Men's Tennis (ATP)
Hard-workin' Davydenko just keeps winnin' matches

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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The quiet warrior that is Nikolay Davydenko simply continues to pile up match wins on the grueling ATP circuit.

The 26-year-old Russian officially qualified for his third straight season-ending Tennis Masters Cup, in Shanghai, by titling in Moscow this past weekend. He snuck past talented Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu 7-5, 7-6 (11-9) in the final to cap off his unbeaten week at the $1 million Kremlin Cup.

"I'm really happy to qualify for the Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai for the third consecutive year," Davydenko said. "It's important for me to know that I'm one of the eight best tennis players in the world for the third year. This is very important for me and my career."

The Moscow championship marked his third in four years and second straight there, and gave him his 11th overall career title, including, oddly enough, only his first one of 2007.

The speedy star boasts a very effective serve, perfect groundstrokes, gets to just about every ball and prides himself on defense and a high-quality return game, which has helped him reach no less than 11 quarterfinals already this year. My only complaint about Davydenko is that he lacks some variety in his otherwise solid game (and also has a history of not winning the biggest matches).

Davydenko, nicknamed "Kolya," has been knocking on the Grand Slam door over the past few seasons, as evidenced by back-to-back semifinal appearances at the U.S. Open and a pair of trips into the final four at the French Open over the last three campaigns.

Nikolay Davydenko
Nikolay Davydenko has won at least 50 matches in each of the last three years.
The world No. 4 Russian has appeared in at least the quarterfinals at the last three Aussie and French Opens and has landed in at least the quarters in eight of the last 12 majors. He was ranked as high as No. 3 in the world in November of last year, and has placed inside the year-end top-five the last two years.

The grass courts at Wimbledon, however, have not been so kind to Davydenko. He reached the fourth round there this year, but suffered first- or second- round setbacks in his previous five trips to the storied All England Club.

Quiz Time: Can you name the only other Russian player currently ranked inside the ATP's Top 20?

Unfortunately for Davydenko, the competition ahead of him just happens to be 12-time major titlist Roger Federer, three-time Roland Garros champion and two-time Wimbledon runner-up Rafael Nadal and entertaining Serbian Novak Djokovic, the '07 U.S. Open runner-up. The Russian star is a combined 0-12 lifetime against Federer and Nadal, and has never played Djokovic. He's 0-10 versus Federer, including 0-2 this year, and 0-2 against Nadal, including 0-1 this season.

Ouch.

Another unfortunate situation for Davydenko, meanwhile, is the fact that the ATP is currently investigating a match that he played in Poland earlier this year against Argentine Martin Vassallo Arguello. Several large bets were placed in Vassallo Arguello's favor with a British on-line gambling company, Betfair. Davydenko retired from that particular match during the third set due to a foot injury, thus giving the unheralded Argentine a victory.

Although Davydenko had suffered a couple of opening-round setbacks in previous weeks, it didn't make sense to Betfair that such a heavy volume of bets would go in favor of Vassallo Arguello. And many of the bets came after the Russian had won the first set. Betfair wound up canceling all bets and promptly notified the ATP of the situation.

If I was a bettin' man, I would wager that Davydenko comes out of this "scandal" unscathed.

The 5-foot-10, 155-pound Davydenko is typically the busiest man (in terms of tournaments played) on the ATP. Including his all-important Davis Cup action, he's already played in 29 events this season, going 50-27 on his way to just under $1.6 million in earnings. And the steady Russian has won at least 50 matches three years running, including a quality 68-28 record in 2006. He reminds you of the original Russian tennis iron man, Olympic gold medalist, two-time major champion and former world No. 1 Yevgeny Kafelnikov.

And speaking of Davis Cup, Davydenko will try to help Russia win a second straight title when he and his countrymen battle the host United States in the World Group finale in Portland in late-November/early-December.

FYI, the nine-year pro Davydenko's career on-court money is over the $6.77 million mark; and you don't want to face Russia's top star in a final, where he's a stellar 11-3 for his career.

Quiz Answer: Mikhail Youzhny (No. 18).

Off the court, Davydenko is happily married to his wife Irina and he's coached by his older brother, and former pro, Eduard, who, to my knowledge, has never been linked to any match-fixing.

Davydenko is part of this week's powerful field at the Madrid Masters, where he'll have to get past the likes of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic if he wants to secure a second title in two weeks.

Ace or double fault? Send your comments to Scott Riley at sriley@sportsnetwork.com.
Scott Riley

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