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Monday, October 19, 2009
Nothing ugly about Davydenko in Shanghai

SHANGHAI -- Let's face it, Nikolay Davydenko is rarely on anyone's radar screen.

That should be surprising since, except for a three-month period this year (April 27-July 27), Davydenko's been a top-10 performing player since May 2005.

Nevertheless, the only time in his career that the 28-year-old Russian made headlines was a few years back when there was an investigation into whether he was complicit in online match betting. The investigation came up empty of evidence and Davydenko quickly retreated to his role as a shadow in the top 10.

But his results truly tend to speak a different story.

On Sunday in Shanghai, Davydenko outshined Rafael Nadal to win the inaugural Shanghai Masters 1000 title 7-6 (3) 6-3. It was a perfect match for the selling of quality men's tennis. Even Nadal, a six-time Grand Slam champion who knows a good match when he plays one, deemed it high quality.

Davydenko tends to get dismissed when it comes to his game, but that shouldn't be the case. A lanky guy, he packs quite a brawny punch, takes control of matches by playing well inside the court and hits angle shots that seem to defy logical trajectory that leave opponents drooling with envy.

He claims he doesn't mind not being an object of affection and attention. But he really does deserve more consideration. Hey, he beat Novak Djokovic and Nadal in back-to-back matches in Shanghai.

"I don't want to have more fans," Davydenko said after winning his 18th career title. "More money, that's always good.

"But some think to be famous, really, I'm not that person who likes to be like this. I'm always nobody expected to win tournament, you know. If I win, it's good. If I lose, also it's OK."

Nadal thinks Davydenko's talents shouldn't be disregarded.

"Probably, he's a calm guy," Nadal said. "Doesn't show no emotions sometimes. People don't probably talk a lot about him, but the players, we know how good is Nikolay. And when he's playing his best level, he's very difficult to play against him."

Davydenko receives an extra nod or two during the week for showing grace during a terribly awkward moment.

The Chinese media tend to be extremely direct -- there are no questions that are out of bounds, not even those that might be considered rude or would hurt someone's feelings.

"Because you're not so good looking [away] from the court, [does that] make you put more focus on your tennis? And given the chance, would you like to be more good looking or keep your life going like this?" a reporter asked him.

Many in the room cringed.

But Davydenko chuckled, then answered: "Um, you know, if I don't have a wife, maybe I can say, 'Yeah, I disappointed I'm not, maybe, good looking.' But really, I have many girls [that like me] in Russia. I don't know about China, but in Russia, I still look good."

That old Nadal magic

Rafael Nadal shouldn't be too worried about defeat. He's moving well, feeling healthy and looking close to winning form.

Whether he'll be in tip-top shape for the remaining few weeks of this year is hard to predict, but it's not out of the question. And all signs point to him being in Grand Slam-winning shape by the time he arrives in Australia to defend his crown.

After the match was over, Nadal seemed pleased with the improvement in his game: "I am especially happy with one thing. It's the first match after my injury comeback against one top player. I was competing 100 percent of my condition. I really felt I had chances to win.

"So that's the first time, and that's the most positive thing for me, and I fight all the time with positive attitude, no physical problems. So that's very good news for me."