Category Archives: Nikolay Davydenko

The first grand slam of the year has arrived and the number one ranking is already in question.

Think about this for a minute: Roger Federer could lose the number one ranking to Rafael Nadal by the end of the Australian Open. Will it happen? Let’s see.

Roger Federer’s Quarter

Juan Monaco and Tomas Berdych are waiting around in the top half of Federer’s quarter but Monaco still isn’t good enough on hard court and 2004 was the last time Berdych beat Federer.

In the bottom half of Federer’s quarter there are a few stories. Ivan Ljubicic’s ranking has been sinking since last August and I don’t expect him to recover. James Blake dropped out of the top ten last October and is currently ranked number 15. I don’t expect him to drop further but I also don’t expect him to get back to the top ten. Ljubicic has a 4-1 record over Blake but his victories came over two years ago and Blake won their last match. If they meet in the fourth round, Blake should win.

Then we come to Fernando Gonzalez. He reached the final here last year then played through the most wildly inconsistent year I’ve every seen from a top player. He lost his first match in eight tournaments yet still ended up in the top ten. Well, except for Nikolay Davydenko who also lost his first match in eight tournaments but we expect that from him.

If Gonzalez gets to the fourth round and meets Blake, he should be golden because he’s won their last five matches. That would put him in the quarterfinals against Federer but Gonzalez can’t win that match.

Novak Djokovic’s Quarter

Marcos Baghdatis is in Novak Djokovic’s half of this quarter but he’s right up there with Gonzalez and Davydenko for inconsistency. Still, Baghdatis should be able to beat Lleyton Hewitt and that should put him in the fourth round against Djokovic. That will be as far as Baghdatis gets because he’s lost both of his matches to Djokovic.

I think Nicolas Kiefer will take out Juan Carlos Ferrero in the first round. Kiefer is one of my two dark horses. He could get to the fourth round because David Nalbandian is having trouble with back spasms. That wouldn’t be shocking because Kiefer got to the semifinals here in 2006. He’d meet David Ferrer and though he beat Ferrer in their only meeting, this time Ferrer should prevail.

I’d love to tell you that Ferrer could beat Djokovic in the quarterfinals but I’d be lying. Djokovic has beaten Ferrer every time they’ve met on hard courts and he beat him in straight sets at last year’s U.S. Open.

Nikolay Davydenko’s Quarter

My second dark horse is Stanislas Wawrinka. I say he beats Davydenko in the third round then loses to Mikhail Youzhny. The big match here is a possible fourth round matchup between Richard Gasquet and Andy Murray. I think one of them gets out of this quarter and into the semifinals. Which one?

This is the toughest match in the draw to call because Gasquet and Murray have similar hard court records. Gasquet has beaten Murray both times they’ve met but that’s not why I’m choosing him. I just think Gasquet is a bit more mature than Murray and is ready to reach the semifinals here.

Rafael Nadal’s Quarter

We’ve been concerned about Nadal’s fragility on hard courts and we saw it again in Chennai two weeks ago. Nadal survived a four hour semifinal with Carlos Moya then suffered a lopsided loss in the final the day after. This doesn’t happen on clay and it doesn’t even happen at Wimbledon. Nadal played seven straight days in Wimbledon last year due to the rain and still got to the final.

Given Nadal’s fragility I didn’t think he’d go far here but now I’ve changed my mind. I was expecting a knock down drag out fight between Moya and Nadal in the fourth round but Moya has bombed out in the first round the last three years. He just beat his first round opponent, Stefan Koubek, in Sydney last week but Koubek won both their hard court matches last year. And Moya lost to his second round opponent, Agustin Calleri, in Sydney.

That leaves Andy Roddick in the top half of Nadal’s quarter. Philipp Kohlschreiber should be Roddick’s third round opponent and I wanted to pick him as one of my dark horses because he just won Auckland. But Roddick takes care of business in slams so let’s look at Roddick versus Nadal in the quarterfinals.

Nadal beat Roddick in the semifinals at Indian Wells last year so I’m going with Nadal to get to the semis.

Australian Open Draw

My Picks

Semifinalists: Roger Federer plays Novak Djokovic, Richard Gasquet plays Rafael Nadal.
Finalists: Federer, Gasquet
Winner: Federer

The answer is no, Federer won’t lose his number one ranking but Nadal may get even closer to the top.

Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 210 user reviews.

I lost the internet for a few days, the gutters were leaking onto my carport, my carport was leaking into my office, even my refrigerator was leaking. Things can only get better in 2008 so let’s put 2007 to rest by finishing up the Wayback Machine: a look back at last year.

Gambling Blows Up

Rafael Nadal continued to battle injuries. Donald Young moved a lot closer to fulfilling his promise. David Nalbandian resurrected his career and took it higher than ever before with consecutive Masters titles.

These were all very important events in 2007 but they were on court events. The biggest news in tennis was off the court. Gambling came out of the shadows and ended up dominating tennis news.

Gambling on tennis is nothing new but the volume of gambling has increased dramatically and for that we can credit technology. Online gambling has made gambling much more accessible. Unless you live in the United States – offshore gambling is illegal in the U.S. – all you have to do is logon to betfair.com and start placing bets on tennis matches.

Technology cuts both ways. It makes it easier to lay down bets but it also makes it easier to uncover suspicious betting patterns which may indicate match fixing. That’s exactly what happened during a match between Nikolay Davydenko and Martin Vassallo-Arguello at the Prokom Open in August and everyone, and I mean everyone, has been tripping over themselves to assure us that gambling will not happen at their tournament.

Australian Open organizers are going crazy to make it clear that they won’t tolerate match fixing. They moved a bookmaker off their premises and banned laptops from the stands. Meanwhile, someone can sign on to betfair.com and fix a match and we might not be able to prove it. An investigator might be able to trace the gambler through an internet address but might not be able to connect a player in the fixed match to the gambler.

What if the gambler is part of a larger organization? Consider this as a hypothetical example. Tony Soprano, head of the fictional Sopranos mafia family, fixes a tennis match. If the ATP were able to track down Soprano’s whereabouts, the FBI might be much more interested in murder and mayhem than a possible fixed tennis match and the ATP would be limited in its investigation.

Since August my gambling education has gone through the roof. I know how to convert US odds to fractional odds and fractional odds to decimal odds. I know what a suspicious betting pattern looks like and I even broke the story of a possible fixed match between Tatiana Poutchek and Mariya Koryttseva in September.

Gambling has been out there all along. Onthepunt.com reported a number of suspicious betting patterns on tennis.com and no doubt tennis players have a few stories of their own. The tennis world is finally catching up to the horse racing world and the rest of the sports world. Professional tennis now monitors betting patterns on internet betting sites.

It’s not a horrible development, it’s just a fact of sports life. Gambling might even help increase the popularity of tennis. Heaven knows we can use it.

The 2008 tennis season has begun. There are tournaments galore on both the men’s and women’s side. I’ll get on to that tomorrow.

Happy New Year!

Teddy Awards

Please go to the right side of the page and vote for the player who should really think about retiring. That’s it. This is the last Teddy Awards category. We’ll hand them out in a few days.

Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 151 user reviews.

Let’s use quality points to see how some players might perform next year.

Who would have picked David Nalbandian to win two Masters Series events after never having one before? Not I.

We’re always looking for predictors in sports. Predictors are statistics that will predict future outcomes. The most valuable predictor in tennis tells you who’s going to get better and who’s going to get worse. I’m not smart enough to come up with such things but I have a secret weapon: Bob Larson’s Daily Tennis News. It has the results of every professional tennis match in existence and periodic statistical analysis of those results.

Tennis News has found that quality points are a good predictor of movement up or down the rankings. At least they were in the women’s game when quality points were part of the rankings. The ATP never used them as far as I know. Quality points are points that get added to a ranking based on the ranking of an opponent. If you beat the number one player, for instance, you get 100 quality points added to your ranking. If you beat the number 50 player you get only 10 quality points.

Tennis News calculated the quality points rankings for 2007 and found that Nalbandian would have been ranked number four instead of number nine if we added quality points to his ranking. That means he beat a whole lot of highly ranked players. In fact, he beat the number one, two and three ranked players in Madrid.

