Davydenko steps into the spotlight

Victory at the World Tour Finals last year has transformed the Russian journeyman into a Grand Slam contender. He tells Paul Newman in Melbourne why now is his time and how he can win the Australian Open

After winning the biggest title of his career at the ATP World Tour Finals in London two months ago Nikolay Davydenko admitted that nobody had asked for his autograph that week. Although an almost permanent member of the world's top 10 for more than four years, the 28-year-old Russian had been the elite group's ultimate journeyman, a consummate professional who was too good for most but never made it to the finish line at the biggest events and rarely beat the very best players.

That victory at the O2 Arena, however, has changed everything. In winning the Qatar Open a fortnight ago Davydenko extended his recent winning run against the world's two best players – he has won his last two matches against Roger Federer, having lost the previous 12, and his last three against Rafael Nadal – while his 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 victory over Illya Marchenko in the second round of the Australian Open here yesterday was his 11th win in succession.

Until recently almost the only time Davydenko had been in the spotlight was when one of his matches drew the attention of investigators because of suspicious betting patterns. His limited grasp of English – his vocabulary is reasonable but he has trouble putting the words in the right order – may have put off interviewers, but he has demonstrated a dry sense of humour here.

Asked yesterday whether he drank vodka, Davydenko said yes but added: "I don't drink so much because, you see, I'm skinny. I mix only. Sometimes I drink clear vodka, sometimes mixed with Red Bull. It gives me a little bit of power in a nightclub or disco. Because if I drink only vodka I go straight to sleep."

Having had trouble finding sponsors, Davydenko makes no secret of the importance of money, especially after he won $1.51m (about £930,000) in London. He said he had invested his winnings and not spent much on a present for his wife. "Look, if I buy everything for my wife, how I can invest money?"

Why did Davydenko talk so much about money?

"Because we are Russian. Russians are always talking about money. And you know all Russians can get only cash, not like you guys, only credit cards."

Juan Martin del Potro, having been beaten by Davydenko in the London final, said the Russian "plays like PlayStation, running everywhere". While fitness and court speed have been crucial, there is much more to Davydenko's game. He hits the ball early – he is one of the best returners of serve – and attacks at almost every opportunity. He is even hitting killer stop volleys with increasing regularity.

"I think I've started to play the volley much better," he said. "If you see my match against Nadal in the final in Doha, I start to go to the net. I start to make some points with the volley, make so many winners. Maybe I need to serve a bit better sometimes. But I try, try to do different [things]. I don't only think about the baseline. For sure, I want to be fast. I want to run fast. Like Del Potro tell me, I am like PlayStation 3 in London. Now I try to become level PlayStation 4, to be faster and faster."

He said he liked his non-celebrity status – "I am not Paris Hilton" – and would like to have children. Asked whether he would like them to see him play, Davydenko replied: "Yes. No. Yes and no. Really, I would like have kids now, like Federer already has two, or Hewitt. We have the same age. But my wife doesn't want to stay at home. She travels with me now.

"Now is an important time. Now I'm top 10. She is scared about if I start to – with kids – lose tennis and go down, stray. That's because I might start to miss them and I want to go home. I don't want to practise. That's what is different. Maybe for me it is better to be with my wife at this time, no kids."

Does he think he can win here? "I know I'm very good player. If I feel good, for sure I can beat everyone. But you can't feel good every day. That's difficult. I hope I can feel good here in Australia every day. For sure, feeling good you can win matches and you can win, you know, the tournament. But, you know, it's only four days here. Just the second round."

The second round proved a hurdle too far for Spain's David Ferrer, who lost to Marcos Baghdatis, the beaten 2006 finalist, despite winning the first two sets. Baghdatis now meets Lleyton Hewitt, with both men hoping for an earlier finish than two years ago, when the Australian completed his victory at 4.33am.

Novak Djokovic lost the first set before beating Switzerland's Marco Chiudinelli, whose friend, Federer, needed only 99 minutes to beat Victor Hanescu in front of a watching Prince William, who is on a royal visit Down Under. During his on-court interview after the match Federer was asked if he would like to address the prince. "Your royal highness, welcome to the world of tennis," the king of the court said. "Thanks for coming."

Off court, Federer and Serena Williams both wanted their pictures taken with the prince, who asked the photographer: "Could you make sure you send back copies to the Palace, please?"

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
i100
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
tv
Extras
indybest 9 best steam generator irons
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
tvEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering