Tuesday, April 28, 2009

David on the Mend, no Operation - for now

(Reuters Pictures)

Good news from Barcelona: according to infobae.com and the Cordoba-based newspaper El Mañana, David's hip injury is finally getting better and there won't be an operation. - At least not at this point. However, it cannot be ruled out that David might still have to have surgery if the injury does persist. But for the moment, David is "very relaxed and recovering, doing treatment" as his spokesman Bernardo Ballero told El Mañana.

According to the articles mentioned above, it has already been "confirmed" that David will play next week's tournament at Estoril in order to determine whether the current treatment is indeed effective enough to render an operation unnecessary.
Let's hope it is...

A new article on the website of the newspaper El Cronista quotes Dr. Ruiz-Cotorro. "The idea is to play Estoril. And if that doesn't work out then he'll play Madrid, the week after that. "
He describes David's injury as "serious, but there's a possible solution".
The article also contains another quote from Bernardo Ballero. "I spoke to David and he told me that his injury is getting better. He'll stay in Barcelona until Friday, working on his recovery, and then he'll travel to Estoril."

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Injury Update

While David is currently still in Barcelona, on medication and doing physiotherapy (while not being allowed any training), further tests have apparently shown that despite continuous treatment, so far his hip injury is not really getting better.
Tomorrow, David will undergo a gamma ray radiography at a Barcelona clinic, a test that his physician Dr. Ruiz-Cotorro hopes will produce exact results about the extent of the injury. And on those results apparently more will depend than just David's chances of playing Estoril. Because although at the moment, Dr. Ruiz-Cotorro still favours conservative treatment, he has stated that this might change should Monday's test results prove the current treatment to be ineffective:
"When it comes to treating athletes who compete at high level, I always recommend a conservative treatment. But if the results speak against it, David will have to get an operation."

La Nacion cites "sources close to" David:
"David's mind is set on playing in Estoril but he has to just wait to see how it goes. Together with his doctor he's tracking the development every day. Plan A is to continue with this form of treatment and try to avoid surgery. However, he cannot count out the idea of getting an operation."

According to Dr. Ruiz-Cotorro, an operation would mean at least three months pause from playing tournaments for David. (A very optimistic estimation, I think.)
But even so he'd definitely miss Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the Davis Cup quarterfinal. At least.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Rome - no, Estoril - maybe...

(AP Photo)

The news already came yesterday, David will skip the Masters event at Rome next week in order to continue treatment for the lingering hip injury that forced him to withdraw from the Barcelona tournament on Thursday. Right now, it looks like he might be able to play Estoril. But although some of the Argentine press sites already claim this to be the case, so far there hasn't been any official confirmation from David or his camp. He was scheduled to undergo further tests and examinations yesterday.

According to an article from La Nacion (from which the quotes have also been taken), David first experienced problems with his right hip during the Davis Cup tie against Sweden, last year. Since then, they have troubled him "intermittently" and they apparently returned prior to the Masters at Monte Carlo, which was when his coach Luis Lobo talked publicly about David's hip problems for the first time. At Monte Carlo, David played three long and tough three-set matches, which obviously didn't do his hip any good. But apparently, it was towards the end of his shortest match in a while, the victory over Almagro, that his hip began to cause him more serious trouble.
David's physician Dr. Ruiz-Cotorro explains:
"It's a problem he has noticed particularly during rhythm changes. The hip joint is put under more and more strain as the match goes on, and usually, cooling down again, he feels pain. At the end of the second set the pain was getting worse. David has been suffering from an inflammation of the right hip for a couple of weeks and was feeling pain when he played, which was aggravated by the matches. It seems that this is a case of overstraining, but this type of injury can be made worse if he continues playing."

In a interview with Argentine Radio Uno, David himself had the following to say:
"The recommended way of doing this is to rest and see how things develop. This is something I've had for some time, and there have been weeks when it was okay and others when it was not so okay. We'll see what happens with the examinations. But right now, I'm getting conservative treatment with anti-inflammatory drugs and rehabilitation. It's an injury that many players suffer and it's not an easy one. I'm not off the court completely but I feel uncomfortable when I play and the exertion makes me notice it even more. But: I don't want surgery. At this point, I care more about restoring my health than about being the #10 or #15 in the world, the ranking is the least of my concerns."

However, maybe the best sign that this might only be a short pause (and that David's hip will hopefully be okay again, soon) is that despite the most tempting of incentives, i.e. the Rally Argentina currently taking place near Cordoba, David will not fly back home. "I would've liked to travel to Cordoba to see the Rally, but it's necessary to make the recovery in Europe."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

David withdraws from Barcelona

(Reuters Pictures)

Only a couple of hours after David had talked about "feeling great" during his post-match press conference, first rumours on the net and then an article on the tournament website appeared, stating the following:

Argentine David Nalbandian will not play the quarterfinal against Rafael Nadal, scheduled for Friday, because of an acute inflammation in the right hip that has forced him to retire, as announced by the tournament director Albert Costa. The Mallorcan advances directly to the semifinals of the tournament.

As explained Dr. Angel Ruiz-Cotorro, the Argentine player has been troubled by a lingering discomfort in his hip over the last two weeks, problems that have grown worse in the last few days and that will prevent him from facing up to a match of such intensity, tomorrow.

So far, it's still completely unclear how serious this really is. Or if it will affect his schedule for the next few weeks. It's also unclear why David didn't make any allusions to having these problems, not even directly before withdrawing.
Right now, nothing is clear...

David beats Almagro, now faces Nadal


In his third-round match today, David needed just above an hour to defeat Nicolas Almagro 6-4, 6-3. Wheras he had his problems with Almagro's serve in their previous two encounters, David broke the Spaniard four times in the course of the match, while dropping his own serve twice. It was David's first victory over Almagro on clay, their match record is now tied at 2-2.
In tomorrow's quarterfinal, David will now face Rafael Nadal, the "King of Clay". They have met three times so far, with David winning their first two encounters (Masters Madrid & Paris 2007) and Nadal prevailing earlier this year at Indian Wells, after David failed to convert 5 match points.
But tomorrow's match will be their first one on clay...

Set 1
After an easy hold for a 1-0 lead, David immediately broke Almagro, converting his very first break point, 2-0. But once again, David couldn't gain any momentum, being up a break. A double fault at 15-15 in the next game was the first sign of trouble. And it ended with the immediate re-break for Almagro, which he followed up by holding to love and levelling the score at 2-2. David's next game went from 40-0 briefly back to deuce but he managed to avoid further trouble, won the next two points and now led 3-2. With Almagro now serving again, the scoreboard (which seemed quite erratic today) got stuck at 15-30 for a while... And then suddenly went to break, 4-2 for David. Trying to consolidate this break, David again struggled a bit, not making too many first serves. But he won two really important points on his second serve, the one that set up the game point and the one that gave him the 5-2 lead. Almagro easily held for 5-3, forcing David to serve for the set. The game began with 0-15 but then the scoreboard again skipped a couple of points, two in this case and both for David, 30-15. At 40-15, he had 2 set points, the second of which he converted. 6-3

Set 2
Almagro served first in this set, which started with a series of quick, easy holds from both. At 2-2, Almagro was the first to struggle on serve, finding himself down 15-30. Once again the scoreboard froze at that score... By the time it moved again, David was once again up a break and leading 3-2. And this time, he extended his lead to 4-2 by holding his serve to love. In the following game, Alamagro quickly went down 0-30, then seemed to recover but in the end couldn't prevent another break point for David. Who converted it promptly, just like he did with every single break point he had in this match (as the statistics show). In this case it gave David the double break and at 5-2 the chance to serve for the match. Throughout this set, David had never lost more than one point on his serve. But at that moment, once again his first serve (and probably his nerves) deserted him. He quickly went down 0-40, managed to save the first two break points but Almagro took the third, 5-3. And then held his serve, 5-4. But as David had initially leading by a double break, he now had a second chance to serve for the match. And this time, he kept his nerve - and served it out to love. 6-4.

It's clear that David did find a way of handling Almagro's serve in this match. And he won more points both on first and on second serve than the Spaniard. But without having seen the match, it's impossible to tell how dangerous Almagro's serve really was today. However, looking at the numbers, David seems to have been a little more stable on serve today. (Apart from one bad service game per set.) And this victory should give him confidence.
But will that, can that possibly be enough for tomorrow...

Quotes from David after the match

"I felt better today than yesterday. The match was quite quick without a lot of long rallies, which helped me. I didn't hit many unforced errors, and although I can improve, today I felt I played pretty well."

