Tennis superstar Rafael Nadal has gone up against numerous opponents throughout his illustrious career, and has left a mark on almost every one of them. However, Nikolay Davydenko is one of the few players who embraced going up against the Spaniard; the Russian holds a superior head-to-head record against Nadal.
In a recent interview with CLAY, Davydenko spoke about the Spaniard capturing his 14th French Open title and 22nd Grand Slam at Roland Garros earlier this month. According to the Russian, Nadal probably took the risk of playing on anasthetic painkillers (for his injured foot) because he wasn't sure how much longer he would keep playing.
"Usually, the bigger chance to beat [Rafael] Nadal in Paris is in the early rounds, because he is still not playing his best," Davydenko said. "It is amazing what he has done. I think it was risky health-wise what he has done with the foot, but he is absolutely allowed to do it. Maybe his mentality was that it might be his last Roland Garros, so he went all-in not minding the consequences."
Davydenko also spoke about the difference between playing Nadal on clay and hardcourt.
"For me, playing against Nadal on hard felt like playing against just another opponent," the Russian said. "I have beaten him in all our matches on hardcourt, but I lost every match on clay, which is expected, he is still winning Roland Garros. There were many matches that I remember fondly."
One of the highlights of Davydenko's career was beating Nadal in straight sets in the 2008 Miami Open final. The former World No. 3 also recalled some victories against the likes of Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
"I remember vividly beating Nadal in the Shanghai finals and Djokovic in the semifinals, in three sets – such a great memory! Also, beating Federer in the semis in London (ATP Finals)… that was an unbelievable match for me," Davydenko said.
"My game matched up well with his on hardcourts" - Nikolay Davydenko on his superior head-to-head record against Rafael Nadal
Speaking about his superior head-to-head record against Rafael Nadal, Nikolay Davydenko claimed he was best equipped to counter the Spaniard on hard courts.
"In tennis, it is about matchups – my game matched up well with Nadal’s on hardcourts, I had no problems with him. On the other hand, I could never beat James Blake on hard because he was hitting hard and he was looking to finish off points in two or three shots," Davydenko said.
Davydenko and Rafael Nadal met 11 times throughout their careers, with the Spaniard winning five times. Out of those five wins, four were on clay. Davydenko, meanwhile, beat Nadal on six of the seven occasions on hardcourt.