Tuesday, March 31, 2009

AAT: Vázquez to determine Sanctions after David's Miami Comments

After his second-round defeat on Saturday, David not only explained his horrible performance as the result of a really bad day he had. Talking to the assembled Argentine press after the match, he also vented his frustration by lashing out at Argentina's Davis Cup captain Tito Vázquez, advising him to "stop talking" what could be translated as "crap" and finally set up the long-awaited Davis Cup team meeting (as I've mentioned in a comment for the previous post).
That statement, not surprisingly perhaps, didn't go down so well with the AAT, the Asociacon Argentina de Tenis. Right now, the board seems divided. While some officials have apparently declared that they're tired of David's antics and want to see him punished, others continue to support him. So it has been decided that it will be up to Tito Vázquez himself to determine whether David will have to face sanctions. Though he could also choose to ignore David's comments, or meet and talk to him behind the scenes. It remains to be seen which way of dealing with this situation Tito Vázquez will opt for. Though more drastic measures like suspending David from playing the next tie seem unlikely, as they'd seriously hamper Argentina's chances against the Czech Republic in the upcoming quarterfinal.

So the next tie is still more than three months away. But we already have the next episode of Davis Cup drama on our hands... In my opinion, David probably just didn't really think about what he was saying and what consequences his words would have. But it's also my opinion that he should know better. Especially after last year's Davis Cup final.

(Sources: infobae.com and El Cronista.)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The "Curse of Miami" Continues - David Out in Round 2

(AP Photo)

Just like last year, David has lost his opening match at Miami (second round), and convincingly so. Viktor Troicki, who David defeated in straights at Indian Wells a little more than a week ago, only needed 74 minutes to beat David 6-1, 6-3. It was Troicki's first victory over David in their third meeting.
And it was one of the worst matches I've ever seen David play...

From the first point on, David seemed to struggle, with the windy conditions (that affected his typically high ball toss when serving) but most of all - himself. While the gusty wind might help to explain his first serve percentage (30%) and at least some of the numerous unforced errors he made it cannot explain why for much of this match, David was basically unable to hit more than two or three shots in a row without making an error. And not just with the forehand this time, his backhand was just as unstable. In most cases, he didn't seem to get to the ball in time, a result of his rather sluggish movement on court. But even if he did get to the ball, he often mistimed his shots, whether with the forehand or the backhand. To me, it seemed like he didn't have any confidence in his shots. Or his ability to dictate the rallies. He basically tried to somehow keep the ball in play (with very limited success) and hoped for mistakes from Troicki. And when David finally played at least a tiny little bit better, towards the end of the second set, it was too little and far too late.
In short: with this performance, he would've lost to just about anybody today.

The question now is whether this was just a horribly bad day David has had. Or whether there's more behind it. The European clay-court season will hopefully bring the answer...

(Sorry for this somewhat chaotic and not exactly comprehensive report.
I think I'm still in shock.)

Update - David talks about the match
"There simply is no explanation. I played horrible. After playing as badly as this, it's very difficult to analyse anything. He played much better and I couldn't capitalise on anything, neither on my serve, nor his errors."
(quoted on Clarin.com)

Update II - more quotes from David
"I couldn't hit the ball, couldn't get a first serve in... It was a case of - just forget about it and try again some other day."
"Before the match I felt perfect: zero physical problems, no mental problems, no problems with my tennis, nothing... It was just a bad day, difficult to explain. It's not that I felt any pain or that I couldn't move. I just couldn't hit the ball well."
(quoted on Fue Buena)

Match Stats...
1st serve: 30%
Aces: 2
DFs: 3
BP Conversion: 0/6*
Points won on 1st serve: 57%
Points won on 2nd serve: 50%

*It has to be said that those wasted break points were less David's fault than down to Troicki serving extremely well in those moments.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Miami Update

After remaining at Indian Wells for a few more days of training, David has by now arrived at Miami. He'll play his first match on Saturday against someone he only just faced (and beat) at Indian Wells - Viktor Troicki.

