Saturday, January 4, 2014

Famous Last Words

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This is it. David's days as a tennis player are over. And my days as a blogger about the tennis player David Nalbandian are over. Whatever David is going to do from now on, whether it's going to involve polo ponies, rally cars or even tennis again at some point - he's going to do it without Vamos David coverage.
For now, I'll keep the site online but at some point I'll take it down. I don't know yet, when that will be.

I want to thank Arizona for starting Vamos David and inviting me to write for it, back when it all began.
And I'd also like to thank those who helped me, especially Krystle, Andvari, Istabraq, Denise and Tamar. Thanks also to Tiffany for inspiring me to leave the old forum and focus my efforts on the blog.
Last but not least - thanks to everyone who visited Vamos David and kept visiting it over the years.

You can contact me by using the contact form in the sidebar.

Well then, this is it. After five and a half years and 1026 posts Vamos David says goodbye.

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Epilogue

When a blond little boy called David took part in his first ever tennis tournament, at the tender age of five or maybe six, he already knew how to hold a racquet and how to hit the ball with it. What he hadn't figured out just yet was how to tie his shoelaces. For that he still needed his mother, who would hasten onto the court to fix them for him.
Many years later, tying his shoelaces was a ritual for the professional tennis player called David.
Ahead of every match he'd devote a moment to it, sitting down on his bench or chair before joining his opponent and the umpire for the coin toss. That brief moment, the little ritual was always the same.
What would happen afterwards, however, wasn't always as easy to predict.

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On the tennis court David was a tactician and an aesthete. He was one for planning several strokes ahead, probably had been already since childhood days when he often had to face much older players, including his brothers.
Opponents like that young David couldn't possibly hit off the court. But he could find ways of of hitting around them if he managed to control the ball and if he placed it smartly enough. Technique and tactics became the pillars that David's game was built on.
The aesthetic aspect was the seemingly effortless elegance with which he executed it, especially his famed backhand. And which was even more impressive if you got the chance to watch it live. On a good day, David's game could be completely devastating for any given opponent and it was an absolute joy to watch, not only for his fans.


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But of course nobody has only good days. And David always had quite a few bad ones. Often his numerous injuries were to blame though even when fit there were days when he went down without any discernible signs of putting up a fight. Still, with David on court there was almost always a sense that something great might still happen, even if it had stubbornly refused to happen so far. After all, he could be unpredictable also in the positive sense, occasionally pulling off astounding comebacks.
Consistency, however, was something he reserved for his Davis Cup appearances and the scenario he liked best - David the national hero.
On the Tour it was a different matter. Much has been written about David's lack of consistency and what a player he could've been, had he only been more consistent. - But in that case he wouldn't have been the player he was (to say it with a line from Marcelo Gantman's great article).


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Throughout his career David had his very own way of doing things. It included bringing various friends along to tournaments, wearing sweat pants and flip-flops at all possible times, going out also during tournament weeks, flying back home whenever he had the chance and pursuing his other interests like polo or rally driving not only during the off-season.
It didn't include, and never would have, hiring a non-Argentine coach or employing some of the latest fitness training techniques. We would've never seen David playing Challenger events to improve his ranking, nor would we have ever seen him interacting with his fans via "his" Twitter or Facebook.
Had it been up to David he also wouldn't have talked to the media. Even if he invariably relied on the media when it came to spreading news. Though what we got to hear or read wasn't necessarily the whole truth, especially not when it came to hip injuries and surgeries.


(Eduardo Poza)
I always loved that moment when David tied his shoelaces before the match. During it I often asked myself which David I would get to see on that day.
And now that the first tournaments of the 2014 season have already begun it's quite strange to think that I will never get to ask myself again. Or that I will never cover another one of his matches for this blog.
It's a big change for me and a much bigger one still for David, of course.
But on this first day of 2014, David's 32nd birthday, there's absolutely no reason to worry about him. The Davis Cup - that one might still bug him a little bit. But as far as I can tell he seems very happy with his post-tennis life. As a father and also as an aspiring polo player - he's going to play another tournament next weekend.
My objective with this blog was to keep track of David, the tennis player and his career. That part of his life is over now and so is my "live" coverage.
So for the last time here on Vamos David it's

Happy Birthday, David

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Friday, December 20, 2013

In Pictures: Happy Holidays Davis Cup Edition

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Instead of a 'postcard' here's the final instalment of the In Pictures series - David and the Davis Cup.
So I wish you all
HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

I'll be back on David's birthday.
Not with a new layout this time but with my personal review/epilogue.
(To view the Davis Cup photos click "Read more" below".)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Another Award & Another TV Interview

(Terra)
Last night at La Rural (where the farewell match also took place) the Argentine association of sports journalists presented David with an award for his career in the form of an elaborately framed piece of paper - or at least that's what it looks like in this photo.

In any case David apparently had an excellent time during the four-hour show and was one of the last to leave the VIP area. He was also the only one representing tennis at the event. Delpo, Pico and Charly Berlocq were nominated in the tennis category but neither of them showed up (the award went to Delpo).

(Terra)
During his career, David was voted best tennis player several times and he also won the main award as Argentina's athlete of the year in 2005.

