There might have been a time in his career when Nikolay Davydenko wished that he were as well known as his contemporaries. If he did, the Russian likely had never heard that American saying about being careful what you ask for.
Davydenko's been very popular lately, but clearly not for the best reasons. There's the suspicious betting patterns reported on a match he played in Poland this year. He's still under the magnifying glass for that one, and so far, has not discussed the incident with the game's top officials. Last week, during a loss in St. Petersburg against Marin Cilic, he was warned by the umpire for not trying hard enough. The next day, he was fined $2,000.
Let's stop right there. Of course, the natural inclination is to watch Davydenko very closely now. It's going to be hard for him to explain the whole Poland thing (...whenever the tennis honchos make room in their schedule for him. Honestly, what's taking them so long? Is this not an important issue that should be squared away?) but is he really dumb enough to throw another match right now? Probably not.
So why would an umpire think Davydenko isn't trying hard? Hmm. Could he be, by any chance, tired?
Guess how many tournaments he's played this year.
Twenty-six. That's 79 matches since January.
Let's check in on a few other schedules. Rafael Nadal: 18 tournaments, 76 matches. Roger Federer: 15 tournaments, 70 matches. Justine Henin: 13 tournaments, 62 matches. Last, and definitely "least": Serena Williams, weighing in with 11 tournaments and 44 matches. No, that number wouldn't be much higher even if she were healthy all year.
So, by far, Davydenko plays far more tournaments, but edges Federer and Nadal in matches played. That would be because those two win most everything they play. Davydenko doesn't.
Anyway, Davydenko basically plays every other week. When he's not playing, he's traveling. When he's not traveling, he's probably practicing. Essentially, he's no slouch. So, the question is: Is he physically capable of playing at his best throughout almost 30 tournaments a year? Even if Davydenko thinks he can, he can't. If he's guilty of anything, it's not using discretion when planning his schedule. Look at Federer's schedule again. He does this crazy thing sometimes between tournaments. It's called "not playing in a tournament just because they're having one and will pay you an obscene amount of money to come." It's crazy, sure, but he's number one in the world. Maybe there's something to it.
In a way, maybe money will talk in this case. The $2,000 fine might finally convince Davydenko to tone down that schedule. I wouldn't bet on it, though. (Sorry. I couldn't resist.)