Officials at the Association of Tennis Professionals today expressed relief that talented young Serb Novak Djokovic won the ATP Master’s Cup in Shanghai, rather than fifth-ranked Nikolay Davydenko.
“If Davydenko had won, then we might actually have had to promote him,” said one official, who requested anonymity but, since he’s in charge of the ATP marketing, will be referred to as Tweedledee.
“Davydenko is a hard worker and reliable presence in the top 10,” said Tweedledee, “but his personality and charisma make one nostalgic for Yevgeny Kafelnikov. His baseline-hugging game makes one long for Thomas Muster.”
Similar sentiments were expressed by another official who also asked not to be identified, but since he is in charge of ATP scheduling will be referred to as Tweedledum.
“People will naturally blame me for Davydenko reaching the final, since (Rafael) Nadal, our top-ranked player, couldn’t even make it and (Roger) Federer, our two-time defending champion showed up hurt,” said Tweedledum.
“But they miss the fact that there was almost a marquee final between Djokovic and Andy Murray. Think of it: The game’s two fastest-rising young stars, competing in the tour’s last match for the momentum they need to challenge the top two. So close, and all undone by …(sigh)…scheduling.
“I can’t even do things right by accident,” Tweedledum added.
Murray, the hottest player on tour in the fall had won all three of his qualifying-round matches, including a three-set thriller against Federer on Friday. That match, however, left Murray in less than ideal shape to play Davydenko the next day.
“We were afraid that the same thing would happen Sunday, since Novak had gone three sets with (Gilles) Simon the day before,” said Tweedledee. “Then alllllll next year we would have had to refer to Davydenko as ‘the Master’s Cup champion’ as if that somehow put him in greater contention for slams.”
The officials said that that Master’s Cup has in recent years been jokingly referred to among ATP staff as Executions with Roger Federer.
This is because the Swiss seems to be the only top five player whose style of play allows him to conserve enough energy to have something left for the Cup, where he wins a lopsided final round match against a hot player who otherwise is out of his depth against the Swiss, and who won’t be back to the final the following year.
“I guess this year Executions had a new host in Djokovic, and a new guest to the take the place of James Blake and David Ferrer,” said Tweedledum. “I’d like to take credit for the last really good final we had, which was Federer-Nalbandian in ’05, but since this is off the record, I’ll be honest: It was pure luck.
“Nobody can predict what Nalbandian will do.”
Tweedledum said that more high-quality finals, like Becker-Sampras 1996 or even Hewitt-Ferrero 2002 seem unlikely until “I’m fired and replaced by someone who has the authority and the courage to shorten the season and save the players’ energy.”
Tweedledee looks forward to the upcoming season, one in which Federer and Nadal should be challenged by both Djokovic and Murray.
“To find a foursome this strong, you pretty much have to go back to 1990, when it was Ivan Lendl, Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg in the top 3, all of them multi-Slam winners, while Andre Agassi was knocking on the door,” he said.
“Davydenko hits an awfully clean ball, but he’ll never be in that category. I’ve watched him play matches against Federer where I thought, Davydenko could make not one unforced error and still lose this match.”
Davydenko is 0-12 against Federer, having not won a set from the Swiss in nearly three years. He is 2-3 against Nadal, 1-2 against Djokovic and 1-5 against Andy Roddick. While he has won two Master’s Series events and reached four Grand Slam semis, the majority of his 15 ATP titles have come in second and third-tier venues like Moscow, Warsaw and assorted cities in Austria.
Tweedledee described watching him play as “the most joyless experience in men’s tennis, aside from watching Ivo Karlovic hit ace after ace.”
“It would take a marketing genius to promote him. It would certainly require more ability than I’ve demonstrated.”