Last night he revealed that he has started to make plans for next year, at least for June and July...
I'm going to spend a whole month with my friends, watching the World Cup in Brazil 2014.
(Source.)

Apart from that there's also the interview David gave fellow former player Martin Vasallo Arguello for Segundo Saque on Fox Sports.
In the first part (which you can view here) he talks about having been one of the youngest, and therefore the last member of Argentina's 'golden generation' nicknamed La Legion. And it's also about the Davis Cup, which you "win when you can, not when you want to" and which depends on so many different factors.

The second part (view here) starts with David reiterating that you don't spend your whole life as a tennis player and that he wants to enjoy a much more simple and normal life now. Apart from that he has his foundation and there are other things he wants to do as well. Asked how he managed to reach such a high level he explains that already as a junior he often played with older kids, always trying to improve. He also mentions his brother Javier who travelled with him "most of his time as a junior and sometimes afterwards".

Part three (view here) is about David's often difficult relationship with the media. At the end of the day, he says, we're normal human beings and want to live normal lives as far as possible. In his opinion, the media mainly want to create headlines and sell newspapers etc so they always have to come up with something. According to the three journalists (Caporaletti, Cano and Puppo) that get interviewed, David can be rather difficult and never liked giving interviews but it's possible to get along with him. Caporaletti adds that as a journalist you have to be well prepared when you interview David, you need to know your facts or he'll correct you and be mad at you (though I have to say that in my experience, David is really, really bad with facts, numbers, dates, names of opponents etc).

In the fourth and final part (view here), Eduardo Puppo talks about the high quality of David's tennis, while Quique Cano praises his marvelous backhand and ability to read the game, and he calls him one of the greatest players to have come from Argentina. Martin Jaite makes an appearance as well, praising David's unrelenting Davis Cup spirit, his willingess to always give everything for it. And of course the last question for David has to be about the Davis Cup - does he dream of winning it maybe in a few years' time, as captain? David's reply: He wants Argentina to win it, that's what matters.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Brief Update

Update II (17/12)
Today David will receive another honorary award for his career, this time at the Premios Olimpia, the most important sports awards in Argentina, voted for by the association of sports journalists.
More about that and also about the latest TV interview (with Martin Vasallo Arguello for Segundo Saque/FoxSports; I previously linked some photos) tomorrow.



Update (11/12)
Here's a brief interview David gave ESPN, filmed at the Clarin event on Monday.
He hasn't had the time yet for a complete analysis but he thinks he had a very good career, long but also tough. That it all ended in Argentina, with Rafa and Nole, was the icing on the cake and he's happy he could finish his career like that. He's much more relaxed now and his life follows a different rhythm. Had it been up to him he would've played a little longer but the shoulder wouldn't allow it and it was in a pretty poor state after the exhibition matches.
That Rafa will play the Copa Claro in February is very fortunate and it's great for tennis in Argentina to have a player of Rafa's stature in the country again. The players and the crowd will be very excited, it's spectacular that he'll be back.
During his "ten or twelve" years of playing Davis Cup he had lots of different teammates and shared many things with them. He was able to give some of them advice, some tips to help with the job of being a tennis player. It's more than a task he fulfilled than his legacy and one he likes to remember.


(Carroll&Quinteros/Clarin)


















Last night in Buenos Aires David received another award for his career, this time from Clarin, the Argentine newspaper/news site, as part of their awards ceremony for Argentine athletes.
Apparently, David took the opportunity to say a few words about the Davis Cup. Perhaps also because Delpo was present as well (he won the main award).

Apart from that, some of you may remember the rumours earlier this year about an exhibition match between David and Lleyton Hewitt. On Saturday the actual exhibition took place, with Lleyton Hewitt and Delpo. Whereas David was at the polo, at the last of the three events that constitute the most important competition of the sport, the "Triple Corona". And afterwards he went to celebrate with the leader of the winning team, his friend Adolfo Cambiaso.

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Look Back at... Shanghai 2005

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November 2005. The end of what has been a fairly decent but by no means spectacular season for David, who was ranked #9 at the beginning of it and now finds himself at #12 and too far behind in the race to qualify for the Masters Cup. So after losing the first match he gets to play at Paris-Bercy (to Tommy Haas, second round) the season is over for David. He returns home and prepares to go on holiday.
But then he gets a call from the ATP...
Well, I was at home, Cordoba. It was Monday afternoon. I was already packing all my stuff, going fishing in south Argentina. I was supposed going Tuesday morning.
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Instead of going fishing David travels to Shanghai, where the first Chinese edition of the ATP's year-ending championship is going through some major line-up changes. Marat Safin, Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick already withdrew ahead of the event. Rafael Nadal (directly before his first match) and Andre Agassi (directly after his first one) follow.
David's Red Group, however, remains unchanged after his arrival. As does the schedule and less than a week after the call David plays his first group-stage match against Roger Federer.

