Australian Open 2012: Nikolay Davydenko blasts 'perfect’ Roger Federer as row rumbles on
Earlier yesterday Rafael Nadal attempted to defuse the controversy that he triggered on Sunday, when he accused the Swiss of ignoring the complaints of the majority of tennis professionals.
But Davydenko — the Russian who was formerly ranked No 3 in the world – became the second man to object to Federer’s approach.
“I don’t know why Roger is not supporting the players,” Davydenko said. “Because he don’t want... any problems. He’s nice guy. He’s winning grand slams. He’s from Switzerland. He’s perfect. He don’t want to do anything, he just try to be an outsider from this one.”
Davydenko’s take on the issue was very similar to the one Nadal delivered on Sunday, when he was asked about Federer’s non-interventionist stance. He replied: “It is very easy [for Federer] to say, ‘I am not going to say anything, everything is positive’ and come off as a gentleman and burn the rest.”
Nadal, however, made an attempt at a rapprochement at his post-match press conference yesterday, where he explained that “I feel sorry for what I said” and promised that he would not talk about anything but tennis over the rest of the Australian Open fortnight.
But even if Nadal – who had his right knee heavily taped during his 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 win over Alex Kuznetsov although an MRI scan later showed no damage – has really said his last word on the matter, he is not the only man to feel irritated by Federer’s refusal to consider change. His outburst has started a debate that could roll on through the rest of this tournament.
Federer was the last man to speak yesterday, as his match was scheduled in the night session on Rod Laver Arena, but once he had arrived in the interview room he gave a thoroughly diplomatic press conference that reminded everyone why he is the president of the Player Council.
Asked for his response to the criticism from Nadal, who is the vice-president of the same body, he replied: “We can’t always agree on everything. But for me, obviously nothing changes in terms of our relationship. I’m completely cool and relaxed about it, and [when we talked about it] he seemed the same way.”
Tennis politics are notoriously hard to get a grip on, because no two players have exactly the same priorities. But the key issues being debated are twofold: prize-money for lower-ranked players at grand slams and the number of tournaments the leading players have to appear in.
When asked to discuss these subjects yesterday, Federer declined. “I choose not to talk about those issues with you guys in the press room because unfortunately it can create negative stories,” he said. And yet, as the conversation went on, his natural instinct was to support the status quo.
“I thought we’re going in a good direction,” he said. “I thought the game was healthy. We’re in a golden era right now. Everybody is happy, talking positive.”
This last comment seems an odd thing to say when the Association of Tennis Professionals players’ meeting held on Saturday night was full of angst and anger. The upshot of their debate was summarised yesterday by the Ukrainian player Sergiy Stakhovsky, who said: “Some of the players were suggesting that we’re not really going to play here. [They] got quite a lot of votes for that, too. But it was just not right, because we’re here and the Australian Open would have no chance to change anything. It was enough [votes not to play]. It was more than enough.”
Although the new ATP chief executive, Brad Drewett, does not have any direct influence over the central issue of grand slam prize-money – which the players feel should be higher than the current 12 per cent of the tournaments’ total income – he is clearly under pressure to respond to the players’ dissatisfaction.
As Davydenko put it: “The ATP should try to do something between now and Indian Wells [the popular tournament held in California in the second week of March]. For sure, all the top 100 players will go there and just see what will be changed.”
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