Friday, February 27, 2009

New Hope for David and the Davis Cup

Three days after David's shock defeat and resulting comments about not being fit enough to play Davis Cup (and Juan Monaco's retirement due to muscular problems), things are apparently now looking much better again.
Both for the Argentine team and for David.
After his first round defeat, David chose to stay in Acapulco to recover from the feverish bout of flu, which troubled him already during the Copa Telmex. This weekend, he plans to return to Buenos Aires where on Sunday the training for the upcoming tie will begin. According to a news article on David's official site, he'll play - unless the doctors advise against it. The same article also claims that David never really intended to withdraw from playing the tie and that too much was made of his statements at Acapulco.

Today, Argentine newspaper websites Óle, Clarin and La Voz report that David's participation has been confirmed by his press spokesman and by members of his team.

These articles also claim that Juan "Pico" Monaco is recovering from the muscular problems in his right leg and that he'll be able to play, as well. So it looks like Argentina will contest the upcoming tie against The Netherlands with the team that Tito Vázquez has nominated. And with David as its #1 singles player.

Update
A new article from Olé now says that Bernardo Ballero, David's "press chief", has declared that David will start training with the team on Sunday.

(photo: Reuters)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Davis Cup in Doubt after Acapulco Defeat


(AP)

"I couldn't go on anymore." That's how David explained his loss in the first round at Acapulco. "I come from having overcome an angina, then flu and a lot of fever. I couldn't go on anymore..." At the Copa Telmex, David said that he had one or two days of fever. But apparently it was worse than that. And right now, it seems that he's not sure whether he'd be much help for the team, playing the first round tie on March 6-8. "If in Mexico I can't keep up for two sets, then it's not worth playing the Davis Cup with its challenge of having to play four or maybe five." David went on to say that he'll see a doctor and afterwards make his decision.

David might not be the only player Argentina's captain Tito Vázquez will have to replace. Juan Monaco seems to be struggling as well and had to retire halfway through his match yesterday.

(Source: clarin.com)

David falls at the first

It took 2hrs 20mns but, in the end, David was defeated in the first round of Acapulco Open by qualifier Daniel Koellerer (Köllerer) of Austria. Final score: 6-1, 3-6, 4-6.

The match statistics don't indicate any great difference in performance between David and Daniel with the exception of break points.

Stats:DavidKoellerer
Ace/df:3/52/3
1st serve %57%60%
1st serve points won60%63%
2nd serve points won53%47%
break points won5/135/9


Koellerer clearly faced stiff competition from David but was able to hold his own while David was simply unable to convert enough break points to make a difference. This was particularly telling near the end of the match when David was a break down and led 40-0 on Koellerer's serve but was unable to convert any of these three critical break points. That must have been demoralizing and a sure sign that he simply couldn't manage to break back.

This is Daniel Koellerer's first match win on the ATP tour. It is incomprehensible that it was a player of David's calibre who gave him his first opportunity.

Monday, February 23, 2009

It's official - David to lead Argentina vs The Netherlands


(Ole)

Argentina's new Davis Cup captain Modesto "Tito" Vázquez (pictured above) has announced his team for the upcoming first round tie against The Netherlands. And just like it was previously suggested by his official website, David will lead the Argentine team in this tie. He'll be accompanied by Juan Monaco, Lucas Arnold Ker and Juan Ignacio Chela.

Vázquez had to nominate a team without Juan Martin Del Potro, Agustin Calleri, José Acasuso and Guillermo Canas, who have all asked to be excused from playing this tie. Despite earlier rumours, Eduardo Schwank apparently didn't make the team. Instead, Vázquez picked the more experienced Chela.

As Juan Monaco and Lucas Arnold Ker have recently played doubles at several ATP events, it is to be expected that they'll play the doubles. Whether Monaco will also play singles, or whether Chela will be the second singles player remains to be seen. In any case, David will be the #1 singles player. And also the only one left from what was Argentina's team at last year's final.