"I'd like to play against Nadal, it will be an attractive match. Apart from being a friend, Rafa is a great competitor. If you don't play your best level against him, you've got no chance. We've never played on clay, but the fact is that very few people can beat him."
(from the tournament website)

Match Stats...
1st serve: 56%
Aces: 3
DFs: 1
BP Conversion: 4/4
Points won on 1st serve: 78%
Points won on 2nd serve: 52%

(Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

(AP Photo)

(Reuters Pictures)


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Barcelona: David downs Kunitsyn 7-5, 6-4

David won his first match this week at Barcelona today, defeating Igor Kunitsyn 7-5, 6-4. It's the first time he has won a match in straight sets since the third round at Indian Wells. After close to one and a half hours, David broke Kunitsyn as the Russian served to stay in the match, converting his first match point.
In the third round tomorrow, David will face Nicolas Almagro. He lost their last two encounters, both of which took place on clay (after beating him on hardcourt back in 2007), in the final of Acapulco and at the Masters in Rome, last year. During those matches, David never found a way of dealing with Almagro's serve.

David served first in this match and held fairly easily by his standards, making first serves and hitting an unusually early ace. But it would be be the last one for today. After Kunitsyn had levelled the score at 1-1, David struggled with his serve in the next game, barely making any first serves. - And not winning points on his second. The result was a first break point for Kunitsyn, which the Russian converted to go up 2-1. After that, both held their serves throughout the next five games. David to 30 but at least without any deuces or further break points. Kunitsyn to love. Until 4-3, David had won exactly two points on return (both in Kunitsyn's first service game). In the following game, however, David managed to take the Russian to deuce for the first time. Kunitsyn managed to get through to 5-3 but at least it was a first sign that either his serve was getting a little weaker or that perhaps David was beginning to find his returns. David held (once again to 30) to stay in the set and make it 5-4. Then it was Kunitsyn's turn, trying to close out the set. At 30-40, David had his first break point of the match and didn't convert it. But he was given another chance and this time, he finally got the re-break. 5-5. David's following service game was a crucial one and when he started it with his first double fault of the day, I began to fear the worst... But he instantly recovered and went on to win the next four points, the last and decisive two of which on second serves. 6-5. Now Kunitsyn had to serve to stay in the match. He quickly went down 0-40, granting David 3 set points, saved the first - but not the second one. 7-5.

Set 2
At the start of this set, there was a bit of a problem with the scoreboard. By the time it was working again, Kunitsyn had already broken David for a 1-0 lead. But only to follow it up by dropping his own serve to 15, 1-1. The next two games were more of the same: Kunitsyn broke, David broke back. 2-2. So now the question was who would be the first to hold serve again... It was David, who went up 3-2 with somewhat unexpected ease. But Kunitsyn followed suit and held, though not as easily, for 3-3. Then came what even on the scoreboard could be easily identified as David's worst game today. At 15-15, he made two double faults in a row, gifting Kunitsyn two break points. The Russian converted the second and now led 4-3. But consistent with the overall "theme" of this set, his lead didn't last for long as David once again managed to break back immediately. 4-4. David's next game briefly went to 15-30 but he won the next three points and went up 5-4, now with the chance to break Kunitsyn for the match. At 30-30, Kunitsyn's only double fault in the entire match gave David his first match point. And he took it. 6-4.

The serve situation is apparently still the same. Still the same problems. He makes too few first serves and wins too few points on his second. - And that's about as much as it is possible to gather from just looking at the numbers on the scoreboard. Still, I'm happy to see him recover from being a break (or a number of those, in this case) down. And finally win a match in straights again. Even if it's with ten breaks...

A couple of quotes from David after today's match, though in reply to more general questions...

About his varying level of play
"I think I'm still having some ups and downs, but I can try to improve and get back to the way it was, and aim to win major tournaments."

About possible reasons for those ups and downs
"I could never say and that's what gives me hope that I will play well again, some time."

About his clay-court schedule
"Very compressed. It's difficult to leave out some tournaments because of all the big tournaments."

About new Madrid Masters
"After Madrid, there's only one week to go to Paris and adapt but there's a 700-meter difference in altitude and you feel it. Whether indoors or outdoors, it feels a little faster. - But that's the way it has been decided."
(Source: infobae.com)

Match stats...
1st serve: 48%
Aces: 1
DFs: 4
BP Conversion: 6/12
Points won on 1st serve: 70%
Points won on 2nd serve: 41%

(AP Photo)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Barcelona Training

While David only went to the Real Club de Tenis Barcelona for a training session today, his opponent was decided in the first round match between Juan Carlos Ferrero and Igor Kunitsyn. In the end, it was the Russian who came through, beating Ferrero in two tight sets, 7-5, 7-6(3).

So it will be Kunitsyn for David in his first match (second round).
The date for it has yet to be determined. With more first-round matches due tomorrow, it'll be probably scheduled for Wednesday.