Andy Murray is another player who would have ranked higher with quality points. But what about the downward movers? Richard Gasquet beat up on a lot of lower ranked players and would have been ranked number 19 with his quality points instead of his real ranking of number eight. That’s a big difference. Nikolay Davydenko would have fallen even farther to number 24.

On the women’s side, Venus and Serena Williams beat a lot of highly ranked players – no surprise there – while Svetlana Kuznetsova and Jelena Jankovic beat up on a bunch of lower ranked players.

What’s the point of all this? If quality points are good predictors, then Gasquet, Davydenko, Kuznetsova and Jankovic will fall in the rankings next year while Nalbandian, Murray, and the Williams sisters will rise.

Of course, it depends. Nalbandian was injured for part of the last year and the Williams sisters are in a perpetual state of injury. Still, it means that Nalbandian could do very well in the Australian Open and Murray will continue to climb.

You might not need statistics to come to these conclusions. You know the Williams sisters will take home slams when they’re healthy and motivated. You know that Jankovic is not likely to reach number one because she doesn’t have enough offense and Ana Ivanovic is nipping at her heels. You know that Murray is only going to get better.

Davydenko is a little harder to figure out. He gets his high ranking by playing a million tournaments. He went into free fall at the end of the year due to the pressure of being the focus of an endless gambling investigation. Until the ATP comes up with a verdict, he’s likely to keep sinking.

Gasquet is a surprise. I figured he was in the top ten to stay. Check back at the end of next year and see if he is or not.

What do you think? Are these predictions accurate?

Awards, Awards

I’ve closed out voting for the Most Improved Player Teddy Award so it is now time to vote for the Most Disappointing Player of 2007. Please go to the right side of the page and lay down your vote.

By the way, I have been nominated for the Ladbroke’s Sportingo Author of 2007 Award. Please help me out by going here and voting for moi (Nina Rota) on the right side of the page. I need some help. One guy seems to have half of India voting for him.

In the Flow, In the Zone, Out of Your Head, etc.

Many people have tried to describe the state of being in the flow, in the zone, or whatever you want to call it. The game flows to you and you act without thinking. You’re in a heightened state of attention but totally relaxed. If you can keep it up, you win. Here’s a particularly good description of the state from Chip Brown. He wrote it in an article about basketball player Steve Nash in the November edition of Play Magazine:

Flow, of course, being shorthand for that state of mind that artists and athletes strive to enter into, and which in full flood entails an ecstatic expansion of consciousness that releases them from confines of the self and produces crowning moments of creation and performance.

It never occurred to me that it was an egoless state but it should have been obvious. It’s hard to be egotistical if you’re not thinking and are just doing. Too bad it’s such an elusive state. I’d like to visit it much more often.

Average Rating: 4.9 out of 5 based on 187 user reviews.

Lots of Russians pop up when the conversation switches to match fixing.

I’ve been to a lot of self-help workshops in my life, everything from a Sluts and Goddesses workshop to something called Opening the Heart. At one of these workshops we broke into an inner and outer circle. The people in the inner circle rotated to one person at a time in the outer circle and told them one thing they noticed about them.

The organizers of the workshop told us not to get a swell head if one person said something wonderful about us. But they also said that if two or three people said the same thing, there’s probably truth to it. If two or three people think you’re funny, you probably are. If two or three people think your hairpiece looks ridiculous, it probably does.

Since Nikolay Davydenko kicked off the gambling issue in professional tennis after Betfair voided all bets on his match with Martin Vassallo-Arguello in August, the Russian Mafia’s involvement in match fixing has been mentioned at least two or three times.

I’m beginning to think there’s truth to it.

When the first reports came out about Davydenko’s match, they mentioned Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, a Russian mafia figure who’d been implicated in the bribery of ice skating judges in the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. Tokhtakhounov has some connections to the Russian tennis federation. Russian player Andrei Medvedev gave him a Mercedes Benz and Yevgeny Kafelnikov calls him a good friend.

Here’s a good indication that Tokhtakhounov is a mobster: he was jailed twice in the 1970’s and 1980’s for parasitism. At that time it was a crime to be unemployed in Russia because the unemployed were viewed as parasites, but parasitism also describes the mafia perfectly. They make a living by skimming money off the top of other people’s work.