It'll be the ninth time David takes part in the Miami Masters event. So far, his success at this tournament has been limited to reaching the semifinal once, back in 2006 (where Ivan Ljubicic beat him 6-1, 6-2). Apart from that, David looks back on quite a history of early-round exits at Miami. Just like last year, where in the second round, playing his first match, he lost to Xavier Malisse in straights.
In other words, the Miami Masters isn't one of David's most successful tournaments, or hasn't been, so far. Even though he likes the vociferous support the Argentine and other South American players get from the Miami crowd and he has called the atmosphere at Crandon Park "similar to Argentina".

At this tournament, David will exclusively focus on playing singles. The same goes for Delpo but apparently, they're training together. David is also training with Eduardo Schwank, who's coached by David's brother Javier.
Unlike most of the other players, David is apparently not staying at one of the tournament hotels but at "his house at Boca Raton" (Fue Buena).

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Miami draw

The draw for the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami has David in Andy Murray's sector with Richard Gasquet being the first seeded player he might face.

GBR MURRAY, Andy [4] 33
BYE 34

CHI MASSU, Nicolas 38
BYE 39
USA FISH, Mardy [27] 40

FRA GASQUET, Richard [24] 41
BYE 42
AUT KOUBEK, Stefan 43

SRB TROICKI, Viktor 45 
FRA DEVILDER, Nicolas 46 
BYE 47 
ARG NALBANDIAN, David [14] 48 

Friday, March 20, 2009

David "went to pieces"

From David's official website, a curious description of what happened against Nadal at Indian Wells:

Nalbandian was one set up (6-3) and had five match points in the second. But “Rafa”, who is a warrior, managed to change what seemed inevitable and after giving up the tie-break in the second, the man from Unquillo went to pieces.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

David implodes and exits after 5 match points

David came within a whisker of defeating Nadal tonight - or rather this morning, in a match that ended around 2am local time - after holding 5 match points, 4 on Nadal's serve and the last on his own. He looked a sure thing when he served for the second set at 5-4 but he began with the characteristic double fault that signals trouble with David. A huge momentum swing followed and Nadal raced to a 4-0 lead in the ensuing tie-break, finally sealing the second set at 7-6(5) and then swamping David in the third with a bagel outcome. The final result: 6-3, 6-7(5), 0-6 in 2hrs 54mns.

In the first set and most of the second, Nadal seemed awkward at times and David played brilliantly. Most of the audience were initially more supportive of Nadal but this swung around until a peak just before David's implosion. Similarly, the glum faces of Nadal's team and of the Spanish fans turned into relief when the tide turned at the end of the second set.

We'll have to see what emerges from the post-match interviews but my guess is that David simply ran out of steam and became too exhausted to continue.

1st serve %50%66%
1st serve points won64%62%
2nd serve points won47%63%
net points won19/265/10
break points won3/145/14

From the ATP website's match report:
Nadal was sharply critical of his tactics and mental approach in a remarkably frank media conference after the match. He said he had been scared of Nalbandian’s backhand, lacked self-belief because he had never previously beaten the Argentine and went into the match without clear tactics.


Early in the match Nadal largely holstered his signature left-handed crosscourt forehand – which time and again has pounded opponents into submission – choosing instead to direct a lot of balls to Nalbandian’s forehand. But the Argentine, who had dropped just seven games in two career meetings against Nadal coming into the match, countered with crosscourt forehands to Nadal’s backhand to keep the Spaniard on the defensive.

This would explain why Nadal looked so awkward during most of this match. But until we hear from David we won't know why he imploded nevertheless.

Update, next day: Not surprisingly, David and Delpo were defeated in their quarterfinals doubles match against Fish/Roddick winning a bare single game each set: 1-6, 1-6.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Facing today's Number One

(photo on front page of ATP website)

Tomorrow night's match against the current ATP Number One player, Rafael Nadal, is one to look forward to. As the ATP head-to-head shows, David has beaten Nadal on both of their hard court encounters on his way to the Madrid and Paris Masters Series titles in late 2007. Can he do it again?

