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Novak Djokovic had two wisdom teeth removed last week and while that may help explain his desultory play against Fabrice Santoro in Paris today, I have to ask: If Nikolay Davydenko was fined $2000 for lack of effort in a match in St. Petersburg last week – and he was – why wasn’t Djokovic fined?

Santoro was playing well and won the match 6-3, 6-2, but come on, he won 88% of his first serves and I can serve harder than he can. Djokovic is in the top ten in three of the four return of serve categories and he can’t return Fabrice Santoro’s serve?

If Djokovic is suffering from tooth problems, Santoro had it worse. One of his legs was taped up to protect his knee. Djokovic obviously noticed this and hit drop shot after drop shot. Santoro got to most of them, though, which was amazing for a guy taped up like a mummy. At least HE was trying.

To be fair, Djokovic had never played Santoro before and Santoro is absolutely unique. No other player on tour hits a slice forehand from the baseline and Santoro hits it probably 75% of the time, if not more. Djokovic had fought off three break points in his first service game and was facing another one serving at 2-3 in the first set. After seven attempts at trying to hit something solid off Santoro’s short and low slices, Djokovic tried to hit a winner down the line and sent it wide to go down a break.

Here’s the thing: it didn’t seem to bother Djokovic. Okay, he wasn’t smiling, but I never saw him get mad or even throw his hands up in frustration. If he didn’t get a fine for not trying, he should have gotten one for not caring.

There is a possible explanation. Djokovic has already qualified for Shanghai and he’s played lots of tennis this year since he reached so many late rounds. He might just be tired or he might be very smart and is saving himself for Shanghai.

For that same reason, I don’t understand why Roger Federer is here unless he wants to build up a cushion in the rankings. He hasn’t played Paris since 2003. Any good theories anyone? Did the ATP put pressure on the top three players to turn up in Paris?

Davydenko lost that match in St. Petersburg to Marin Cilic by the score of 1-6, 7-5, 6-1. He served six double faults in the third set. Clearly Davydenko would not have been fined if he hadn’t embarrassed the ATP with an irregular betting incident earlier this year.

The online betting exchange Betfair voided all bets on Davydenko’s match with Martin Vassallo-Arguello in August because the match looked like it was fixed. That incident unleashed a torrent of reports of suspicious match results and players – who’d seldom brought the subject of gambling up before – were lining up to talk about anonymous phone calls and shady characters offering them big bucks to throw a match. As you can imagine, the ATP was not happy about that.

I don’t think Davydenko or Djokovic should be fined. I have a better idea. The ATP should find out who placed repeated irregular bets on the Davydenko/Vassall-Arguello match. That way the ATP don’t have to pretend to be doing something about fixing matches by deciding who’s playing hard and who’s not, they could actually get to the heart of the matter


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