David out of Top Ten

David currently sits at #12 in the ATP rankings.

Strong recent performances from Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga have allowed these two to rise in the rankings to above David and thus force him down to the 12th spot. David's failure to defend his title in Buenos Aires didn't help in this but even a title win would have meant a loss of ranking points due to the new points system introduced in 2009.

This week, David will lose the 350 points from last year's Acapulco final. His best gain would be 150 points through a title win. However, should he bow out early, he will be forced to count these ATP World Tour 500 points. (For example, he cannot replace Acapulco with the 100 points from the Beijing Olympics, should he fail to make the semifinals.)

With Gael Monfils facing him off as the #2 seed at Acapulco and having no ranking points to defend, it is unlikely that David will regain his relative higher ranking. Monfils would need to fail to reach the semifinals as well as David winning the title. There is also the currently in-form Tommy Robredo waiting in the wings. Although he cannot gain enough - even from a tournament win - to better David's ranking, he could act as a spoiler by pushing David out of the tournament earlier than he might wish. However, since Robredo is in Monfils' half of the drawer, he can't pose a threat to David before a finals contest.

In the following weeks, David has quarterfinal points to defend at Indian Wells but an early exit at Miami to improve on. Neither Monfils nor Robredo have many points to defend in these tournaments and could make further gains there.

Unfortunately, this is a time of year in which David did fairly well last year making it unlikely that he'll now regain his position among the Top Ten ranked players. At least not any time soon.

On a final note, Juan Martin Del Potro also lost some ranking points this week largely due to the new points system. However, it was a fairly small drop with no corresponding drop in ranking. It has also increased the points differential between David and Delpo to over the 1000 mark (from 955 to 1045).

Acapulco draw

The draw for the Acapulco Open is out. David's quarter doesn't seem to hold any obvious difficulties with Granollers being the first seed he would be likely to encounter. The Order of Play is also out and indicates that David is not playing on the first day of the tournament.

1 NALBANDIAN, David ARG #1
2 KOELLERER, Daniel AUT Q
3 DANIEL, Marcos BRA
4 MARTIN, Alberto ESP
5 VASSALLO ARGUELLO, Martin ARG
6 NAVARRO, Ivan ESP
7 FOGNINI, Fabio ITA
8 GRANOLLERS, Marcel ESP #7

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Copa Telmex Semifinal - David out after 2 Points away from Victory



When, after about 75 minutes of play, David served for the match at 6-2, 5-4, and at 30-0 was merely 2 points away from a place in what would've been his second consecutive Copa Telmex final, he looked like the certain winner of this match. Around 90 minutes later, Juan Monaco converted his second match point, sealing David's 6-2, 5-7, 6-7(2) defeat. It's the first time that Monaco has managed to beat David, ending his chances to defend his title. Though it's difficult not to see this loss as mostly being David's own fault...

Especially given how well he started this match. He immediately broke Monaco's serve and after struggling in his first service game (but scraping through after saving break points), David was in complete control of proceedings, serving well and dominating the rallies with his groundstrokes and his excellent shot selection. The double break (4-1) seemed like the logical result of his dominance. At 5-2, David served out the set to 30, taking his first set point. 6-2.
Perhaps, he felt a little too secure after winning the first set so easily. In any case, the second began with Monaco breaking David for 2-0. But after having been down 3-0, David rallied back to 3-3 and seemed to be back on track again. And when he broke Monaco's serve again for 5-4, it looked as if the match would be over soon...
What happened then I can't report as my computer chose that very moment to crash. I've only read that David was up 30-0, serving for the match, 2 points away from victory. But how he managed to lose not only that game but the second set I don't know. 5-7.
By the time my computer worked again, they were already into the third. - And David seemed shell-shocked by the loss of that second set. But what was even worse, he looked increasingly tired. No longer able to generate much pace on his groundstrokes and serving worse and worse. Perhaps, the fever he had earlier this week was taking its toll... After trading breaks for 1-1, they stayed on serve in this set, with David struggling in most of his serve games and having to save further break points. At 5-4 for Monaco, David saved a match point with a great backhand. But it was Monaco who now clearly held the upper hand. Eventually, the set went to a tiebreak I didn't see too much of (thanks to a constantly freezing stream). But it ended up being a quick and fairly one-sided affair, with Juan Monaco converting his second match point as a return from David landed wide. 6-7(2).

