Monday, April 11, 2011

Modest Achievements (and Immodest Failings)

In the grand old tradition (which I started yesterday) of talking about TWO WHOLE PLAYERS in one post, today I'm... going to talk about two players. Wow, really ruined that surprise. Oops.

The two lucky dudes on whom the glorious honour of my educated opinion are being bestowed today are Richard Gasquet and Nikolay Davydenko. I don't think their careers are directly comparable in the long run - Gasquet, as we both know, is quite a bit younger than Kolya and if talent was the only ingredient in the sundae that is a tennis player, then he would blow Kolya off the court - but they both have been around for a while, both have been in the top ten, and both are dudes on whom I have a little something something to say today. So there.

I don't think it's a secret to say that Richard Gasquet is one of the biggest wasted opportunities in tennis today. He is a typical French player - talented to the point of absurdity, capable of incredible - almost alien - tennis, and yet so inconsistent it can make you want to scratch your eyes out. I always think about Gasquet in the same box as Berdych - or at least Berdych prior to 2010. Gasquet made a run to the Wimbledon semis once, I think, but that's about it. I think that Berdych's one final is the one final he'll ever make at Slam level. Sketchy and inconsistent and... yeah, all those things.

But I actually want to say nice things about Richou today. I think he has actually played really well this year. He hasn't had a single first round exit - which for someone as skittish as him, is really something. He hasn't beaten anyone EPIC AND MAJOR OMG, but he's put together some nice streaks of matches - his run to the semis in Dubai, for example, where he beat Gilles Simon, or his run to the quarters in Indian Wells, where he came up against the blisteringly hot Novak Djokovic.

I'm not saying that he's going to go on and win Wimbledon or anything like that. But this is nice stuff to see from someone as traditionally inconsistent as Richou. Modest accomplishments, but solid ones. They're the ones that will earn you points. He just won over Denis Istomin in Monte Carlo, making another tournament where he hasn't lost in the first round. Well done, Richou.

And then we come to Kolya.

He's the opposite of Gasquet - a player who has made the most of talents that are a little bit limited. We know that he's challenged the great ones. We know he's done amazing things. But right now, he is having the most godawful year, poor thing. He just lost to Robin Haase in Monte Carlo, and his ranking is falling and falling. He's lost more times than he's won this year. He probably won't be seeded in Roland Garros, and I'd call him a dangerous floater, but who knows how dangerous he'll really be?

Haase is only the last of the players this year who've beaten Kolya who shouldn't have. After getting all the way to the final in Doha, Kolya has had a shocker of a year. What's he going to do to turn things round? I don't know. People are shouting 'retire', but I think there's more tennis in Kolya yet. We just need to find a way to winkle it out somehow.

No comments: