eradicating any remaining distinction between short films and advertising, bless its heart.

Not that I mind particularly, I plan to advertise my new Fantasy Tennis Guide on youtube when I unveil it in January. It’s just that it used to be possible to distinguish between advertising and content and it’s not anymore.

God knows what’ll happen when Nielsen ratings start tracking ads instead of the programs that air ads. They’ll find that many people, including me, never watch sports events live. We record the events then skip ads. When that news hits home, watch for the sitcom to complete its ongoing process of becoming a glorified half-hour advertisement with endless product placements and a story line involving Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Considering that Maria Sharapova should take out Svetlana Kuznetsova and Kim Clijsters should be able to beat Elena Dementieva, the big match today featured Amelie Mauresmo and Justine Henin-Hardenne. Here’s the psychological matrix for the match. Sorry for being so analytical, it’s an annoying part of my nature.

Mauresmo +/- Henin-Hardenne +/-
goes to semis if she wins already in the semis
cannot finish ranked #1 can finish ranked #1
grudge match #2 grudge match #2

Mauresmo has more positive motivation because she has to win or she goes home. It’s a dead rubber for Henin-Hardenne which means the match doesn’t mean anything in the standings. She’s in the semis win or lose. And that brings up a very interesting point. Thirteen ATP tournaments will be round-robins next year and that means there’ll be a lot of dead rubbers because anyone with a 2-0 record is likely through to the semifinals before they play their last round-robin match. How do you make a dead rubber competitive? Is the prize money enough? Not to Andy Roddick or Roger Federer or David Nalbandian. And what’s the over and under on how many players wake up and stub their toe the morning of their dead rubber.

I hope the ATP has a rule in place for that situation. For example, if you don’t play all of your round-robin matches, you can’t advance to the semifinals. But that won’t fix everything. In last year’s WTA Championships, Mauresmo’s last match was a dead rubber and she didn’t tank it but she also didn’t play as aggressively as she had in earlier matches. When we asker her, she admitted that it affected her play.

As for the number one ranking, Mauresmo said she gave up on that after she injured her shoulder. I’m still not clear how Mauresmo could have lost the number one ranking if she entered this tournament at number one and can still win the tournament. Super Amelie fan, momofan, doesn’t like the ranking situation either but she thinks it has to do with the number of sets each player wins in this tournament.

Grudge match #1 was the Wimbledon final between Mauresmo and Henin-Hardenne. It was a grudge match because Henin-Hardenne retired rather than let Mauresmo earn her first grand slam at the Australian Open in January. That makes today’s match grudge match #2. It’s doubtful Mauresmo’s feelings have dissipated entirely even though they were largely dispelled by winning the Wimbledon title.

You couldn’t exactly say she wasn’t trying but you could say she wasn’t trying as hard as before.

Despite the dead rubber status for Henin-Hardenne and the urgency of the situation for Mauresmo, Henin-Hardenne was the more aggressive player in the first set. With Mauresmo serving at 3-3, Henin-Hardenne hit two aggressive shots to get ahead in the game then got a net cord for break point and held on to take the first set 6-4.

Mauresmo was down triple break point at 1-1 in the second set as Henin-Hardenne kept attacking and lost the game at love. It’s not looking good, does Amelie remember she has to win this game? If she loses today, Martina Hingis gets to the semifinals which would be a fantastic result for Hingis after returning from a three year absence from the tour, but it wouldn’t say much about the WTA. First of all, it says that the game is not as competitive as it was during the heydey of Hingis, the Williams sisters and Lindsay Davenport. Second, it’s a statement that today’s power hitters are as one-dimensional as we think they are if they can’t beat a pipsqueak with smarts and court coverage but precious little power.

Evidently Amelie was paying attention. She started feeding Henin-Hardenne slices and looping balls. It threw Henin-Hardenne off; she hit four errors and gave the break right back. Mauresmo mixed it up again in the next game by going for winners. She has some smarts of her own.

At 4-4, still in the second set, Mauresmo hit three double faults and struggled through seven deuces to hold serve. It looked like she might be sinking fast but she managed to hold on and get to the tiebreaker.