I find it truly alarming to see that David's habit of failing to serve out sets/matches continues. With this particular match, perhaps he knew that he might not have the strength to last three sets and was therefore even more shocked when he lost the second. Still, while David has always been prone to getting re-broken, to now see this kind of thing happen at a crucial stage in virtually every single match he plays is indeed very worrying...


Match Stats...
1st serve: 58%
Aces: 1
DFs: 4
BP Conversion: 5/8
Points won on 1st serve: 65%
Points won on 2nd serve: 59%





(all photos: Reuters Pictures)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Copa Telmex Quarterfinal - Short-time Work for David


(Gustavo Castaing/Copa Telmex)

After less than an hour of play, David's opponent Juan Carlos Ferrero retired with a thigh injury today, granting David a 6-3, 3-0 (ret.) victory and safe passage to tomorrow's semifinals. There, he will meet his fellow countryman and probably soon-to-be Davis Cup teammate Juan Monaco. David has a 2-0 match record against Monaco but they haven't played against each other since 2005.


An even briefer than usual summary...
The first four games I could only follow via the scoreboard, noticing that David failed to convert 4 break points in the course of Ferrero's first two service games until on the fifth he finally managed to get the break for a 2-1 lead. David was able to consolidate this break but only just, as he now had to fend off a break point himself, which he did, going up 3-1.
From then on, I was able to quit the scoreboard and watch the rest of the match, though on a very bad stream, which left much to the viewer's imagination. In any case, I was able to more or less see the great return game David played at this point. Including 3 winners, one of them an amazing forehand down the line, the shot that earned him the double break, 4-1.
After that game, Ferrero called for the trainer and had his right thigh strapped up. This caused a several minute delay and when play finally resumed, David had apparently lost his focus a little... And ended up giving one break back, partly because of some lazy errors, partly because Ferrero now playing better again, 4-2. Serving to stay in the set at 5-3, Ferrero quickly went down 0-40. David wasted 2 set points with poor returns but finally won the set on the third, as a Ferrero committed an unforced error. 6-3.

Set 2 saw David serving first and starting with an incredible drop-shot winner - but facing a break point shortly after. He saved it with deep aggressive groundstrokes, forcing Ferrero to come up with the error. Afterwards on deuce, a backhand from David was initially called out but Ferrero decided that the ball had been good and conceded the point. And David eventually held for 1-0. Then followed another great return game from David, with 2 clean return winners, the first setting up 3 break points and the second securing the break, 2-0. David's next game, the one that should turn out to be the last of the match, was also a quick affair, 3 errors from Ferrero and a last backhand long-line made it 3-0 for David.
- And then Ferrero retired.

It was surely not the end anyone would've wanted for this match. On the other hand, David saves energy for his semifinal match tomorrow. And though he seemed to sometimes struggle with his backhand today (while the forehand seemed fairly solid), he kept his promise. This match, though shortened by Ferrero's retirement, was definitely better and much more entertaining than the last one.


Match Stats...
1st serve: 51%
Aces: 2
DFs: 0
BP Conversion: 4/10
Points won on 1st serve: 70%
Points won on 2nd serve: 58%


(EFE)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Copa Telmex Round 2: David Muddles Through



In an error-riddled match, David defeated Daniel Gimeno-Traver 7-5, 6-2 today for a place in the quarterfinals. It was a striking contrast to his first-round performance against Lapentti, where David had played and served very solidly. This match was dominated by errors from both sides. And while a shaky performance like this can be enough to beat the world's #87, David will definitely have to take it up a notch or two when he faces Juan Carlos Ferrero in the quarterfinal on Friday. (Their match record is tied at 3-3.)