Kafelnikov actually preceded Davydenko in the suspicious match department. Betting on a first round match between Kafelnikov and Fernando Vicente in 2003 was suspended by bookmakers because large bets were placed on Vicente even though he’d lost his eleven previous matches. Curiously, Betfair was the only betting exchange that stayed open throughout that match.

Why didn’t Kafelnikov’s match kick off the gambling controversy instead of Davydenko’s match? Why didn’t the ATP create a gambling czar and hire experts to monitor betting patterns in 2003?

I can think of a few reasons. The money wagered on tennis was nowhere near as great in 2003 and it is now and online betting exchanges have a lot to do with that. Also, players didn’t come forward in 2003 and say that they’d been approached by people wanting them to influence the outcome of a match. Given the number of players who’ve come forward since the Davydenko match, you have to think that there wasn’t widespread match fixing in 2003 because we’d have heard something about it.

As far as I remember, all of the players that came forward after the Davydenko match were ATP players. Now players in the WTA have come forward. Larry Scott, the CEO of the WTA, told the Daily Mail that “quite a few players” had come forward and there were “quite a few approaches.”.

The women evidently are not media hogs like the ATP players are because they told the WTA directly about being approached instead of going to the media first. Maybe that’s why the ATP passed the forty eight hour rule: players are required to notify the ATP if anyone approaches them and asks them to throw a match within 48 hours. The ATP was probably tired of hearing about match-fixing attempts from the media instead of the players themselves.

Scott also said something that fits into our theme of the day: “’We have got particular concerns about Russia, there’s a lot of activity that comes out of there but it is not the only country.”

I’m assuming Scott’s comments refer to players being approached in Russia rather than any concrete information about match fixing but we are beginning to get some bits of concrete information. The ATP told Davydenko that it has found nine Betfair accounts owned by Russians who would have won $1.5 million if Betfair had paid out on his match with Vassallo-Arguello.

Maybe the Russian mafia has lost some of its business or maybe more people are going into the business and need new opportunities. Whatever the reason, tennis has become a hot commodity because there a lot of people who say they’ve been approached and offered money.

Gambling has been biggest news in tennis this year. I’d love to see the numbers waged on tennis matches versus total television contracts and tournament prize money. I’m willing to bet that gambling money outdoes all other tennis income by millions.

Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 187 user reviews.

The Bryan twins won the doubles rubber to clinch a Davis Cup title and there’s still one more day to go.

After Bob Bryan smashed the last volley and saw it bounce high over the heads of Nikolay Davydenko and Igor Andreev, he turned back to his twin brother Mike, spread his arms and beamed in disbelief and joy.

The twins had just clinched the 2007 Davis Cup title for the U.S. and it had been a long time coming. The U.S. had not won a title for 12 years and the Bryans had been dreaming about this moment for their entire lives.

I was so happy that I was actually crying. I can’t help it. I get patriotic. I was happy for Andy Roddick because a Davis Cup title was his dream too and he has absolutely carried this team on his back for the past few years. I was happy for James Blake because he got an unexpected victory over Mikhail Youzhny in what he called the best win of his career.

How could you not be happy for these guys?

The only thing that’s making me unhappy is the wait. The cup won’t be handed out till the last two meaningless matches are played tomorrow evening. And that was the only problem this weekend: the tennis was too one-sided.

There were a few tiebreakers here and there and one four set match but it was all over too soon. No marathon five set matches or 17-15 scores and, really, no doubt about the outcome except for the set Blake dropped and his failure to hold serve to end his match.

The doubles match was interesting if only to see whether a couple of very good singles players could hold their own against the number one doubles team in the world. These days top singles players skip doubles because they don’t need the money. Back when they did need the money, you were likely to find the same players at the top of the singles and doubles rankings.

Would the Bryans be anywhere near as successful if all the top singles players took up doubles again? Yes they would and today we found out why.

Virtually all of the top singles players are baseliners and that goes for Davydenko and Andreev too. And most of the top players serve big. But it was the Bryans who won most of the baseline rallies and as for the serve, Bob Bryan put 27 out of his first 29 first serves into the court. The first set went to a tiebreaker but after that it was no contest.

That could also be said for this year’s Davis Cup final.


Read more about the first day of Davis Cup here and see if our predictions were accurate.

Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 225 user reviews.