If he keeps up his current form and confidence and remains healthy, then yes, he can!

David trounces Troicki

In a sometimes frustrating match for all concerned due to barely audible line calls, David prevailed over Troicki 6-4, 6-2 in 1hr 21mns.

Although David was clearly the stronger and better player, the first set hung in the balance as David held his own serve fairly comfortably but fell just short of bringing Troicki to break point on his serve. Several cycles of Adv(Troicki) then Deuce then Adv(Troicki) then Deuce followed, especially in the 6th game and the 10th and last game where four of these cycles were finally followed by an Adv(Nalbandian). Which was also a Set Point and which David immediately converted. Troicki had words then with the chair umpire, possibly over the inaudible line calls. At one point, both players continued for 3 or 4 shots after an unheard line call until the chair umpire called a stop. There was clearly tension and frustration in the players, in their coaches, and in the chair umpire as well. HawkEye would not have helped here. It was just poor training of tournament personnel.

The audience was fair to both players, cheering on and applauding the handful of really good rallies, the best being an amazing volley rally at the net which gave Troicki a break back after David broke him in the 4th game of the second set. David went on to break Troicki again in the following service game, then held his own serve to love and a 5-2 lead. The final game went quickly to a break point opportunity for David on Double Match Point. Troicki held on the first of these but then served a double fault, bringing the match to a rather flat ending.

Troicki plays in an awkward fashion but he does have a strong serve and good returns and he can play brilliantly when the determination is there. It never looked like he could beat David but it sometimes looked like David couldn't beat him either. And it was understandable that Berdych succumbed in the previous round.

Apart from solid serving and his usual brilliant returning, David also played aggressively with ten net approaches and seven successes there. Apart from some shared frustration and one shout at a missed shot, he conducted himself again in a very business-like manner, cool and confident. Possibly showing off to the new coach but, in any case, it's good to see. If he next faces Nadal as expected, he'll need to keep this up.

1st serve %54%53%
1st serve points won77%65%
2nd serve points won68%39%
net points won7/101/5
break points won4/61/2

Monday, March 16, 2009

Doubles: smooth ride into quarterfinals

In a very closely fought match and in just under 2 hours, David and Delpo defeated the #4 seeded team of Dlouhy and Paes with a 7-6(6), 7-6(5) victory.

Although both sets were eventually decided in the tiebreak, there were 4 breaks of serve on each side with David/Delpo breaking first and Dlouhy/Paes breaking back. David/Delpo offered Dlouhy/Paes more break point opportunities (12) but their conversion rate was better (4/5 compared to 4/12).

I was limited to watching a scoreboard that occasionally froze for a couple of games but I had the impression that David and Delpo were working well as a team. When one faltered, the other seemed to give a little more. The end result was a smooth and polished ride to victory over a quality doubles team giving them a place in the quarterfinals of this ATP 1000 event.

(Getty images from tournament gallery)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

David through in solid form

David is through to the third round at Indian Wells with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Robert Kendrick in just over one hour (64mins).

David appeared fit and quietly confident, helped perhaps by a cheer squad occasionally chanting "Nal-ban-dian". He broke Kendrick in the very first game and held serve comfortably - starting with an ace - to a 2-0 lead. The commentators referred to his "business-like" manner and to Kendrick's correspondingly flat body language and apparent lack of any inspiration. A desultory set ensued with occasional flashes of brilliance from Kendrick but, in the end, each continued to hold serve with no further break point opportunities until David served out the set with an ace.