In the tiebreaker, Henin-Hardenne hit two double faults, one on set point, and Mauresmo had the second set. Now Henin-Hardenne made a decision: going all out for two sets, that’s o.k., but three, no, that’s too much to ask. She had a semifinal to play tomorrow. She lost her second service game in the third set easily, on one return she didn’t even move to the ball. You couldn’t exactly say she wasn’t trying but you could say she wasn’t trying as hard as before.

Mauresmo won the third set easily and took the match, 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-2.

Sharapova beat Kuznetsova, 6-1, 6-4, and Dementieva ran her record to 0-9 in the last three years by losing to Clijsters, 6-4, 6-0. Henin-Hardenne will face Sharapova and Mauresmo will face Clijsters in the semifinals tomorrow.

As much as I love the competition here, it isn’t living up to the theme song quite yet.

See also:
2006 WTA Championships: A Year Of Returns
2006 WTA Championships: Last One Standing

2000t6 WTA Championships: a year of returns

Returning to the tour is like having the fetters removed then voluntarily putting them back on.

Martina Hingis played her third match of the WTA championships in Madrid today against Amelie Mauresmo. Now would be a good time to look back at Hingis’ “year of the return.”

I believe Hingis entered this tournament ranked number seven but I can’t tell you for sure because, unlike most tournaments, the rankings change after each round. Which is why Amelie Mauresmo is now ranked number three after coming in at number one and, for some reason that I’ve been unable to uncover – please leave a comment if you know – has no chance at finishing number one despite the fact that she entered the tournament at number one and still has a chance to win the tournament. Go figure.

Anyway, Hingis stepped onto the court in January of this year and eleven months later she is somewhere in the vaunted top eight. That’s an exceptional achievement considering that she was retired for three years. Once you leave the tour you can sleep late whenever you feel like it and pursue any hobby you choose. After having a singular focus on tennis since childhood, Hingis had been free to think about the rest of the big wide world. Once you’ve tasted that, it’s very hard to put the genie back into the bottle.

Certainly we knew Hingis could play a high level of tennis but that’s the easy part. The hard part is working out every day and practicing every day and abstaining from a glass of wine every day and leaving your horses in the stable… Returning to the tour is like having the fetters removed then voluntarily putting them back on.

Hingis has been able to do that with one exception, and that exception cost her today. She was a step slow because she was tired. It’s way too much to ask that she return to the tour as a power player after having left it as the consummate finesse player, well, not unless she got hold of some steroids, but conditioning is completely under her control and that might be that one last bit of fetters she hasn’t been able to impose on herself.

That should say something to Serena and Venus Williams: once you lose that single-minded focus, you never get it back 100%. The exception might be Andre Agassi who took a mid-career break from tennis. But that was a shorter break, less than a year, and it marked Agassi’s psychological switch from playing for his father – and the U.S. tennis establishment which had designated him for greatness – to playing for himself. Hingis went through a similar transition during her retirement. She now plays for herself and not for her mother, her mother isn’t even here this week, but she’d already reached the top of her game when she retired the first time. Agassi hadn’t reached his peak when he took his break.

Mauresmo is one of the players here who recently recovered from an injury, a shoulder injury in her case. She only recently started practicing. She was completely out of rhythm in her first match against Nadia Petrova, she lost 6-2, 6-2, and it took her a set to get going today. After losing the first set 3-6, she easily won the second, 6-1. Hingis was out of gas.

To be fair, this would be Hingis’ third straight three set match and the first two had been late at night. And she did perk up when Mauresmo went through her usual bout of nerves. Mauresmo was serving at 5-2 when she failed to cash in on four match points. You can almost see her mind working. O.k., one more game and I win this match, o.k., one more point and I get match point, o.k., I win this point and I win the match.

She jumps from the present to the future hoping it will all be over as soon as possible. The result? Four match points gone, she loses her serve and now her opponent, that impish Miss Hingis, has a smile on her face.

Luckily, Mauresmo was able to run Hingis around the court enough to take away her second wind and a fifth match point finally did the trick, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4.