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Going into it the match record stands at 5-3 for David, who's playing this event without any proper preparation but also without any real pressure. While Roger Federer is the #1 and currently on a 31-match winning streak but hasn't played since September due to an ankle injury.
Still, whenever these two meet, "we always play very good tennis"
- as David puts it during the press conference afterwards (transcript here).
And as is usually the case with them, the match is pretty close (highlights here). Federer catches the better start and takes the first set. Then David ups his game and wins the second but he runs out of gas in the third.
In the end, Federer prevails 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, extending his streak to 32 wins.
But despite the loss David is optimistic. After all, it was close.
In his second match in the Red Group, he's now up against a fellow Argentinean he has known since childhood days.



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David and Guillermo "El Mago" Coria started playing tennis together as well as against each other when they were eight years old. As juniors, they travelled together and they also won the junior doubles at Wimbledon together. Which means, they know all there is to know about each other's games. And this often makes for long and spectacular rallies, as they both have to go to some lengths in order to outfox each other.
On clay, it's Coria who holds the upper hand but here on carpet David prevails 7-5, 6-4. And that their days as childhood friends are over you get to see at the end of the clip above.

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With one win and one loss to his name David still has the chance to make the semifinal. But to finish second in the Red Group he needs another win in his last group-stage match against Ivan Ljubicic. In the following years David will suffer a series of defeats against the Croat but this time it takes him merely 68 minutes to beat Ljubicic 6-2, 6-2 (the last two games here).
It's the first truly impressive performance that David puts in this week at Shanghai and it not only grants him a spot in the semifinal but also growing attention by the media. In the post-match press conference they ask him about the his holiday plans and the ATP's last minute call. They also ask him why he's not ranked higher, what stops him. David's reply, with a smile - "motivation, sometimes". 
Another topic during the press conference (transcript here) is David's opponent in the semifinal.
Who has been hoping he'll get to face David because he likes playing against him.



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- Though perhaps not this time. It's the fourth of what will eventually be a dozen encounters between David and Nikolay Davydenko, the winner of the withdrawal-riddled Gold Group. And in the first set David is able to pick up exactly where he left off against Ljubicic. Or in the words of Davydenko, "I make few mistake. He make only winners and no mistake." The result is a bagel in the first set. The second set is a bit more of a struggle. Halfway through it David drops his serve but he manages to recover the break immediately and eventually wins 6-0, 7-5.
Two weeks earlier the season seemed to be done and dusted for David.
And now he's in the final of the Masters Cup:
Well, it's good. I feel very happy, of course. I never imagined that I can play the finals tomorrow because I was out of the tournament. It's really nice to come here and playing that good again. That make me feel very comfortable on court and try to think in win the final as well tomorrow. (Source.)
In the other semi Federer makes the shortest possible work of Gaston Gaudio with a 6-0, 6-0 whitewash.
So they meet again in the final - David and Roger Federer.

(La Nacion)
And it turns into the greatest battle ever between these two...



The first two sets are very close and both go to a tiebreak. The first Federer takes 7-4. In the second David has the chance to draw level but fails to convert any of his altogether three set points. In the end, Federer wins the second-set tiebreak 13-11 and now has a two-set lead. And the outcome of this final seems all but decided. But then the match takes a completely different and unexpected turn.
David breaks Federer again at the start of the third set, like he did at the beginning of the match. But this time he holds on to the break and then even adds another one to take the third set 6-2. After that his dominance becomes even more extreme. From 0-1 in the fourth set to 6-1 and then 4-0 in the fifth David wins ten games in a row. And he's getting very close to the finishing line but as Federer will much later say about David, he tends to give his opponents a second chance.
Federer recovers both breaks until they're back on serve at 4-4. He even gets to serve for the match at 6-5 and at 30-30 Roger Federer is two points away from victory. But the next points go to David and in the end, a last tiebreak must decide (3:59:35).
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And despite the last few chaotic games David is now in charge again and constantly ahead in the tiebreak until at 6-3 he has three match points. But he needs only one. A forehand by Federer finds the net. And David wins 6-7(4), 6-7(11), 6-2, 6-1, 7-6(3).

The Masters Cup 2005 is the biggest title David wins in his career. At an event he didn't even qualify for, initially. And the final goes down as the match he's more proud of than any other. Because of how well he played but also because of how well he managed to deal with the situation and the setbacks (full transcript of his post-match press conference here).
When I play Lleyton Hewitt in the Wimbledon finals, I was 20 years old, different. I was a little bit nervous, and I couldn't play my best. But today I think I play very good from the beginning. And then win like this, it's really incredible, the way. It's incredible. Of course, it makes me special feeling to win like this.
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Friday, November 29, 2013

In Pictures V

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And so, after one last week, reminiscent of the good old tournament days with its matches and press conferences, David now really is retired. I don't know about you but I'm still finding it difficult to get used to the thought.

And while David has apparently returned to the privacy of his home in Unquillo, the question is - and now?
There are some posts that I still want to write, including for the "A Look Back..." series. Plus the more general reviews I've mentioned in the comments. In short, for those very few still sticking around at this point - there will be several new posts next month.

But first of all, here's another edition of "In Pictures".
This time with eleven photos taken on eleven very happy days for David - those days when he got to pose with the champion's trophy, and not just with the runner-up plate like in this case here (Montréal 2003).
To view click "Read more" below.