Simon Reed

Wilander: Davydenko a worthy winner

Simon Reed

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Mats
Wilander reflects on the game and the character of Nikolay Davydenko, the newly
crowned ATP World Tour Finals champion.

I don't
know if you can say it's only a question of time with Nikolay Davydenko. But
that's what it is. He won what was a pretty dull tournament. Roger Federer was
not at his best and neither was Rafael Nadal, though you can't argue with the
fact that the Russian was the best player of the week.

There's no
doubt about that. When you work as hard as he does and you play as well as he
has for the last six or seven years, there comes a time when you're going to
win something. And there was nothing lucky about his win in London. He just went out and beat all the
best players around. He outplayed them.

The surface
in London
suited him down to the ground. It was quick but not too quick, which allowed
him to just stand there and hit away. He could also move to his left or right
as fast as he wanted and he didn't have to slide around that much, which is
something you have to do on quite a few hard courts now.

The height of the
bounce was also perfect for him, and he was able to take up position on the
baseline and move the ball around, which is what he likes to do. The surface
allowed him to play the same way against all his opponents, which was
definitely not the case for the other players. Federer, for example, had to
adapt his game more and be more offensive against Murray but defend better against Del Potro.

Over the
last few months Federer and Nadal have started losing to players they always
tended to beat. Del Potro beat Federer. Soderling overpowered Nadal. And that
gave Davydenko ideas. He'd never beaten the Swiss before and had a string of
losses against him. But that extra little bit of confidence made all the
difference.

There's no
doubt that as a player Davydenko has matured a little later than the others. He
doesn't look so much of a machine now and he has a better feeling for the game.
He's clearly put that online betting thing behind him, which can't have been
easy, as well as that spell when he was committing lots of double faults. He's
finally got through all those rocky patches and I think he's got to a stage now
where he really loves his tennis. I really get the feeling he's changed.

Now that
he's won the Masters I don't see any reason why he can't go on and win a Grand
Slam event. If he doesn't, then I think you can put him down with Marcelo Rios
as the best player in the last 25 years not to have won a major tournament.

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