Nikolay Davydenko was a man who was unstoppable in 2006. Only behind prime Federer and Rafael Nadal in the ATP rankings. Davydenko pushed prime big 3 like very few people have ever been able to. In consecutive years, Nikolay Davydenko Roger Federer in the semi-finals of the US Open. On clay in 2007, Davydenko also had the unenviable task of having to beat Federer again to advance to a major final. The result was almost a carbon copy of the 2006 US Open semi.
In Australia, things were no different in 2006. Davydenko faced prime Federer in the last 8 at Melbourne Park, taking a set off the maestro, and pushing the last 2 sets to very close tiebreaks (which he unfortunately lost). Overall in 2006, Davydenko finished as the year end world number 3, behind 2006 versions of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Nadal and Federer in 2006 were far and away better athletes back then the late 2010s, in terms of movement and speed. Footage of the movement of Nadal and Federer in 2017 and 2018 would absolutely pale in comparison to 2006. The difference in athleticism was night and day.
In 2006, Davydenko won 5 titles and made 7 finals, including his win at the Paris Masters that year. However, what people don’t fully appreciate is just how difficult it was to be ranked behind only Nadal and Federer in the mid 2000s. In 2006, Nadal and Federer won 22 titles combined, with Federer winning 3 majors that year. In 2006, Nadal and Federer absolutely held a duopoly over the tour, and it is up there as one the seasons in history with the fewest players to compete in grand slam finals. In 2006, there were only 2 other people who made a grand slam final that season (Roddick and Baghdatis). In 2008, Djokovic came into the equation at the Australian Open, as well as Tsonga, and Roddick, so the competition was slightly more diversified.
Compare that to 2022, where 3 different people besides the big 3 have competed in a grand slam final, with 1 major left to play. So the question remains: If prime Nikolay Davydenko played in 2022 instead of 2006, would he reach world number 1?