(photos by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Barcelona Draw and Preview

(photo from the tournament website)

Today, the draw was pulled for David's next tournament, the "Barcelona Open Banco Sabadell, 57 Trofeo Conde de Godó". Winning this prestigious clay-court tournament is considered quite a feat. Not only because of the strong field that this event usually attracts. But also because after the final, the winner is expected to lift the massive Conde de Godó trophy (seen right) over his head.

At this Open 500 tournament, the top 8 players receive byes for the first round. David would've originally been the ninth seed but due to the withdrawals of Monfils and Tsonga, he's now seeded seventh. And once again, he's been drawn in Nadal's half - and this time also in his quarter:

[1] Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs BYE
Frederico Gil (POR) vs Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE)
Christophe Rochus (BEL) vs Nicolas Devilder (FRA)
Jan Hernych (CZE) vs [13] Richard Gasquet (FRA)

[10] Nicolas Almagro (ESP) vs Victor Hanescu (ROU)
Juan Ignacio Chela (ARG) vs Thomaz Bellucci (BRA)
[WC] Juan Carlos Ferrero (ESP) vs Igor Kunitsyn (RUS)
BYE vs [7] David Nalbandian (ARG)

So David's first match will either be against Ferrero (match record 4-3 for David and 2-0 on clay, though at the Copa Telmex this year Ferrero had to retire) or against Kunitsyn (David lost their only match so far, at L.A. on hardcourt, 2007). From the possible opponents in a theoretical third round, Almagro probably stands out as someone who could be dangerous for David. Even if he doesn't seem to be in the same kind of form as he was last year (when he beat David twice on clay, most notably in the Acapulco final). Should David manage to get through rounds two and three, chances are that he'd find himself facing Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinal...

And the quarterfinal is as far as David has made it at this tournament in previous years. He reached it twice, in 2004 and 2007. Last year, David's Barcelona campaign ended when he met Wawrinka in the third round (and lost 3-6, 1-6).

Probably the most important thing, however, will be whether David can find a way to stabilize his game and most of all his serve. So that three-set matches with double-digit numbers of breaks don't become some sort of standard.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Au revoir, Monte Carlo - David falls to Davydenko

It could've been the first of two matches for David today but it ended up being his last one at Monte Carlo. After two and a half hours and 13 breaks, it was Nikolay Davydenko who eventually prevailed 6-4, 5-7, 6-3.

The match took place on an untelevised court but even just looking at the scoreboard it became clear that David's biggest problem in this match was once again his serve. Even though his first serve percentage improved as the match went on (just like in the two previous matches), he was once more unable to hold serve at important moments or to build decisive leads after breaking Davydenko.

In the first set, David went up a break twice (for 2-1 and 3-2), and twice he surrendered his own serve immediately afterwards. At 4-3 for Davydenko, David saved 4 break points in one game. But only to get broken when it really mattered, i.e. when he was serving to stay in the set.
In the second set, they stayed on serve until David broke Davydenko for a 3-2 lead. And this time, he managed to consolidate the break, 4-2. At 4-3, David again saved 4 break points in one game and went up 5-3. After Davydenko's hold for 5-4, David had the chance to serve out the set. - And once again he got broken at that very moment (not making a single first serve in that game as far as I recall). 5-5. But instead of moving ahead now, Davydenko lost his serve to love, granting David a second chance to serve for the set. And this time, David took it, converting his first set point.
The third set began with a break for David and another immediate re-break for Davydenko. David broke again to go up 3-2 - and then didn't win another game for the rest of the match. How he managed to do that I cannot say. Maybe he grew tired towards the end.

I can only hope that Luis Lobo will address the serve problem and work on it with David. About his nerves on court, there's little Lobo can do, of course. But a more stable technique would probably also do wonders for the nerves...

Match Stats...
1st serve: 50% (set 1: 44%, set 2: 52%, set 3: 53%)
Aces: 5
DFs: 6
BP Conversion: 6/14
Points won on 1st serve: 64%
Points won on 2nd serve: 38%

(All pictures: AP Photo)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Monte Carlo: no play for David today

This is what the Court des Princes looked like for the better part of the day. There was rain. And then more rain. But then also some heavy winds, thunder and a little hail for good measure...
Around 3pm, when it was already clear that there would be no chance of playing and finishing four matches on the biggest courts, a revised schedule was released according to which David was to play the second match on Court des Princes. (While other matches got moved to smaller courts.) Play resumed for a while around 3.30pm. - On all courts except Court des Princes. For reasons still unknown to me, the first match there didn't get underway until 5pm. Which was even more frustrating as this very match between Andy Murray and Fabio Fognini decides who David might face in a possible quarterfinal. In the end, Murray and Fognini played a set (which Murray won in a tiebreaker) and a game before the rain set in again...
After that, there was one final attempt to let play resume but on Court des Princes, the players had only just begun warming up when it started raining yet again. Eventually, shortly before 8pm all play got cancelled for the day.
And this means that tomorrow, David might have to play two matches. - If the weather allows it. As the forecasts predict more rain for tomorrow afternoon. However, should David get to play twice it would be a huge challenge...