A brief summary...
David began with a rather shaky first service game, including two double faults, but errors from Gimeno-Traver allowed him to get through unscathed. The first few games were characterized by both players trying to figure out the opponent, trying out a variety of shots - and making lots of errors in the process. While David struggled with his forehand (as he often does), Gimeno-Traver's problem obviously lay with his backhand. Something that David realized early on and then tried to exploit by hitting virtually every ball he could at the Spaniard's backhand.
At 2-1 for David, a clean return winner off a first serve and two backhand errors from Gimeno-Traver gave David the first break points of the match. He squandered the first 2 with a silly drop-shot and a mishit. On the third however, a great backhand return from David drew the error, break, 3-1. David's following service game went to deuce twice before he managed to consolidate the break and make it 4-1. The main reasons were continuing forehand errors and the absence of his first serve (41% in this set). After Gimeno-Traver had held for 4-2, David played what was by far his best game of that set, maybe even of the whole match. Suddenly constructing points beautifully and then finishing them off at the net. Completely outplaying his opponent. He even found his first serve again. - But what looked like a change of trend turned out to be just a brief intermezzo...
At 5-3, David served for the set. And just like during some of his matches at Sydney and the Australian Open, he chose that particular moment to play a poor, sloppy game. At 30-30, David went for an extreme angled backhand that found the net and gave Gimeno-Traver his very first break point. And then came the double fault... And the first set continued at 5-4.
At 6-5, after both had held their serve, Gimeno-Traver again served to stay in the set. The Spaniard already had a game point but then two backhand errors in a row gifted David his first set point. And he took it, with a great backhand return long-line that Gimeno-Traver failed to get back in play. 7-5.

At the beginning of set 2 I thought that having won the first might help David to play more solidly. But it soon became clear that it didn't. The match continued in the exact same way, with both making lots and lots of errors. Which kept the majority of rallies rather short as both players had their difficulties, keeping the ball in play long enough for more elaborate exchanges.
Just like in the first set, David managed to get an early break, this time to go up 2-0. David's next service game saw him down 0-30 and then facing another break point. But at that moment, he resorted to exclusively playing to Gimeno-Traver's backhand again - and it paid off. David scraped through to 3-0. In the following game, he had the chance to go up a double break but Gimeno-Traver served himself out of trouble, 3-1. Just like in the first set, David played one really good, solid service game to love. In this case, he did it for 4-1. Both then held their serve fairly comfortably and at 5-2, Gimeno-Traver now had to serve to stay in the match. The game quickly went to 15-40 and 2 match points for David. On the first, he tried to play return and volley but got passed by the Spaniard. But then, after all the errors and chaos of this match, David at least finished it in style - with a clean backhand return winner. Off a first serve. 6-2.

In his on-court interview after the match, David said that he'll try to play a better and more entertaining match on Friday. More entertaining would be nice. But much more important is that he'll have to play and serve a lot better...


Match Stats...
1st serve: 45%
Aces: 2
DFs: 4
BP Conversion: 4/8
Points won on 1st serve: 83%
Points won on 2nd serve: 53%


(Juan Foglia/clarin.com)


(EFE)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Copa Telmex Round 1: David Beats Lapentti 6-3, 6-3


(EFE/clarin.com)

In his first match on clay this year, David disposed of Ecuador's Nicolas Lapentti in straight sets. The match merely lasted 73 minutes and saw an overall solid performance from David, apart from a little hiccup halfway through the second set. After the match, a happy and very relaxed David said that he was content with the way he had played and called the match a good start for the tournament.
In the second round, he'll now either face Daniel Gimeno-Traver from Spain or Gaston Gaudio.