I think Mauresmo will have a lot more trouble with her next opponent, Justine Henin-Hardenne. There were two black lines snaking up the back of Henin-Hardenne’s leg as she played Nadia Petrova. I thought maybe she was starting in on a Maori full-body tattoo, I was looking forward to seeing what the tattoo might look like when it got to her face but no, it’s black tape designed to keep her calf muscles warm and protect the knee she injured during the Fed Cup Finals.

Yesterday I said Petrova needs more experience before she can win this tournament. That includes life experience. She’s been transitioning from adolescence to adulthood even though she’s twenty-four years old. In the tennis world, growing up can happen later than in other worlds because promising athletes accumulate a posse early in life and many times that posse includes a parent. That is not the case for Petrova but she did say that her father has been an imposing figure in directing her sports life.

Growing up in tennis, then, means shedding your parent-imposed posse and choosing your own. Petrova fired her long time coach Glen Schaap late last year because he was too controlling. “I was told how to behave, what I should be, but the person he was trying to create was somebody else. It was not suiting who am I in reality,” she said.

As she figures out who she is in reality, if she doesn’t already know, she’s going through bouts of inconsistency. She would like to be the calm winner. After her first match, an easy win over Mauresmo, she said: “I served well and was patient and absolutely calm, and I felt like I was in control of the match.” But that would not describe today’s match with Henin-Hardenne. Petrova was far from calm and Henin-Hardenne won the match handily, 6-4, 6-4,

One of the pluses of being injured is that you have time off. Except for a small tournament last week, Kim Clijsters hadn’t played a tournament since before the U.S. Open when she re-injured her previously injured wrist by falling on it. It seems to have revived her. Her opponent today, Svetlana Kuznetsova, didn’t have a chance. Not only did Kuznetsova throw in some double faults and serve a paltry 49% for the match, but everything she hit, Clijsters returned and then some. At one point in the second set, Clijsters did a full split to one side of the court then ran all the way back to the other side to hit a running forehand past Kuznetsova at the net.

It took only 45 minutes – that has to be close to a record – for Clijsters to win the match, 6-1, 6-1.

It was a surprising result, Kuznetsova is not that bad, but she’s also not in Cljsters or Henin-Hardenne’s class yet. Lucky for Kuznetsova that Clijsters has promised to retire at the end of next year and Henin-Hardenne has started to mention life after tennis.

Oh, did I forget to mention the Boss-clad male model ball boys? I was happy to see that some of the whistles for the ball boys came from male spectators. Still, I’m not exactly sure whether it was approval or disapproval. As for me, I’m a bit jealous of male models. I’d love to be able to wear a double breasted, pinstripe Yves St. Laurent suit or an L’Homme suit with thin lapels and skinny legs. Unfortunately I don’t have the body. My hips are too big – though they’re not that big, just too big for thin legged pants,

If you must, you can watch video of the ball boys here. What the hell, if someone puts this stuff on youtube and Eurosport doesn’t remove it, I’m directing you to it.

See also: 2006 WTA Championships: Last One Standing

2006 WTA Championships: last one standing

I don’t know why they don’t just call this the Russian Championships and hold it in Moscow.

I’m shocked to report that all of the top eight players are in Madrid. Injuries and pullouts have been such an epidemic that the WTA is doing something about the schedule, or at least announcing they’re going to do something about the schedule – not exactly the same thing. Their plan, Roadmap 2010, calls for the season to end in October, reduce the required number of tournaments played from thirteen to eleven, and take breaks after grand slams.

I don’t think it’s necessary to reduce the number of required tournaments, turning up at thirteen tournaments is not too much to ask, but it is necessary to reduce the number of tournaments and it’ll be fun to see how the WTA pulls that off since they represent both the players and the tournament directors.

This is not a new situation, the number of withdrawals by top ten players at big tournaments has gone up 72% in the past five years, but the number of withdrawals jumped more than 50% from 2005 to 2006 so Roadmap 2010 is now Roadmap 2009. The new plan will go into effect a year early.

