Let me go on record as saying that I adore the Davydenkos as a couple. Nicolai and Irina give the impression of a couple who are truly bonded and soul-connected.
I’ve read some criticism of the remarks he has made about her and which have been interpreted by some as sexist. I personally think that some of his humor gets misunderstood and that his jokes really reflect a dry kind of humor that does not translate well into English which he also does not speak particularly well. I suspect that the same jokes in his mother tongue would come across better.
From all appearances, Davydenko seems to be truly into his wife and seems to have deep regard and respect for her. But these are my impressions as an outsider. I am not privy to their exchanges off-camera.
But on camera I see a couple who seem to be genuinely focused on and supportive of each other. In fact Irina often seems downright uncomfortable when cameras stray in her direction. In this she reminds me of Steffi Graf who never sought to hog the limelight when her husband was on court.
Contrast this with so many of the trophy actresses and models who seem to marry tennis players mainly for the opportunities to revel in the camera attention. It soon becomes all about them. They arrive in the stands made up to the gills, posing hard to make sure that they are always photographed from the best angles possible. When their husbands win, they smile proudly of course, and make a big show of caring. But when he fails, some of them look so pissed off you can tell they don’t even want to be there, to be caught on camera hanging out with such a loser. And you all know who I am talking about.
But my main point if that any tennis player married to a camera-hogging model or actress wife happened to announce that he was taking her on as coach, I would be the first to say that he had lost his flipping mind. And really, he should probably be psychiatrically committed for not understanding the difference between tennis trophies and trophy wives.
But there are some women – and Irina Davydenko is among them – for whom their entire focus, all of their energies, seem to be on giving their spouses the level of support they need. It’s not about her, it’s about him. I wish I could think of many male spouses who were equally supportive of their female partners. Although to be fair Kim Clijsters’ husband seems to fit this mold. But for every Clijsters’ spouse, I can think of a ten other women whose lives seem to revolve around that of their tennis-playing husband. Mirka has of course broken the mold.
So when I read recently that Davydenko’s wife had taken on the role of coach, it made a kind of sense to me. After all, is there anyone who knows him better or who has studied him more closely? In fact, back in January 2010 at the Australian Open, Davydenko commented on this in a post-match interview. He was talking about his readiness to become a dad while his wife was pushing for more tennis victories: “Really, I would like have kids now, like Federer already (has) two, or Hewitt. But my wife don’t want to, you know, stay at home. She travel with me now. Now I'm top 10. She scared about if I start to, with kids, lose tennis and go down, stray. That’s was because I start to miss and I want to go home, (not) want to practice. That’s what is different…She think always I can win everything. She analyse because she’s travelled with me already six years. Because in sitting with my brother, and brother always talking about what I did. She can coaching me already.”
OK his English is not the best, as I’ve said before. But back in January he noted that his wife knew his game as well as his coach brother did. So when said brother apparently decided to give up the job to focus on his own 17-year-old son, Davydenko apparently decided to consider relying on his wife.
Some have wondered what exactly qualifies her for this role. My response is that in the same way that I suspect that Richard and Oracene learned a thing or two from their years of paying others to coach their daughters, then perhaps Mrs. Davydenko feels that she has soaked up enough information from the years she spent side by side with her husband and his brother (who has coached him since he was a Junior). And why should she not to be able to help her husband even if it turns out to be just for an interim period until he replaces his brother? After all, it’s not like he’s planning to change up his game.
Besides, Davydenko himself acknowledges that his best tennis wins came after 2003 when Irina first started accompanying him on tour. Their joint success started in Estoril where he succeeded in winning his second ATP World Tour title: “It was the first time she had come to a tournament with me. I was feeling good because I was with my favorite woman. I saw that I could win tournaments and thought ‘why not’? She can travel with me to every tournament! …She just tries to relax my mind mostly. She helps me to enjoy myself outside of tennis and tells me to forget tennis because you cannot think about tennis 24 hours a day; you start to be tired. We don’t speak about tennis and do something different.”