Nikolay Davydenko hopes his dazzling displays to win the ATP World Tour Finals title will finally allow him to step out of the shadow of compatriot Marat Safin, who retired this month. The 28-year-old could probably walk around the streets of Moscow or London unnoticed, even with the $1.5 million (Dh5.5m) cheque from Sunday's 6-3 6-4 victory against Juan Martin del Potro burning a hole in his pocket.
Throughout his impressive career he has remained almost anonymous to all but serious tennis followers despite being a regular in the world's top 10 for the past few years. He admitted that he hardly signed an autograph this week at London's O2 Arena, despite beating Rafael Nadal in the round-robin stage and defeating the world No 1 Roger Federer en route to the final. While Safin, the former world No 1 and US Open and Australian Open champion, was pure box office, Davydenko has rarely been on the radar, apart from when his name cropped up in a scandal over suspect betting patterns in 2007.
Although Davydenko was cleared of any wrongdoing, it was an episode that hung over his career for a while. "Everybody concentrates on Nadal and Federer," he said after landing the biggest of his 19 career titles. "Everybody's looking this way, not on me. Maybe now, after London, I'll be just a small part famous here in London. And I hope that I will become famous in Russia. "For me it's really important. It was always disappointing when I played against Marat and it was 80 per cent support for him.
"I hope now Marat is finished everybody supports me." Davydenko, who enjoys sitting on a river bank with a fishing rod more than the glitzy lifestyle of a top sportsman, said he planned to spend some of his winnings in the Maldives next week when he will finally get a holiday. He may even invest in a flat in Moscow. "I will spend a lot of money in Maldives. But I'll still keep money because I want to buy an apartment still. I didn't buy an apartment in Moscow, it's so expensive," he said.
"But this million gives me a chance to buy an apartment in Moscow." Once Davydenko is through spending his money he said he will start planning for next year and finally trying to break into the grand slam winners' enclosure. The Russian has reached two French Open semi-finals and two US Open semi-finals but has always fallen just short, albeit in an era containing some of the best players to play the game.
"If grand slams were best of three sets, yes I would win some," said Davydenko. "Winning in three sets is much easier. "I don't know what I need to do for sure for the next season but I need to have very good physical preparation for the five-set matches in Australia." Against Del Potro a break of serve in each set was all that Davydenko needed to take the title in London. He broke in the fourth game in the first set, and then did the same in the ninth game of the second set to allow him to serve out for victory in the next game.
* With additional reporting by Reuters