Yes it’s true, for the first time since this championship tournament began in 1972, there are no U.S. players in the field. Therefore, it’s entirely appropriate that the tournament is in Madrid instead of Los Angeles where it had been for the past four years. The top U.S. player is Lindsay Davenport at number nineteen and she’s now a part-timer at the end of her career. There are, by the way, seven Russian players in front of her. I don’t know why they don’t just call this the Russian Championships and hold it in Moscow.

Svetlana Kuznetsova and Elena Dementieva are two of those Russians and they played each other today in their second matches in round-robin play.

I love Kuznetsova. She looks pudgy next to the other tall blonde Russians. Maybe it’s because she’s closer to the ground but there isn’t the imperial air that precedes Sharapova or the dignity that accompanies Dementieva. It’s not that Kuznetsova is undignified, she just seems a bit goofier and more endearing.

Elena Dementieva has to be a carefree player else she would have changed her service motion by now. If she were a worrier, all of those double faults would affect her other strokes but they don’t seem to. Her record for the past three years at the Championships is 1-8 but she isn’t showing any sense of urgency and not much has changed in her game.

Short of Hingis, the top eight players are hard hitters and big servers, that’s a losing equation for Dementieva because she has trouble holding serve. The last thing she can afford to do is to let her opponent set the tempo but that’s what she did. Kuznetsova was the player going for the lines and though it meant piling up a lot of errors, it worked. If Kuznetsova hadn’t given a game away while serving for the first set at 5-3, the match wouldn’t have been over much sooner.

Kuznetsova won the match, 7-5, 6-3, but it wasn’t that close. Dementieva is now the only player with and 0-2 record and this year is looking a lot like past years.

Dementieva lost to Maria Sharapova yesterday and after the match there were a few media questions about her serve but what more can you say? Most of the media focused on Sharapova’s seventeen game winning streak – her last loss was to Dementieva before the U.S. Open. And though I said all of the top players are here, that’s not entirely true. They’re here alright but Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne have taken significant time off for injury – sound familiar? – and Amelie Mauresmo recently injured her shoulder. They may be here in body and mind but they’re not here in good tennis form.

Dementieva and Martina Hingis are not likely to get out of round-robin play. Clijsters is not really prepared and Mauresmo is not game tough either. Henin-Hardenne has a lot of motivation because she can end up number one for the year if she reaches the final but she hasn’t played since September. Kuznetsova and Nadia Petrova need a bit more experience to win this tournament.

That leaves Sharapova. Last one standing.

The Invisible Man Gets Some Respect

If you are a person of the French persuasion who happens to follow tennis with une grande passion, this past week in Paris was a bitter disappointment for you to swallow. All of the pullouts before the event started gutted the field leaving a dismal pall over the locals. Then the final on Sunday yielded a real journeymen’s nightmare from hell in the shapes of Nikolay Davydenko and Dominik Hrbaty. A far cry from the Roger Nadal blockbuster they were dreaming of.

Hell, Paris ended up being on a par with the events in places like Hamburg and Cincinnati, where flocks of players pulled out for various physical complaints, but mostly because of poor tournament scheduling. Officials will complain mightily, as have others before them this year, about the length of the season, the injuries and the withdrawals. We will hear more ominous rumblings about “repercussions” for stuff like this, but in the end it is just more yakkety-yak from officialdom. Nobody will step up and make changes to avoid over-scheduling or poor scheduling of events. Nobody wants to give up their tournament whether it’s a big deal tournament or a little penny-ante affair.

The only consistent thing I saw from tennis officialdom this season were efforts by the WTA to make life miserable for players such as Lindsay Davenport, who was denied several wild card entries to events she should have been playing in, was healthy enough to play in, but somehow wasn’t playing in.

I don’t hold out much hope for the men getting their act together either.

For a guy like Sunday’s winner Davydenko, the season is probably never long enough. He’s the only one who seems to thrive on playing each and every week. Lucky for him, his body at 5’10” and 154 pounds is lithe and light enough that he stays pretty free of injuries. He probably doesn’t even get colds. Earlier in the year when he started winning consistently, I wondered if he was high in the rankings just because he was so healthy and he played so much. He usually seemed to be one of the last guys standing. It doesn’t matter if you are really any good or not, you find ways to get through the draws and boost your ranking.

