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Will Roger Federer win the Australian Open and will Nikolay Davydenko ever get the ball into the service box?

Federer Looks Ordinary

I took a closer look at David Nalbandian’s win over Roger Federer in this week’s Paris Masters Series event. Nalbandian beat Federer yesterday to get to the quarterfinals.

Federer had lost the first set and had just been broken to go down 4-5 in the second when it hit me: Federer will not win the Australian Open next year.

A prediction on my part for sure and Federer actually broke Nalbandian in the next game to even the second set at 5-5. But Federer looked very ordinary. He couldn’t take control of the points consistently while Nalbandian was able to move Federer wide then hit winners to the open court again and again.

Nalbandian won the match in straight sets, 6-4, 7-6(3), and it was a rather routine win.

I don’t know what Nalbandian’s excuse is for playing so well considering that he hadn’t reached a semifinal in almost a year before he won Madrid two weeks ago. Evidently he was having some physical problems and couldn’t train properly.

I do know what Federer’s excuse is. This is his third tournament in a row and he doesn’t like doing that. He played Paris because Rafael Nadal is breathing down his neck. Nadal is into the semifinals in Paris and if Federer doesn’t do well in the year end championships in Shanghai, Nadal could be in position to take over the number one ranking early next year.

The surface at Shanghai is superfast so it’s unlikely that Nadal will do well there, but then it was unlikely he’d reach the semifinals in Paris. Luckily for Federer, Nalbandian will not be in Shanghai.

Who’ll beat Federer in Australia? At this point, Nalbandian and Novak Djokovic are the best candidates. Nalbandian just beat him twice in a row and Djokovic beat him in the final at the Montreal Masters which is an outdoor hard court event. Nadal reached the quarterfinals at this year’s Australian Open but his knees probably won’t hold up through a two week long hard court slam.

What do you think? Does Federer win the Australian? If not, who’ll beat him?

Davydenko Is Crumbling

The Nikolay Davydenko situation is getting ridiculous. Chair umpire Cedric Mourier warned him about his lack of effort while he was in the process of hitting ten double faults in his loss to Marcos Baghdatis in Paris yesterday. The ATP seems to be punishing Davydenko for his part in a suspicious match he played against Martin Vassallo-Arguello in August. There were irregular betting patterns on the match that made it look like the match was fixed. The ATP is still investigating the matter.

How else can you explain it but punishement? Last week the ATP fined Davydenko $2000 for lack of effort during a similar run of double faults. I understand how betting patterns can lead you to think that a match was fixed, but what’s the evidence here?

It looks to me like Davydenko is getting Guillermo Coria’s disease. He can’t get the ball into the service box. In Coria’s case the problem was a lack of confidence. I think Davydenko has finally succumbed to the pressure of constant scrutiny about the alleged fixed match. He gets asked about it at every tournament he attends and he’s not a guy who’s good with the media. He’s not smooth or well-spoken, he’s cranky if anything.

It would be surprising if it didn’t finally get to him. That’s immense pressure to face week after week. It’s not that I’m necessarily sympathetic. That match looked for all the world like a fixed match and until someone shows me an alternative explanation, I’ll be very suspicious.

But give the guy some resolution one of these days. That match was in August and he’s still twisting in the wind.


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