Fresh in from the Monte Carlo website, here's the schedule for Friday.
David vs Davydenko - first match on Court 2 (no cameras), 10.30am
Should he win:
vs Murray/Fognini - fifth (!) match on Court Central

At least, this means that should he advance, he'll get as much rest as possible under these circumstances. But first of all - Davydenko. Without coverage...

How David has spent this rather frustrating day, I don't know. Perhaps, he watched his favourite movie again. The title of which he, along with some other players, reveals in this little video clip.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Monte Carlo: David fights back, makes Round 3

In his second three-set match at Monte Carlo David came back from being down a set and a break to defeat Marcel Granollers 4-6, 6-3, 6-1. The match lasted a little over two hours and David seemed to be battling more with himself than with his opponent during the early stages of it. But he was able to overcome those difficulties and fight his way back into the match.
How much energy these two matches have cost David will become clear tomorrow when he'll face Nikolay Davydenko in the third round. Their match record stands at 6-4 in David's favour and he won their last encounter at the Paris Masters. But the Russian won their last match on clay at last year's Davis Cup semifinal, where after winning the first set David didn't have enough strength left to keep up with Davydenko anymore.

David served first in this set and began with a slightly shaky hold. Afterwards, both held their serve fairly comfortably until at 2-1 for David, the time came for the game that probably ended up deciding the outcome of the first set. Granollers served and David had all in all 6 break points (3 of those in a row at 0-40) in that game but couldn't convert any of them. Wasting at least 2 of those break points with unforced errors that came from going for winners too early in the rally. In the end, Granollers scraped through to 2-2. David was visibly frustrated. And as it is so often the case after so many wasted opportunities, it was now David who struggled in the following game and found himself down 15-40. David fended off the first break point by hitting a volley directly at Granollers. But on the second, the Spaniard gave David a taste of the shot that would continue to do damage in this match - his drop-shot. In this case a clean winner and the break for Granollers, 3-2. During the next game, David began to show more signs of frustration. Berating himself and breaking a string on his racquet while taking his anger out on a ball that was lying on the ground. But he couldn't keep Granollers from consolidating his break, 4-2. After holding easily for 4-3 (and seemingly calming down again), David then had 2 further break points. At the first, Granollers hit a service winner but David protested heatedly, claiming that he wasn't ready or maybe that there was too much movement in the stands. But on the second in this game and the eighth overall, Granollers committed the error and gifted the break back to David, 4-4. When, however, David started his following service game with a double fault, it was clear that there was trouble ahead... He immediately went down 0-40, then another drop-shot from Granollers was followed by a volley exchange at the net, David's attempt at a lob landed wide - and the Spaniard was up a break again, leading 5-4 and now serving for the set. David had another break point in that game but couldn't get the return over the net. He saved the first set point with a drop-shot of his own. But Granollers converted the second with a serve out wide and long-line shot David couldn't get back in play. 6-4 Granollers.

Set 2
Again David served first and he immediately faced another break point. The silly drop-shot into the net he played at that moment made it look like he didn't really know what to do. Break, 1-0 Granollers. In the next game David had 2 further break points he once again failed to convert (and again by making errors). Granollers held and now led 2-0. At least, David managed to hold his serve and comfortably so, 2-1. Granollers' next game saw a lengthy deuce battle, including 2 more wasted break points. But David got a third chance and this time, Granollers comitted an unforced error, re-break 2-2. David then successfully consolidated his break and turned what had been a 0-2 into a 3-2. And he had 2 more break points in the following game. Granollers saved the first but on the second, the shot that had worked for him so well deserted him, his drop-shot found the net and David now led by a break, 4-2. In the next game David recovered from 0-30 down, winning 4 straight points to go up 5-2. - Then a brief shock moment. During the following change-over the trainer came on court, called for by David. But that was merely about some blisters on his hands, needing to be disinfected and taped up. Afterwards, Granollers held his serve (for what should turn out to be the last time in this match) to make it 5-3. And leaving it to David to serve out the set... It was one of the briefest games, if not the briefest one David played today. He served out the set to love, a return from Granollers landing wide eventually winning David the set. 6-3