After watching him move through the Paris draw, I think we have to give this invisible man of tennis closer scrutiny. He deserves it now. The colors of his game are emerging. And no, Martha, they aren’t all grey. Well, he could do with a new wardrobe. His clothing looks like he pinched it from someone on the way to the court. No metrosexual snazzy threads on this lean frame.

Here are some of my impressions of the balding one, who I started to think was related in another life to his taller shadow on tour, Mr. Ljubicic. Both of them have been accused of being too mundane to be recognized as stars with games that lacked excitement even as they were remarkably steady. Both of them turned in solid years which should lay that one to rest once and for all.

Davydenko has very compact and efficient strokes like the man’s personality itself. Calm and measured. He is tall enough but not towering. His serve has some nice laser-like pace on it but it is by no means overpowering. He is more about placement. His ground strokes are very solid off both sides, but you can’t say he has a big kill shot, or even a big weapon.

Yet he gets the job done. He plays with a certain intelligent persistence. There is no drama on court with him, no tantrums. His eyes may open wide, his lips part a bit, a slight shake of the head when he miss-hits a shot. That’s all. Then he’s back to work.

And work is what Nikolay Davydenko thrives on. He treats tennis as a business. As mostly a business. His brother Eduard who coaches and travels with him everywhere says his brother plays a lot to pad his bank account. No bones made there, thank you. Greed is good.

Maybe this is why America is not producing the same level of tennis champions as we used to. The incentive may not be there. Our kids have so many other sports to play that are more popular and don’t require all the years of training tennis requires. They can do other sports more easily and make more money and get that limelight. Our personalities seem to be geared to quick fixes, we want it now and we want it easy. Who in blazes wants to spend time developing a serve and volley game, assuming you feel as I do that there is still a place for it in today’s game? That takes time and no one wants to do it anymore. We may hard-pressed to find players who want to play, period.

The Russians have that hunger big time. The men and the women. Yevgeny Kafelnikov was the same way, he played everything lying around from Australia to Toronto. You saw a ton of him in doubles, too. He played so much he invested in his own private plane. You could say Marat Safin is more the artiste type, and God knows we all love to watch them at work, but we’ve all grown nearly as bald as Davydenko watching Safin over the years. He’s enough to make a girl tear her hair out by the roots. Davydenko is the nice, steady type. In tennis as in life, mothers everywhere probably tell their daughters to land a guy like that. Stay away from the Safins.

Davydenko goes down a little easier now and I am beginning to like and really admire his game. He makes the most of what he has. His head adjusts well to any situation. He goes for his chances. Against Hrbaty on Sunday, he continually held sway at the baseline and pushed his man around. He takes the ball very early and he creates a lot of angles. He ran Hrbaty every which way and basically smothered him from the outset with his steady serving, returning and sharp angled shots. He can change the direction of balls and swat them up the line for winners. And he obviously loves being in finals, having won ten in his career and lost only three. The man knows when to smell the money.

Hrbaty got blown away, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2, which was a bit surprising to me, even though Davydenko played really well the entire week. These two had an epic five setter at the Australian Open this year, with Hrbaty two sets up before the Russian came back to win. They can both be very steady in very long rallies. But not in Paris. The shift differential for Davydenko was +20 winners to errors, which is remarkably high.

For Hrbaty, it was the first Masters Series final in his career. He had an off and on year, slowly getting better as the year went on. For Davydenko, it is a richly deserved first Masters Series win. He’s been beating his head against it through 34 matches and finally he gets his first shield. His 67 match wins is the second best on tour this season, behind you know who at 87.

Some may call it the scraps left from Roger Nadal pulling out. If Davydenko had not had such a good year, I might be saying that too. But he has been knocking at our doors for a while now and it’s high time we welcomed in the lean and hungry one. He is at a career high Number 3 ranking and it feels very appropriate. Do you think he expects to do well in Shanghai or what?