As Nikolay Davydenko sat in an armchair at the media centre in Roland Garros surrounded by less than a handful of journalists, the Russian couldn’t help but admit that his loss to Robin Haase on Monday might be the very last match of his career.
The former world No3 will drop out of the top-100 after the French Open (he is now at 92) and as he explains how his body continues to fail him and how low he is on practice, it gets easier to understand why he is considering calling it quits.
Following his 7-5, 6-4, 6-2 defeat to Haase, Davydenko was asked whether that might have been his final match of his career and the Russian said: “Maybe. I won’t say now but I will decide. Now my ranking will be under 100 after Paris.
“What I need to do is see if I will continue this year after Paris or not. For sure I will not play Wimbledon, I’m skipping the grass completely. I’m in the Wimbledon main draw, normally I would go there but I will pull out of Wimbledon for sure. I have no interest playing there.”
In his own words, the last time Davydenko felt good on court was in 2010 before he broke his wrist.
His wrist is not the problem at the moment, but he says it is painful for him to practice well and he can’t measure up to how he was in the past.
“I’m practicing but I don’t run so much. The feeling is that I can’t do what I did before. I can’t run like that,” he explains.
“If I’m not running, I start making mistakes. I played my maximum tennis today and I couldn’t do anything. Today I had no chance to win (against Haase).
“If I start to practice very hard I start to get pain and injuries and I can’t hold my practicing level. That’s why I’m not able to get good results on tournaments.”
Davydenko has won only six matches this season and the last of his 21 titles came in Munich three years ago. He came close in the Doha final last year against Richard Gasquet, which made it seem that things were turning around for him. But he then won only 18 matches for the rest of the season.
But with his recent problems what has been motivating him to continue?
“I don’t know really. Maybe it’s because of my brother,” Davydenko said when asked about what has kept him going.
“He’s been telling me to continue playing, to practice, he’s always pushing me every year, telling me to try and find solutions, how I can feel better or what I can do.
“For sure it’s tough to find this.”
While he is unable to give a definitive answer as to whether he will finish the season or not, or when he will decide, he is certain about one thing – he will never play Challengers or quallies.
“I told myself before I will never go back to the start again. I will not play Challengers and I will not play ATP quallies. If I would like to continue this year I can for sure get wild cards.
“If I will decide ‘yes maybe I need to continue this year’ but then I need to practice and really I don’t want to practice.
“That’s why I need to decide what I need to do. Because if they give me wildcards I need to practice again and need to prepare for these tournaments. Going just for fun is stupid.”
He seems more inclined to quit than continue and he says he’s had numerous discussions with recently retired players who not too long ago were his peers, like Ivan Ljubicic, who now coaches Milos Raonic.
Davydenko feels that the consensus is: Retirement is bliss!
He says: “I asked every player who finished their career and they all told me it’s a very good feeling, best feeling ever. Last year I asked Jonas Bjorkman, I asked Ivan Ljubicic and others and they said it’s perfect. I hope I will be feeling the same way.”
Does he see himself following in Ljubicic’s footsteps and end up coaching? “I don’t want to say no and I don’t want to say yes. Normally I don’t want to coach but who knows what can happen in five to 10 years.
"I saw players I was playing 10 years ago and they’re now coaching. It can happen. But you know being a coach is not being a player. You can drink beer!” he said with a laugh.
If he does choose to end his career now, he can find solace in the fact that he’s the only player in the top-100 (and possibly amongst all active players) to have a positive head-to-head record against Rafael Nadal. He refuses to brag about it though.
“I won all the matches on hard courts. I don’t think I can beat him now on, any surface,” he insists.
Throughout his career, he made four Grand Slam semi-finals (including two here in Paris) and six more quarter-finals, but he never made it to the finish line. Does he regret being around Roger Federer and Nadal in the same era?
“The one reason why I beat everyone who was in the top-10 is that it’s a good feeling,” was his response.
I guess that means he loved every minute of it. But he doesn’t plan to stick around – à la Marion Bartoli – if he does call it quits.
“If I stop completely I don’t think I’ll come next year to any tournaments,” he confesses. “Maybe I’ll forget what tennis is in a couple of years. I don’t follow really tennis because I don’t know the results, it’s for me not really interesting.
“It will be a different life.”
Sport360°'s tennis expert Reem Abulleil is in Paris for the 2014 French Open and will be providing regular updates throughout the tournament on this 'Live at Roland Garros' page.
So for all the latest breaking news, photos, social media activity, and everything else Roland Garros-related, this is the place to be… (timings below are Paris local time, two hours behind UAE time)
22:40 Wawrinka is clearly upset about his shock loss to Guillermo Garcia Lopez. Says he "needs to put the puzzle back together". Also says he needs a few more days to properly figure out why he lost.
He is the first Australian Open champion to lose in the 1st round of the subsequent Roland Garros since Petr Korda in 1998.
The last Grand Slam champion to lose in the 1st round of their next major was reigning Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal at 2013 Wimbledon.
Wawrinka is the first first-time men's Grand Slam winner to lose in the 1st round of their next major since Lleyton Hewitt lost in the 1st round at the 2002 Australian Open having won the 2001 US Open.
** Facundo Bagnis beats Benneteau 18-16 in the fifth set. Making his Grand Slam main draw debut, the Argentine ties a French Open record for most games in one set (34). The other match was contested by Isner and Mathieu in 2012.**
19:58 Julien Benneteau chanelling his inner Mahut. He's tied at 15-15 in the fifth set against Argentina's Facundo Bagnis.