A brief summary...
In the first set, which I was only able to see from 2-2 onwards, David was in charge of most of the baseline rallies, dictating play with deep groundstrokes that drew lots of errors from Lapentti. David also served well in the first set, making a lowly 53% of first serves, but winning 80% of his first and an amazing 89% of his second serves. In other words, David had no difficulties to hold serve in the first set and he didn't face a single break point. A slightly unfamiliar but of course very welcome sight... Instead, it was Lapentti, who struggled on serve at 2-2. At 30-30, a backhand long-line from David earned him a break point. Then followed a rally that was exemplary of the first set, David sent Lapentti left and right, pushing him further and further behind the baseline until he simply had to make the error. Afterwards, David held his own serve to love and now led 4-2. A series of return errors from David allowed Lapentti to make it 4-3 (though David hit a great backhand smash in that game). Again David held his serve to love, extending his lead to 5-3. Now serving to stay in the set, Lapentti had a game point but David managed to take it back to deuce. Lapentti then went for a drop-shot but David got there in time and replied with a lob Lapentti failed to get back in play, giving David his first set point. And then it was time for a bit of chaos... David only just got his racquet on a shot from Lapentti, the ball flew up into the air and landed - behind the line, or at least that's what Nicolas Lapentti thought. He didn't stop playing altogether but just hit the ball randomly back to David's side of the court, who smashed it into the open field. Lapentti then demanded that umpire El Yennati should check the mark of David's chaotic shot, which the umpire did - and declared that it had been good. Consequently, David won the first set, 6-3.

At 1-1 in the second set, David played the first not so great service game of the match (including a double fault, only one first serve and a gruesome backhand error) yet still he managed to hold without facing a break point. The following game from Lapentti however saw David back in form, again drawing errors with his groundstrokes (and also his returns) and countering Lapentti's drop-shots. The game quickly went to 15-40 and two further break points for David. He converted the first with a forehand cross that forced the error, 3-1. But then came what had already been foreshadowed by David's previous serve game. After 15-15, David made two unforced errors in a row, gifting Lapentti his first break points of the match. But he needed only one, converting it with a thumper of a return off a first serve... Gone was the break and at 3-2, they were back on serve. Lapentti easily held for 3-3. But fortunately enough, David had by now regained his focus and apart from that, Lapentti made too many unforced errors. So David got through to 4-3 without much difficulty. And already in Lapentti's next game, David had his chance again. At 30-40, he had a break point and wasted it with a silly backhand error but after that two great returns in a row (forcing errors) first meant another break point and then the decisive break, 5-3. Serving for the match, two return errors quickly gave David 30-0. A backhand smash from David caught Lapentti off-guard and granted David 3 match points. He converted the first with a bit of serve & volley. 6-3.

A good performance from David, though he didn't get really tested today.
But still, I thought he moved well. I liked how calm and focused he remained throughout the match. And how quickly he got back on track again after getting broken in the second set. I also liked it that although he he got angry about some shots he missed, it only lasted for a moment. Then he focused again. Very different from his antics at the Australian Open - and in a good way.


Match Stats...
1st serve: 49%
Aces: 2
DFs: 1
BP Conversion: 4/5
Points won on 1st serve: 81%
Points won on 2nd serve: 73%



(infobae.com)

David makes strong start


(from front page of ATP website)

From ATP article:
Argentine David Nalbandian began his title defence at the Copa Telmex with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Ecuadorian Nicolas Lapentti on Monday in Buenos Aires. [...]

The World No. 10 maintained his perfect record against Lapentti in the fourth meeting between the two players. Nalbandian converted on four of his five break points against the former World No. 6 en route the 72-minute win.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Copa Telmex Draw

On Monday, David will begin his attempt to defend his title at the Buenos Aires Lawn Tenis Club. The draw for the Copa Telmex (where David's ex-coach Martin Jaite is the tournament director, by the way) was pulled today.
David is the top seed this year.
Here's what his half of the draw looks like:

[1] David Nalbandian (ARG)
Nicolas Lapentti (ECU)
[WC] Gaston Gaudio (ARG)
Daniel Gimeno-Traver (ESP)

