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How Will History Judge Nikolay Davydenko?

Maybe you expected it, but if you didn't, no worries: I'll bet you're like about 95 percent of the tennis fans out there!

I'm referring to Nikolay Davydenko winning one of the ATP Tour's biggest stops, the Shanghai Masters. He followed up his near-classic semifinal win over Novak Djokovic with a straight-set defeat of Rafael Nadal, the top seed. This is Davydenko's fourth title of the season, all coming post-Wimbledon. I wonder if his legs are a little fresher after being sidelined in the early part of the year? (I still vote "no" on a shorter season!) But there I go again, making excuses for a Davydenko win.

You see, he regularly slips under my radar (and I don't think I'm the only one: Check out this posting at Tennis From Beyond the Baseline on that). But the fact of the matter is this: The dude can ball. Great strokes and excellent footspeed help him seriously grind down his opponents. I think he can open up a point in the middle of a rally almost as good as anyone out there.

Here's the thing, though: Why hasn't he won a Slam, or even made a Slam final.

It seems luck, mainly bad for him, has a lot to do with it. Aside from the loss to Mariano Puerta in 2005 at the French, his other pre-final runs at Majors have been ended by someone named Roger Federer. I thought this year at the French after Nadal lost that he was going to be the guy to make it to the finals from that side, but Robin Soderling blasted him.

Also, I used to have the idea that Tommy Haas was the best player in the Open era to never make a Slam final, mainly because of his career-high number-two ranking. Now I'm not so sure. Davydenko's gotten as high as number three and could realistically end his career with 30 titiles (more than two probable Hall of Famers, countrymen Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Marat Safin). If there's nary a Slam final on his resume, where does that leave him and his legacy in the game?

I guess as just a footnote, if that.

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Comment by Van Sias on October 21, 2009 at 4:26pm
Hey Jazz, what's up? Maybe some extra work would help him out. And I think that's a good point about him getting ground down by his own game. I bet a few extra MPH on the serve would help him out, too.
Comment by Jazz Burks on October 20, 2009 at 12:40am
When I got the text message that Nikolai beat Novak and Nadal beat Lopez I thought you could already stencil Nadal's name on the trophy. I wonder if Davy's grind 'em down game grinds down Nikolai as well and that's the reason he can't win in the slams. Maybe some work with Gil Reyes would help him out. Congrats to the "hardest working man in tennisbusiness!

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