Is Nikolay Davydenko slowly breaking down? The Russian has never been in the centre of attention because of his tennis, but after his notorious match against Vassallo Arguello in Sopot, Davydenko is being watched his every move. Last week in St. Petersburg, the Russian was fined $2000 for supposedly tanking his match against Croatian up-and-comer Marin Cilic. I can’t judge what went on during that encounter, as I haven’t been able to watch any of it, but sitting through the second set of Davydenko’s 6-2, 6-2 loss to Marcos Baghdatis has been one of the most painful experiences of 2007.
There is no doubt that Davydenko was giving it his best against the Cypriot. He was genuinely upset with every miss and was working hard to somehow find his rhythm. It’s just that nothing worked for the world No. 4. The most upsetting thing to see, was the way Davydenko was serving. If Elena Dementieva was watching the match, she would be shocked.
I tuned in when Baghdatis had just taken the first game of the second set, breaking Davydenko. After some uncharacteristic Davydenko misses, the Bag Man increased his lead to 2-0. But then it happened. Davydenko started serving in the third game, and he was just mistiming on every serve he hit. The Russian was merely trying to put his delivery in court, hitting about 70 – 80 mph first serves, but still double faulted three times, spraying his serves all over the place, or low into the net.
Baghdatis broke and during the changeover, chair umpire Cedric Mourier asked Davydenko if everything was alright. The Frenchman actually went so far, as to say, “if you serve like me, you’ll put it in the box.” Mourier really crossed the line though, when during the next change of ends he told Davydenko about his service: “Just hit it, you’re still the same player.” Is this the ATP’s equivalent to the WTA’s on-court coaching experiment, have the officials coach the players?
Baghdatis cruised to victory and emphatically asked Davydenko after shaking hands at the net if there was something wrong with him. The Russian said he was feeling fine, but it seems as if he is under a lot of pressure dealing with all the recent accusations on him. And who wouldn’t be.
Personally, let’s just say that I have my doubts about this whole Sopot scandal. I find it hard to believe that a world class player who makes over $1.5 million a season would risk selling a match and get caught. And I think the St. Petersburg fine doesn’t make much sense either. Why would a player, who just happens to be under strong surveillance, be fined for apparently ‘not giving his best’, but not the crowd favorite Novak Djokovic? It was blatantly obvious that Nole was tanking in Cincinnati against Moya, not to mention his ‘performance’ against Santoro this week in Paric-Bercy. Sounds an awful lot like measuring with two standards to me.
Remaining Shanghai spots still up for grabs
Meanwhile in Paris, the race to Shanghai is really going down to the wire. Current No. 7 Fernando Gonzalez lost in a highly-entertaining opening round match to Mikhail Youzhny, but is still in solid shape to clinch his Top 8 spot. Andy Murray has come out of nowhere the past few weeks and could very well go to Shanghai after all, despite missing the entire clay court season plus Wimbledon. I, for one, wouldn’t mind seeing the Scot in China.
Tommy Robredo is through to the quarters, but even though the Spaniard is currently in eighth position (prior to the Haas – Youzhny match), he needs a win over Marcos Baghdatis on Friday to stay in contention. Either Gasquet or Murray, who face each other in the quarters, would overtake Robredo if he goes down to the Cypriot.
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