Juan Carlos Ferrero (ESP)
Agustin Calleri (ARG)
Thomaz Bellucci (BRA)
[7] Marcel Granollers (ESP)

[4] Carlos Moya (ESP)
Qualifier
Brian Dabul (ARG)
Nicolas Devilder (FRA)

[WC] Sergio Roitman (ARG)
Juan Monaco (ARG)
Martin Vasallo Arguello (ARG)
[6] Albert Montanes (ESP)


David is 3-0 for matches against Lapentti. Though it's difficult not to already look forward to what could be a very interesting encounter in the second round with Gaston Gaudio. Strangely enough, David and "El Gato" have only played once before (semifinal at Roland Garros 2004, Gaudio won in straights). Of course, Gaudio is not the player anymore he was back then. Still, this could be a great match and one that would certainly attract a lot of public interest in Argentina.
All in all, I think it's a pretty good draw for David. Not that it necessarily means anything...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

out of bounds

This photo will act as an indicator for new entries to my "out of bounds" tennis articles, a new category that will allow me to write on matters not necessarily directly related to David's fortunes in this game.

Today there is a first story on tennis rankings, followed by what will be a regularly updated page on the rivalry between David and Delpo (Juan Martin Del Potro).

Sunday, February 8, 2009

David likely to lead Argentina against The Netherlands


(Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images)

According to a news article on David's official website, it is "almost a fact" that David will lead the Argentine team in the Davis Cup first round tie against The Netherlands on March 6-8. David returns to being the Argentine #1 in the absence of Juan Martin Del Potro, who has apparently asked to be excused from playing this tie, though chances are that he'll be back for a possible quarterfinal against either France or the Czech Republic.
The article goes on to suggest that with the sole exception of David, the team will be completely revamped for the tie, with Eduardo Schwank (coached by David's brother Javier) making his Davis Cup debut and Juan Monaco as another likely addition. The fourth place on the team might go to doubles specialist Lucas Arnold Ker, who has not only played with David on numerous occasions but who has also recently taken up playing with Juan Monaco.

By committing to play this tie (that Argentina could in all probability just as well win without him), David is obviously trying to prove that his devotion to the Davis Cup remains unchanged. Maybe, he's also trying to make up for what happened at last year's final. In any case, it seems that Tito Vázquez, the new captain, will give him the chance to do so.
The tie will be held on clay at the Parque Roca in Buenos Aires, where David has played some memorable Davis Cup matches over the last three years. Out of his 12 matches at the Parque Roca, he lost only 2. In other words, there couldn't be a better place for him to redeem himself. I believe that David will try to maintain a much lower profile than he did towards the end of last year. But it remains to be seen how this newly formed team will work and whether Vázquez can be a strong enough captain to prevent any further doubts and discussions about who's the real leader of team Argentina.


Update (13/02/09)
In the meantime, Del Potro has officially confirmed that he will not play the first round tie but that he'll be available for possible later ties. According to La Nacion, Guillermo Canas and Agustin Calleri have also both declined to play. Right now, merely David and Juan Monaco seem like safe bets for the first-round tie. And as José "Chucho" Acasuso has apparently not ruled out playing, his good results of the last couple of weeks might grant him the second singles spot, after all.

Monday, February 2, 2009

David back in top 10

David is back into the top 10 ATP rankings, basically swapping places with James Blake who lost more points by dropping from a QF exit in 2008 to a R16 exit in 2009 than did David in dropping from a R32 exit to a R64 exit.

More spectacular rises and falls occurred for Fernando Verdasco who jumped 6 places into the #9 ranking place, while Jo-Wilfried Tsonga dropped 7 places into #14 and so out of the top 10. Basically, Verdasco replaced Tsonga as the surprise (semi-)finalist.

This larger swap into and out of the top 10 balances out, thus allowing the smaller swap between Blake and David to edge him back into the top 10.

It is my own aspiration for David that he return to and remain in the top 10 this year, so this is a good (though largely lucky) start despite the disappointment of an early exit from the Australian Open.