Kendrick clearly raised his game up a notch in the second set and some good tennis followed. However, he continued mainly to rely on a patchy serve alternating between ace and double fault and he was unable even to bring David to a break point. For his part, David was serving very well, better than I've seen any time this year (as the stats bear out). The two players held serve fairly comfortably until 3-3 and the 7th game when Kendrick gave David a break opportunity that he took in a calm and professional manner. The final 3 games went on serve to a 6-4 victory for David. What was impressive (given some recent unfortunate form in this regard) is that David held both of his last two service games to love and served both of them out with an ace.

All in all, it was a very encouraging return to the kind of solid form that brings David the most success.

1st serve %65%49%
1st serve points won84%76%
2nd serve points won76%57%
break points won2/20/0

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Indian Wells: David & Delpo Win First Doubles


David and Delpo won their first ever doubles match today, beating Simon Aspelin and Jamie Murray 7-5, 6-4. One break per set (for 6-5 in the first and 4-3 in the second) against Murray's serve proved to be enough to seal the victory after 85 minutes. Neither David, nor Delpo got broken in the course of this encounter and David eventually served out the match to love.

In the second round, they'll face the next doubles specialists team in the form of Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes. If David feels good enough to play both singles and doubles and they decide to remain in the competition, of course.

More pics...

(Reuters Pictures)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

An Unexpected Alliance

(Victor R. Caivano/AP Photo; taken at Madrid 2008)

As the doubles draw for Indian Wells reveals, David will also play doubles - with Juan Martin Del Potro. A rather unexpected move from these two, who reportedly fell out at last year's Davis Cup final and haven't talked to each other ever since.
Or didn't, until now.
Last weekend, the situation with David and Delpo still seemed difficult enough to require Tito Vázquez' help in getting the two to finally settle their differences. In fact, Vázquez apparently promised to set up a meeting, which then failed to come to pass, something David complained about in a recent radio interview with Cadena 3.
But now it seems that David and Delpo have taken the matter into their own hands. Aided, perhaps, by the fact that David's new coach Luis Lobo is good friends with Delpo's coach Franco Davin.
Concerns about David's fitness aside, I think this is a great idea and a good way to maybe make a new start.

Their match will probably not be broadcasted. But here's at least a glimpse of David and Delpo playing doubles (against Calleri and Cañas) during a training session prior to last year's Davis Cup semifinal tie against Russia...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Indian Wells Draw

The draw for the first Masters 1000 event of the season is out. David, seeded 14th, is in the top half. Here's his quarter.

[1] Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs BYE
Kevin Anderson (RSA) vs Qualifier
Michael Russell (USA) vs Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP)
BYE vs [26] Dmitry Tursunov (RUS)

[21] Tomas Berdych (CZE) vs BYE
Mikhail Youzhny (RUS) vs Viktor Troicki (SRB)
Björn Phau (GER) vs Robert Kendrick (USA)
BYE vs [14] David Nalbandian (ARG)

[9] Gael Monfils (FRA) vs BYE
John Isner (USA) vs Christophe Rochus (BEL)
Nicolas Massu (CHI) vs Eduardo Schwank (ARG)
BYE vs [24] Marat Safin (RUS)

[30] Jürgen Melzer (AUT) vs BYE
Taylor Dent (USA) vs Diego Junqueira (ARG)
Wayne Odesnik (USA) vs Ryan Sweeting (USA)
BYE vs [6] Juan Martin Del Potro

So after a first match (second round) against either Phau or Kendrick, David could face Tomas Berdych in the third round. Which of course would be an extremely interesting match, given that they're bound to meet in the Davis Cup quarterfinal. After that an encounter with Rafael Nadal might await...
But I'm not going to speculate too much. After all, a couple of days ago it didn't even look like David would be able to participate. So let's hope that his body holds up to the challenge of playing this event. And that the new team of David and Luis Lobo will have a good start at their first tournament together.

Monday, March 9, 2009

David to play Indian Wells with new Coach at his Side

(Reuters Pictures)

It is official - David will play the Masters 1000 at Indian Wells, where last year he reached the quarterfinal. According to the latest news article on his official site, David is "not one hundred percent but fit to play". While the tournament begins on Thursday, David will, as one of the seeded players, receive a bye for the first round and play his first match not before Saturday.

