Say It Ain’t So, Davydenko

Just who is Nikolay Davydenko?

Apart from being the fourth best tennis player in the world, tennis writers might one day label the scrappy Russian as the man who crippled the credibility of the sport.The ATP, which runs men’s professional tennis, this week took the extraordinary step of fining Davydenko $2,000 for ”lack of best effort” after he lost to Marin Cilic, a player not even ranked in the top 100. (The ATP should be condemned for lack of best effort in asking Davydenko – tournament prize winnings, $6.7 million – to pay the equivalent of a bottle of Krug at Moscow’s Marika Bar, hangout of Russia’s top tennis brass).

Davydenko won the first set 6-1 in a mere 27 minutes. Then, inexplicably, he collapsed in the next two sets to the journeyman Croat, who couldn’t quite believe his luck. After all, a defeat for a top five player against a hacker like Cilic is about as common as a winter sunbather in Moscow.

But we’ve been here before. The ATP is investigating Davydenko after a match in Poland, when online bookmaker Betfair believes it was fleeced to the tune of $7.3 million on a single match. Playing another unknown, Martin Vasallo, Davydenko easily took the first set before losing in three.

These losses are all the more bizarre as Davydenko is not one of sport’s wimps. Little Nikolay left his parents at the age of 11 to pursue his tennis dream. He officially plays more tennis than any other top pro. “I was so upset with the whole thing I started crying,” Davydenko said of the affair in St. Petersburg.

So will the real Nikolay Davydenko stand up?

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