Set 3
This time, Granollers began to serve. And David began this set by breaking him to love, 1-0. This impressive start David followed up with a pretty loose service game of his own, including some sloppy errors and a failed attempt to play serve and volley on break point against him. Re-break, 1-1. But David immediately broke back again and once more he did so to love, 2-1. From then on, it was pretty much plain sailing for David. After holding for 3-1, he broke Granollers again for 4-1. In the next game, David went down 15-40 but fended off both break points and then held to make it 5-1. Serving to stay in the match, Granollers had game point, which David saved with a clean return winner. And moments later at David's first match point, it was once again the return that proved decisive as Granollers failed to get it back over the net. 6-1

I think the best thing about this match was to see David fight back. At the end of the first and start of the second set, he seemed to have lost track of what to do on court, he was angry and frustrated with himself. But then he stopped getting down on himself and managed to focus again. It's been a while since I've seen that from him. And it was good to see it.
It was also good to see how he went from either just reacting (and often not quickly enough, especially with those drop-shots) or going for winners too early in the rally to taking control of the rallies, while at the same time playing much more patiently.
Still, he'll have to play the way he did in the third set and better to stand any chance against Davydenko. He'll have to serve better. And take his chances, i.e. break points...

Match Stats...
1st serve: 53% (set 1: 40%, set 2: 59%, set 3: 62%)
Aces: 1
DFs: 3
BP Conversion: 7/20
Points won on 1st serve: 63%
Points won on 2nd serve: 54%
Winners: 23
UEs: 39

(all pictures: AP Photo)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Monte Carlo: David through to Round 2

After two hours of play and a total of nine breaks (five for David, four for Mathieu), David finally prevailed 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 against Paul-Henri Mathieu and booked himself a place in the second round. There, he'll face Marcel Granollers, who took out "Chucho" Acasuso. It will be David's first encounter with the young Spaniard.

The first set began with a series of three breaks, two of those against Mathieu, until David held his serve and went up 3-1. After another break against Mathieu and an easy hold, David had established a 5-1 lead. Mathieu managed to stay in the set despite a couple of deuces, 5-2. But despite the comfortable lead, David once again failed to close out the set. Helped by his errors, Mathieu broke back and then held his serve to make it 5-4. However, as David had initially been up a double break, he got another chance to serve for the set. And this time, he took it, even if with much struggling and several deuces. 6-4.
Just like the first set, the second also saw a series of three breaks early on. This time though, Mathieu was the one who went up 3-1. When David couldn't find a way to keep him from holding serve and going up 4-1, his frustration began to show (see pic below). In the end, the one break more that Mathieu had achieved in this set proved to be enough. 3-6.
In the third set, there was only one break of serve. And this time, David not only managed to carry it through the set without getting broken back. He also served out the match without much difficulty. 6-3.

I can't offer any opinion on this match as I wasn't able to watch it myself. (The summary was made possible by Arizona's notes - thanks.) But what I can gather from looking at the statistics is that his serve must have been the biggest problem in this match. At least, he seems to have served better in the third set.

Match Stats...
1st serve: 48% (set 1: 39%, set2: 48%, set 3: 58%)
Aces: 9
DFs: 10
BP Conversion: 5/11
Points won on 1st serve: 76%
Points won on 2nd serve: 48%

(all pictures: AP Photo)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Monte Carlo Draw

The draw for Monte Carlo is out and once again, David (who'll only play singles) finds himself in the top, i.e. Nadal's half and in Murray's quarter. Here's what that quarter looks like...

[4] Andy Murray (GBR) vs BYE
Victor Hanescu (ROM) vs Alberto Martin
Fabio Fognini (ITA) vs Tomas Berdych (CZE)
Flavio Cipolla (ITA) vs [14] Marin Cilic (CRO)

[12] David Nalbandian (ARG) vs Paul-Henri Mathieu (FRA)
José Acasuso (ARG) vs Marcel Granollers (ESP)
Ivo Karlovic (CRO) vs Florent Serra (FRA)
BYE vs [8] Nikolay Davydenko (RUS)

David has won all of his three previous matches against Mathieu. Which doesn't mean anything with David these days, but still... In the second round, an encounter with Chucho might await, which could be an interesting as well as ardous match. In what kind of form Davydenko will present himself at the first tournament he plays since January remains to be seen.

