Category Archives: Nikolay Davydenko

The U.S. should beat Russia in the Davis Cup final that starts tomorrow in Portland, Oregon but then, the Michigan’s college football team should have beaten Appalachian State and England’s soccer team should have beaten Croatia. But they didn’t.

What could go wrong this weekend in Portland?

Andy Roddick’s back could start hurting again and Mike Bryan would have to play one of the reverse singles matches. Roddick hurt his back in the year end championships.

Mike Bryan’s elbow could start hurting again and James Blake would have to play doubles. The Bryan brothers skipped the year end championships because Mike’s elbow was injured. I thought those guys were going for too many aces with their new Prince rackets. Don’t they know doubles players should focus on getting the first serve in?

James Blake could fail under the pressure of a Davis Cup final and lose both of his matches. He’s lost more than half his Davis Cup singles matches when the outcome of the tie was undecided.

Dmitry Tursunov could rise to the occasion and beat Roddick 17-15 in the fifth set of the decisive match as he did when Russia defeated the U.S. in Davis Cup last year.

Mikhail Youzhny could beat James Blake just like he did in last year’s Davis Cup match with Russia.

Here’s why that won’t happen.

Roddick will have a day off to rest between matches and Davis Cup means the world to him. If he can’t beat Roger Federer and win Wimbledon, at least he can bring home a Davis Cup title.

Mike Bryan’s elbow can make it through one match.

James Blake might lose two matches but Roddick will win both of his singles matches and the Bryan brothers will win doubles so it won’t matter, luckily, what Blake does.

Tursunov beat Roddick on clay last year and it’s a miracle that Roddick even got to a fifth set on clay. On an indoor hard court, he should be fine.

So what if Youzhny beats Blake? Go back two paragraphs and see why that doesn’t matter.

Notice that I haven’t mentioned Nikolay Davydenko. He’s Russia’s top singles player yet he’s scheduled to play doubles. Russia’s top doubles player, Tursunov, is scheduled to play singles.

Davydenko has had a bear of a time since he was implicated in a possible fixed match in August of this year. Former Scotland Yard investigators interviewed his brother and wife on behalf of an ATP investigation into the matter.

The ATP gave Davydenko seven days to submit phone records to the investigators despite the fact that they had little legal standing to do so. Davydenko is so beleaguered that he has agreed to turn the records over. That might be an indication that he is wearing down because it makes little legal sense to turn over such evidence. In the U.S. at least, the ATP should get that information from the phone companies if they are legally entitled to it.

You know what, this has all the ingredients of a huge upset. The pressure is all over the huge favorites while the underdogs feel little or no pressure. This is especially true for the Russians since they’ve won two Davis Cups in the last five years while the U.S. hasn’t won since 1995.

Could happen but probably won’t. Feel free to weigh in and clobber me if I’m wrong. I’d expect nothing less.


Read more about Davydenko’s legal problems: Celebrity Tennis, Gambling, Blow and Poison.

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Not the game of tennis itself. That’s not boring.

Serena and Venus Williams took home a pair of slams and we had a fantastic final at the women’s year-end-championships. Roger Federer still got his three slams but he missed out on four Masters Series titles by losing consecutive matches twice to an unexpected player. One of those unexpected players, David Nalbandian, not only resurrected his career, but he improbably took it further than it had ever gone before.

It’s not over yet. Next week Andy Roddick gets a chance to lead the U.S. to its first Davis Cup title since 1995 and leave his mark on the game as one of the great Davis Cup players of all time.

No, it’s the other stuff that’s missing. Look at the rest of the sports world, for instance.

Barry Bonds was indicted and Michael Vick reported early for his jail sentence in the past week. Alex Rodriguez’ superagent screwed up and upstaged the baseball World Series thereby damaging A-Rod’s reputation so badly that A-Rod sidestepped his agent and asked the Yankees to take him back. University of Alabama football coach Lou Saban got in trouble for comparing two straight losses to disasters such as 9/11 and Pearl Harbor. England lost to Croatia knocking them out of the 2008 European Championship and fired its coach.

Tennis has had a few drug suspensions this year but, hell, the entire peloton at the Tour de France was probably juicing up their blood. Last year’s champion was barnstorming the U.S. to raise money for his defense fund and this year’s yellow jersey holder was sent home because he’d lied about his whereabouts to avoid pre-race testing then got caught lying about his lies.

