Though it didn’t come as a huge surprise, there was still an outpouring of first disappointment and then fond remembrances for the incredible career of Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko who announced his retirement this week.
One of the cleanest strikers of the ball in recent memory, Davydenko was often referred to as “Kolya”. Although it was Juan Martin Del Potro who came up with perhaps the best nickname of “Playstation” due to the Russian’s amazing, though to his opponents infuriating, way of seeming to be everywhere on the court at once during a match.
Davydenko never won a Grand Slam, but he was a player during the height of his career few wanted to see anywhere near their side of the draw. He remains one of the few players to hold a winning record against Rafael Nadal, a feat that will now stand for the record books.
While Davydenko enjoyed much success, including reaching a career high No. 3 in the world, it was his performances at the very end of the 2009 season is where he played his best tennis. After defeating both Novak Djokovic and then Rafael Nadal to win the Shanghai Masters, Davydenko kept up his title winning form at the ATP World Tour Finals in London.
Beating Nadal yet again in the round robin, Devydenko then went on to beat Roger Federer for the first time ever to reach the final. There, he defeated Del Potro to claim the biggest title of his career and thus causing the Argentine to bestow the nickname “Playstation” on the Russian.
“He’s very fast. He plays like PlayStation,” Del Potro said. “He runs to everywhere. It’s very difficult to make winners.”
From such a lofty pinnacle, Davydenko unfortunately began a slow decline. A wrist injury marred most of his 2010 season and he never really recovered from that nor looked like the same player he did the previous year. Despite flashes of brilliance, Davydenko would fall out of the top 10 and, by the start of this season, played sporadically.
His last tour match was a first round loss to Robin Haase at Roland Garros in May. After that, Davydenko said he would likely retire and he did just that by making the announcement at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow.
Capable of a dry quip just as much as piercing two-handed backhand pass, Davydenko proved dedication and a desire to win can lead to unexpected victories, even over those who play “a bigger game”. And who knows, perhaps in future video game version of the sport, Davydenko will remain a solid go-to choice as an avatar for those at home who really do want to get to every ball.
The ATP posted this fine tribute here.