Friday, April 10, 2009

David's Clay Season Starts at Monte Carlo, Lobo Talks of Hip Problems

On Monday, David's first tournament of the European clay season this year begins, the Masters at Monte Carlo. The event held at what's probably the most picturesque site in the world is no longer mandatory for the top players but still awards the same amount of ranking points as the "proper" Masters events.
It'll be the seventh time David plays this tournament. Last year, he reached the quarterfinal, where after playing a brilliant first set against Roger Federer, David ran out of gas and eventually lost the match in three sets. Together with another quarterfinal appearance back in 2004, it was his best result at Monte Carlo so far.

After Monte Carlo, a couple of very busy weeks lie ahead of David. As a matter of fact, from now on he'll only have a single week off until Roland Garros, also known as the French Open, begins on May 25.
Here's an overview of the clay tournaments David is scheduled to play:

Monte Carlo Masters 1000 (April 13 - 19)
Barcelona Open 500 (April 20 - 26)
Rome Masters 1000 (April 27 - May 3)
Estoril (May 4 - May 10)
Madrid Masters 1000 (May 11 - May 17)
Week off
Roland Garros (May 25 - June 7)

The official site would probably call it the "schedule of a champion". I'd call it an extremely ambitious schedule, even for a player who's 100% fit. - But according to his coach, David is not 100% fit...

In an exclusive interview for Cadena 3, Luis Lobo said that David "has to recover from pains in his hip which have troubled him for eight months" and that as soon as he recovers "and doesn't feel pain anymore he'll be able to train and play freely". Lobo declared that "the objective for this year is to solve these hip problems and then see what happens".
He added that if David "has continuity and consistency he'll be inside the Top Ten again", defining consistency as "having clear goals" and confirming that David "has tackled those goals very well this year".
About the upcoming clay season, Lobo said that David "has to adapt to clay, he has what it takes to beat anyone on clay, he has to work and see how it goes on a day-to-day basis".

- I have to admit that I'm not really sure what to make of this. I don't recall having heard or read anything about hip problems before. At the same time, I cannot help but wonder why David agrees to a schedule as this if he's troubled by lingering injury problems.
We'll probably have no other choice but to take Lobo's advice and see how it goes on a day-to-day basis.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Bad Days, Speculations and some Questions for David

Q. Any idea why you didn't play well?
David: You have that kind of day sometimes. I tried. Every shot I miss, I miss by close. Important shots, important points are all gone.
It sounds like something that could've been taken from David's press conference after his last match at Miami. This way of putting his poor performance down to having had a bad day and almost making it sound like fate, like something he couldn't have changed, no matter what... David said those words after his catastrophic first-round loss at Wimbledon, last year. Not that it makes much of a difference. After terrible matches, David invariably as well as exclusively talks, if he talks at all, about bad days and opponents that played well (even if they didn't, really), neatly evading any attempts by the journalists to make him explain in more detail what exactly he thinks he did wrong. And leaving it to the press and his fans to come up with their own explanations.

Still, if there's one thing David cannot be accused of this season then it's not cooperating with the press. At least, if it's the press from his home country and the subject isn't necessarily tennis... After last year's Davis Cup final David's relationship with the Argentine journalists, somewhat strained because of what they perceived to be a lack of cooperation on his side, collapsed in an avalanche of spiteful articles, blaming him for the defeat. David's reaction was to set up a press conference during which he admitted that the communication between him and the Argentine press could use improving. And since the start of the current season, David has indeed adopted a more forthcoming and amicable stance in dealing with the press. He hired a press officer and avoided (until Miami at least) making controversial statements in connection with the Davis Cup. And he agreed to doing more interviews than before. Interviews in which he talked candidly and at length about a variety of things...
Maybe I would like to be not recognized quite as much to be able to have a more normal life. Because this is a very strange career to have, short and intense. Sitting here on a Sunday afternoon, watching the football match at a bar with some friends, those are things I cannot do. Those are simple things that would be good to experience without being troubled. ("Tengo que ganar como sea", Clarin.com)
My friends always tell me, "you'd be a mess if you weren't a tennis player." And they're not too wrong about that. But no, I always say I try to enjoy doing the things I like. And because you're famous it gets used against you. For example, who doesn't like to go to the carnival and have fun with friends? But if you're there and you're famous, you get in trouble for it. What can athletes do if they want to have fun? Just go to the movies and that's it? I see nothing wrong with it or that it's different for me than it is for anybody else. Because at the end of the day, the tennis player, just like any other athlete, is a person with a career that will be over at some point and a plan for the life that'll lie ahead of him then. And to enjoy simple things like that, is that wrong? No... Or I don't see it that way.

Q: Why is so little known about your other face, the Nalbandian who's not a tennis player?
David: Whenever I'm not playing, I just want to go back to my home, relax, and I don't want to be bothered by anybody. Not by anybody!! That's how I manage to relax.