The same news article confirms that David has finally found a new coach - Luis Lobo, with whom he already worked during the off-season. Lobo, who also coached Marcelo Rios and Carlos Moya, recently teamed up with Juan Monaco. However, according to David's official site his new one-year contract with Lobo will be "exclusive", meaning that from now on Lobo will only be David's coach.
"We will try to achieve continuity in physical terms, in terms of tennis and especially in terms of the mental side. He has the ability to do great things in all tournaments. He still hasn't reached his best level," Lobo said about David in a radio interview (quoted on Óle).

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Davis Cup: See You in the Quarterfinal

Lucas Arnold Ker and Martin Vassallo Arguello have secured a place for Argentina in the quarterfinal by beating Jesse Huta Galung and Rogier Wassen 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 for a decisive 3-0 lead after the second day of play. It's the eighth consecutive time Argentina have reached the quarterfinals, which this year will be played on the weekend after Wimbledon (July 10-12). And which will hopefully see David back on the team again.

Argentina's opponents will either be France or the Czech Republic. After three rubbers, the Czech team currently leads 2-1.

Final result of the tie against The Netherlands: 5-0. (Vassallo Arguello and Chela both won their dead singles rubbers in straights.)

Argentina will face the Czech Republic, who beat France 3-2, in the quarterfinal. It will be an away tie for the Argentine team.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Davis Cup: Argentina in the Lead - No News from David

Juan Ignacio Chela and Juan Monaco have both won their singles rubbers, giving Argentina a 2-0 lead over The Netherlands after the first day of play. At a rather sparsely populated Parque Roca, Chela needed five sets to eventually overcome Jesse Huta Galung 6-2, 2-6, 6-2, 6-7(4), 6-2. Juan Monaco prevailed against Thiemo De Bakker in straights, 6-1, 6-2, 7-6(1). Tomorrow's doubles could therefore already decide the tie in Argentina's favour, should Lucas Arnold Ker and debutant Martin Vassallo Arguello manage to beat Jesse Huta Galung and Rogier Wassen.

Meanwhile, no news from David and his chances of playing Indian Wells and Miami. Apart from voicing his firm belief that Argentina will defeat The Netherlands and could in fact put together three teams that would all still be able to beat them (news article on the official site), there's nothing new at the moment about his illness or current physical state.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

No Davis Cup for David

(Ricardo Pristupluk/La Nacion)

Clarin.com and the well-informed Fue Buena blog report that David is definitely out of Argentina's first-round tie against The Netherlands. Captain Tito Vázquez apparently confirmed this during a news conference earlier today. Who will take David's place remains uncertain. According to clarin.com, Vázquez has said that he will call Juan Martin Del Potro and that they are "waiting for replies from a couple of other players".

Yesterday's training session obviously showed David to be in a worse than expected state, still not fully recovered from what has by now been identified as a virus he contracted during the Copa Telmex. This virus has caused a variety of symptoms, ranging from fever and swollen lymph nodes to earaches and herpes. Apparently, David thought he had recovered enough during the last week to play the Davis Cup tie. But yesterday's training proved him wrong.
Right now, one can only hope that the infection won't endanger his participation in the upcoming Masters events.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Training has begun - David still in Doubt


Today, the Argentine team has begun its preparation for the upcoming tie next weekend. But despite the fact that David was there, training, his participation is apparently still in doubt as the training session reportedly left him rather exhausted.
"Until an hour before the draw we can still replace players, so we have time for further testing. However, we might make a decision tomorrow because we must also take into account the adaptation of the likely replacements," Argentina's new captain Tito Vázquez told the press.
Juan Monaco is apparently also still in doubt for the tie after his right leg injury, leaving Juan Ignacio Chela as the only nominated singles player able to train without any difficulties today.

(Source: clarin.com)