Tennis does have a gambling controversy. Nikolay Davydenko is buckling under the pressure of the investigation into whether he fixed a match and Alessio Di Mauro got a nine month suspension for laying down $15-20 bets on tennis but that’s all we got. Baseball had the Black Sox scandal which had eight players fixing games. And they also had Pete Rose who bet on baseball and lost his guaranteed place in the Hall of Fame.

Tennis is like ice skating: we have one criminal. Ice skating has Tonya Harding and we have Roscoe Tanner, though he’s old news. There is actually some new news about him and I’ll get to that in a few weeks.

Is tennis culturally relevant? Other sports are.

Baseball reflects cultural and political changes in the U.S. The number of Latino ballplayers is increasing yearly while the number of black ballplayers is decreasing. That reflects the U.S. culture as the Latino community is passing the black community both in economic and political power. The NBA reflects the growth of the global market with its high number of international stars including a new star from China this year, Yi Jianlian.

Same thing in tennis. Tennis in the U.S. is losing popularity and losing tournaments while the huge Asian market is getting new tournaments. Shanghai gets a new Masters Series event in 2009 and Roger Federer and Pete Sampras flew all over Asia – not Europe or the U.S. – for their barnstorming exhibition this week.

Tennis is exciting to watch and more or less culturally relevant. Two out of three ain’t bad don’t you think?

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Join us for the Tennis Masters Cup final! We’ll be blogging live this Sunday, November 18th, at 9 am (PT)/12 pm (ET).

What to do when a match fixer approaches you and how Roger Federer made it to the semis in Shanghai.

Call 1-800-FIX-MATCH

After Novak Djokovic lost his third match at the Tennis Masters Cup on Thursday, someone in the post-match media session asked him this question:

Q. Let’s say someone approaches you and asks you to lose a match. …what do you think you should do at that moment? Go and say to someone that someone approached you? Would you be afraid to do that because maybe he’s a criminal and he could do some damage to you, to your family?

Djoko was noncommittal in his answer but the question does explain why players never called up the ATP and said: “Hey, this guy just walked up to me and offered me $50, 000 to throw a match.” The players were rightfully careful about pissing off the wrong person.

The ATP rules currently require a player to call the ATP or the police but I’m guessing the ATP won’t get very many calls.

Match of Futility

Speaking of gambling, in the first match on Friday evening in Shanghai, Nikolay Davydenko and Fernando Gonzalez met to see whether Davydenko could knock Gonzo out and therefore pass Roger Federer onto the semifinals.

It was a match of futility. Gonzo injured his right knee and lower back in Paris and that explains why he kept falling down in his loss to Andy Roddick two days ago. He didn’t do much better on Friday, falling down a few more times.

Davydenko couldn’t hit the side of a barn. He had almost twenty unforced errors in the first five games. When you know your opponent is injured, sometimes it takes you out of your game. Davydenko was attacking more than usual because he knew Gonzo was having trouble pushing off on his right knee and it threw his game off.

Gonzo had trouble warming up and Davydenko broke him right away and won the first set with the break. Once Gonzo got going, though, he fought hard. He lasted until the late in the second set when he started to tire. You could tell because he was going for winners on every shot.

Davydenko broke him to go up 5-3 and served out the second set to win the match, 6-4, 6-3.

Practice Match

Since Federer was now through to the semifinals and his Friday night opponent, Andy Roddick, had already qualified for the semifinals, Roddick’s brother John called this a practice match.

Didn’t look much like a practice match. It looked pretty the same as they’re previous ten matches, all of which Federer won. Whereas the match between Davydenko and Gonzo was full of missed shots, break points and deuces, this match was as fast as a speeding bullet. It lasted about half as long.

Federer got 83% of his first serves in and won an incredible 88% of the points on his second serve. Roddick, on the other hand, won only 35% of his second serve points because Federer jumped all over them. This is how bad it was: Roddick didn’t win a point at the net in the first set.

Roddick must have felt like he was being served up for whatever was ailing Federer. It’s been a rough week for Federer. He lost his first match to Gonzo and beat Davydenko in his second match but looked shaky doing it. He hit 38 unforced errors..

One look at Roddick, though, and Federer’s game seems to flow off his racket. Federer’s next opponent, Rafael Nadal, has no chance if Federer plays this well but he won’t play this well because it’s the power players he eats up. Those annoying energizer bunnies make life much harder for him.