Q: I can see that it bothers you, talking about yourself.
David: Look, as long as you're telling the truth everything is all right. The problem is when you're spicing things up, or say something just for the sake of saying something. If you tell the truth and you have a critical opinion about what actually happens, I have no problem with that because it's understandable that if you're a public figure you're in the news all the time. But until then I'd be happy if those who write about me would concern themselves more with what I do and base their opinions about me on what I do and not on speculations. ("David, es ahora o nunca", Clarin.com)
While the last quote shows that he still doesn't really trust them, David has made the decision to talk to Argentine press more frequently and also more openly, perhaps also to have better control of what gets written about him and not leave quite as much ground to the journalists and their "speculations".

But when it comes to talking about his matches, and especially the really bad ones, nothing has changed. I used to think that David's famously minimalist press conferences in English came, to some degree at least, from not really being able to convey his thoughts in another language. But the truth is that he doesn't talk about his matches in any more detail when he's able to speak Spanish. It's not a question of language, it's obviously a choice that he makes. And one that I find rather frustrating, to be honest. Because whenever David has played a horrible match like the last one against Troicki, I'd like to be given the impression that he has at least some idea of what went wrong, of why he played as poorly as he did. I'd like to hear him talk about those matches as something that can be analysed and hopefully learned from instead of something that just happens and has to be accepted.

But while David might be blamed for taking the easy way out when talking about bad matches, what's definitely not his fault are the questions he gets confronted with during his interviews and press conferences. This season, perhaps more than ever before, I've been struck by the unimaginative, standardized questions David has had to face. In some cases over and over again (like the good old "what are your goals for this season?"). While I found myself hoping for answers to entirely different questions...
For example, why despite saying that he adapts his training before a match depending on who he's playing against, David obviously doesn't do any research about his opponents.
Or why he so rarely shows any real emotions on court these days.
I'd like to know whether during a match like the last one at Miami he truly believes until the very last point that he can still win it. And win it without making any adjustments to his game, e.g. playing with more topspin.
But most of all I'd like to know why failing to serve out sets and/or matches has become what could by now be called the leitmotif of this season. I'd simply like to know what goes on in his head in those situations. Why, with the set or match within reach, it suddenly becomes so very difficult to hold serve - and his nerve.
David's official take on a match he clearly dominated, failed to serve out and then went on to lose looks like this:
I had my opportunities to close out the match in the second set. But the truth is Monaco played a good match and deserved to win. (quoted on Mens ATP Tennis Blog)
But I have my own little theory about it. Though it's really more of a hunch. I think that the whole problem could be related to last year's Davis Cup final, to coming so close to achieving his biggest goal, his dream. And then watching it slip away... Back then, suffering my way through the doubles, I couldn't get rid of the feeling that this match would continue to haunt David. The way he blew their lead in the third-set tiebreak. And also how he just couldn't seem to hold serve at crucial stages of the match (including getting broken for it).
I guess if I had the chance I'd like to ask David whether deep down inside he feels it's his fault Argentina lost the doubles and, in a way, the tie. And whether that match has perhaps left some kind of mark, constantly reminding him that even if he's close to winning something, it can all still go terribly wrong...
- Speculations, I know.
But how not to speculate when there are no real answers to be had?

Anyway, these are the questions I'd like to ask David about this season.
What are yours?

(Picture taken from a tennis.tv interview with various players about their favourite holiday location; there's another one with David in it about favourite foods.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

out of bounds: David & Delpo as at 6 April

The ranking point gap between David and Delpo has now widened to more than 2000.
More info: D&D: gap widens to over 2000

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Vázquez: No Sanctions against David

Argentina's Davis Cup captain Tito Vázquez has declared that David's Miami comments won't have any consequences and that Argentina will enter the quarterfinal tie against the Czech Republic at Ostrava (indoors, on carpet) with David and Delpo as singles players.
In contrast to some of the AAT officials, Vázquez showed understanding for David and the circumstances in which he made those comments. "I think it was a spontaneous reaction and for me, it doesn't change at all what I discussed with him the following day. When you read those lines it bothers you, but when you read between the lines and you know the way the press was talking to him, you realize it wasn't really meant like that."

Vázquez admitted that David and Delpo playing doubles at Indian Wells came as a complete surprise for him and answered the question whether they might play doubles at Ostrava. "I think it was a decision made by their coaches, the credit for it belongs to them. When it's time for the quarterfinal tie we'll have to see whether it's an option or not."

(Source: Olé)