19:35 Tuesday's order of play is out. Philippe Chatrier: Kleybanova v Halep, Ferrer v Sijsling, Ivanovic v Garcia, Monfils v Hanescu. Suzanne Lenglen: Li Na v Mladenovic, Gasquet v Tomic, Murray v Golubev, Errani v Keys.
19:09 Nadal crushes Ginepri 6-0, 6-3, 6-0 … Meanwhile at the press centre, I spoke to Monica Puig, who crashed out 6-1, 6-1 to Sam Stosur, and she was in tears. It's been an emotional rollercoaster for her. One day she's lifting a trophy in Strasbourg, the next she's a first round loser in Paris. Chin up, Pica!
16:51 Announcement just made: the last matches on Courts 1,2,5,6,10,14,16 & 17 are all canceled. No Sloane, Sveta, Giorgi, nor Cirstea today.
16:20 Rain briefly halts play but Djokovic and Sousa stay on court. The world No2 invited the ball boy carrying his umbrella to join him on the bench and offered him a Perrier.
**Big news coming from Nikolay Davydenko… Stay tuned!
15:29 Covers are off and courts are getting ready for play to resume. We've got Djokovic on Chatrier, Gilles Simon on Lenglen, Julien Benneteau on Court 1, Nicolas Mahut on Court 2, David Goffin and Jurgen Melzer on Court 3 and much more…
14:52 It's really coming down now. Play suspended on all courts. Djokovic had raced to a 4-0 lead but got broken in the fifth game right before the players were ushered off court. Umbrellas everywhere!
13:47 It's raining quite steadily now. Play continues on the outside courts but Novak Djokovic and his coach Boris Becker are standing in the Chatrier tunnel, waiting to here news on the start time of the Serb's match with Joao Sousa.
13:33 No9 seed Kei Nishikori is down 6-7, 0-3 to Martin Klizan. Japanese media here tell us he's not fit and he would have pulled out of the tournament had it not been Roland Garros. It's the same lower back problem that bothered him in Madrid and forced him out of Rome.
13:27 Sharapova is through to the second round with a 6-1, 6-1 61-minute rout of Pervak. The 2012 champion hit 17 winners and 17 unforced errors. Italian Flavia Pennetta also through while Sabine Lisicki tries to serve for the match for a second time after getting broken at 6-1, 5-4 against French 17-year-old world No416 Fiona Ferro.
13:16 It took Pervak 12 games to hit her first winner against Sharapova. She trails the No7 seed 1-6 1-4 now on Philippe Chatrier. Pervak turns 23 tomorrow by the way (Tuesday). I know what we can get her. A new kit!!
** One to keep an eye on: French 19-year-old Laurent Lokoli, who qualified to his first French Open and was a big hit on Kids' Day when he had that incredible dance-off with Gael Monfils, tells us "I was praying, praying to be against Roger Federer for the first round. You know, you want to play against your idol."
12:50 Spain's Albert Montanes suffers a bad fall and twists his ankle which forces him to retire only four games into his opener against France's Kenny de Schepper. Terrible luck for the Spaniard, who made the fourth round in Paris in 2011.
**So what does everyone think of Rafael Nadal getting scheduled on Suzanne Lenglen for his first match. He's an eight-time champion, four-time defending champion and the world No1… John Isner called it "bizarre". Funniest thing though was Isner telling us Robby Ginepri (Rafa's opponent today) woke up at 8:00am the other day to practice on Philippe Chatrier, assuming that's where the match would be scheduled.**
12:38 Maria Sharapova kicks off proceedings on Philippe Chatrier against her compatriot Ksenia Pervak. The lesser-known Russian showed up in the wrong outfit though… this isn't paintball, Ksenia!
11:00 Day Two begins in typical Parisien fashion – it's raining! We're told play should commence later in the day. I'll keep you informed…
It was a full house on day one at the French Open yesterday, which kind of makes you see the advantages of it starting on a Sunday, unlike the regular Monday start at the three other Slams.
Venus Williams enjoyed a solid opening round victory and later revealed she hadn’t yet read her father’s recently released book, “Black and White: The Way I See It”.
The 33-year-old American has a good reason though.
She’s going to school.
Business school that is, as she hopes to get a better handle of her fashion line, EleVen by Venus.
“I’m in business school. I have like four classes, so I don’t really do a lot of leisure stuff. I just do a lot of reading and stuff,” said the eldest Williams sister.
“I’m at Indiana University East. I’m officially a Red Wolf.”
The American, who turns 34 in a couple of weeks, is in constant struggle with the energy-sapping Sjögren’s syndrome but is back in the top 30, thanks to winning in Dubai earlie this year.
Meanwhile, her sister Serena warmed up for her title defence by attending some of the Kanye West-Kim Kardashian wedding festivities in Versailles.
As you’d normally do ahead of a Grand Slam of course.
She was also asked about the supportive tweet she sent Caroline Wozniacki following the Dane’s break-up with golf star Rory McIlroy.
What’s easier for Serena, a loss on court or a break-up?
“I would rather lose any day than break up. It’s always hard,” said the world No1. “Definitely easier to take a loss because you always have next week.”
Besties: Serena had dinner with Wozniacki on Sunday night in Paris.