Roddick will face his own energizer bunny in David Ferrer. Ferrer is on fire and Roddick has to be a little discouraged. Federer and Ferrer final anyone?


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Andy Murray and Richard Gasquet are very close to growing up.

David Ferrer and Rafael Nadal raced into the semifinals of the Tennis Masters Cup with straight set victories in Shanghai today. Nadal was the third person in this event to beat up on Novak Djokovic winning by the score 6-4, 6-4.

Okay, Rafa didn’t beat up on Djoko but Djoko hasn’t looked the same since he had wisdom tooth removed just before the Paris Masters event. I thought he should have gotten a $20, 000 fine for not trying hard enough in Paris. Why not I reasoned? If the ATP thinks they know when someone isn’t trying hard enough, slap the fine on everyone.

I was being facetious of course and even the ATP has come to its senses and rescinded the $20, 000 they fined Nikolay Davydenko for “not trying hard enough.”

Djoko still hasn’t recovered and either something’s wrong with him or he’s just plain pooped after two slam semifinals and a final and two Masters Series titles in a breakout year. Either way, it dampened my enthusiasm for Richard Gasquet’s opening match victory over Djoko since everyone has beaten Djoko this weak. Gasquet has subsequently lost both of his matches and today’s loss was a beatdown. He lost to Rafa 6-1, 6-1.

I was over the moon for Gasquet when he got into the final eight. Either I’m very optimistic or, more likely, very demanding because once a young player makes a breakthrough, I want him to shoot for the moon and make it. One win isn’t bad I suppose but I wanted more.

Thinking about Gasquet took me back to a 2004 article about Roger Federer in Sports Illustrated written by S.L. Price. Federer was a drama queen when he was a junior player. He’d scream at himself and throw his racket across the court when things weren’t going well. His father tried to curb his behavior by yelling at him from the stands. Federer yelled back at him.

Federer cried if he lost a match. If you watch the Bjorn Borg documentary that’s in heavy rotation on the Tennis Channel, you’ll see tears in the teenager’s eyes after losing. Borg wasn’t a drama queen but you never doubted his, or Federer’s, desire.

I don’t know if I doubt Gasquet’s desire. I just don’t see it. It’s in his game. I’d have to think hard to name another player who goes for such big shots from anywhere on the court. And though screaming and yelling are not the only expressions of deep desire, you can usually see it somewhere if you look hard enough.

I don’t remember Andre Agassi screaming and yelling but he certainly acted out. It wasn’t just the bleached hair, earrings, and ‘do rag. He was clearly trying to fit his personality into his game. He was another player who had trouble making the transition from child prodigy to self-motivated professional tennis player.

Agassi finally had to take a break from the tour and hang out in a therapist’s office before he could work out his issues. Gasquet comes from a similar place: tennis coach parents, cover of a French tennis magazine when he was nine years old, the hope of French tennis.

Andy Murray I have no doubts about. He wants it. He’s still in his immature, yelling at himself phase – the phase most players grow out of when they get to the main tour – but you can hear the desire in his yellling.

One more sign of his immaturity: he can’t keep a coach. He doesn’t agree with the coach. He knows better. Today he fired Brad Gilbert, his garrulous supercoach of the past year and a half.

Maybe Murray will be like Federer. He knows the game of tennis well enough, and his own game in particular, and doesn’t need a coach. Strategically that might be true but physically he still needs to improve and how could you not benefit from the best coach in the game even if he is a motormouth?

I think Murray will be in the final eight at the end of next year but you never know what it’ll take to push someone to his full potential.

That article about Federer describes a huge turning point in his life. His juniors coach and mentor, Peter Carter, died in a car accident when Federer was 20 years old. It marked his passage from adolescence to manhood. Federer had been a highly skilled but erratic player and now he became a mentally tough player.

The next coach Murray gets, if he gets one, will be paid out of Murray’s pocket. Until Murray fired him, Britain’s Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) was paying $1.5 million a year for Gilbert’s services. Maybe that’s the way Murray wants it to be. Maybe that’s a sign of maturity.

For sure it marks Murray’s passage from LTA foster child to self-supporting tennis professional and that’s a good thing.

As for Gasquet, I’ll keep looking and see what I find.


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