Saturday, November 28, 2009

San Juan Update & New Radio Interview


(Photo: Sebastián Salguero for mundod.lavoz.com.ar)

First of all, there's news from the Copa San Juan Minero, which is only two weeks away now. Martin Jaite has announced the schedule of events and it looks like this:

Friday, Dec 11 - players' arrival and possible press conference
Saturday, Dec 12 - semifinals, first match to start 7pm local (11pm CEST, 5pm EST)
Sunday, Dec 13 - final to start 9pm local (1am CEST, 7pm EST)

All three matches will be shown live on TyC Sports.
And although no official information has yet been released about the semifinal match-ups, Jaite told Diario de Cuyo the following. "We're going to sort the players according to their ATP rankings, which makes Nalbandian and Massu the two top players, while Gaudio is ahead of Cañas. Therefore, David will play Willy and Gaudio will play Massu. This will be confirmed next week."
So David's first match after the pause will be against Guillermo "Willy" Cañas.



(photo: "95.1 Metro" site)

And here's, at last, the radio interview (November 12). Or rather, here's my translation of Tamar's "best of" transcript (thanks again!). It starts with David, defining his way of playing tennis...
I try not to run, I try to make my opponent run. The intention is to make the opponent run.

Spending as much time away from the Tour as I've done now, you want to return. To be there, to feel the nerves before the match, those sensations... To go back to competing, being there, playing against others and beating them.

The comeback will take place the week before Australia [i.e. Australian Open]. In Australia, the heat makes you suffer a lot. But it's nice there, a place I can only recommend. It's a very beautiful country, very tidy, very modern. Actually, when I went there for the first time, I was surprised by what a beautiful country it is.

When I started playing professionally, I never thought about playing until a certain age because that always depends on injuries. Right now, I think that I'll play for another two or three years. I've always said that I'll definitely keep playing till 30 and that when I'm 30, I'll see how I am, physically - will I go on playing, or not? And will I still keep on playing if I'm #80 and start to be annoyed with my ranking, playing Challenger events? Right now, I'd say that I will.

In the future [after retiring], it will be very difficult to stay away from tennis completely. Coaching young players at an academy or coaching a professional player - both options have their appeal. Having a small academy and passing on your life experience and your knowledge to kids, giving them opportunities, that's always nice. I think in Argentina we don't have enough of that, in terms of tennis, it's about providing a good basis, that kids can train well and do the things they have to do in order to make it [i.e. turn pro]. So maybe in other countries, there's a better infrastructure and they produce, or don't produce good players. It's not that having a better infrastructure alone will produce better players. It's very difficult. But I think it's a nice task. As is being Davis Cup captain. Or coach.

When you're going to play a tournament, the more focused you are, the better. And if you have ten friends coming along with you, that's very difficult. Going to Mar del Plata, there were eleven of them, all in one VW bus. Sharing what you do with someone who doesn't play tennis professionally is very difficult. Or to put differently, for them it's also difficult to watch their friend, competing. It gives my family the chance to travel with me around the world. My brother Javier used to be my coach and travelled with me a lot at the junior stage. Back then, he travelled with me as my coach, as my brother, as my father - a little bit of everything. And my mom, whenever she can, she'll pack her bags and come with me. My brother Darío also used to travel with me but not as much anymore because he's now coaching some kids.

A tennis player who doesn't break racquets is not a tennis player... It's been twelve years of playing [professionally], I started playing tennis when I was five. When I was a boy, I had to make do, playing with a broken racquet because my dad didn't have enough money to buy me a new one. So I had to keep the broken racquet and I was about to play the regional championships... I broke it in a fit of rage and my dad said, "you have to live with it, you'll play with that one."

My dad died in 2004. It still seems like it happened only recently, it will always seem that way. My dad didn't like to travel, he preferred to watch the matches at home. He liked to travel in Argentina, though. But he mostly suffered [watching matches] at home.

Q: In the past of each great tennis player, there's always someone who used to play against them when they were young, someone who would beat them, who was ten times better than them but never made it to the professional level in the end. Did that happen to you as well?
David: Not at my level but there was always another level above mine, older than we were, and many of them were extremely talented and played very well. And then, out of laziness, or a lack of discipline or resources, or for other reasons - they didn't make it. Making it in tennis is very difficult. You have to give up a lot of things for it. I left school in the third year of secondary school. I did half of high school, more or less. And I never made plans with my friends from school when I was young. As a tennis player, you don't get to have those typical teenage experiences because you have too many other commitments, outside of school. It's different if you're training to become a professional athlete.

Why I've changed my way of dealing with the press... I've always done what I wanted to do at that moment. And what annoyed me was having to waste time [on interviews]. I came back home and wanted to spend five or ten days in peace in Cordoba. And I didn't want to do interviews. It's impossible to please everybody. I said yes to many of them, to many others I said no. That's the way it is. I've dealt with it for many years. They call you on the phone and ask, "can you do an interview?" and I tell them, "no, excuse me, but I'm on my way to eat, or to train" and then they say, "but it'll only take five minutes, one minute," and I say, "no, I've told you no, or maybe you don't understand the meaning of the word 'no'?" And then I'd end up getting angry... It has caused a lot of friction over the years. I think one of the reasons I've changed my approach in the past six months is that I've been able to meet all those requests [for interviews], having more time and being more relaxed. But come January, I'll close the door again.

I think that those journalists who've actually done the sports they're reporting about possess some inside knowledge about how a player feels during a match. Therefore, they have many advantages, compared to a journalist who has studied journalism and who's on televison or the radio, having never picked up a racquet, having never played football, having never done anything of the sort. Someone who has played football and talks or writes about it will say different things from someone who never played themselves. And that's why I think that a former player who then takes up journalism has a big advantage.

Q: During the match, what do you think about?
David: I think about a thousand things... I think about how I'm going to have a barbecue with my friends on Thursday at noon. Running around on court, you think about a thousand different things. For example, I'm playing at the stadium and I know what's happening everywhere in the stands, I pay a lot of attention to all of that and it doesn't affect my concentration. If the crowd is against me, I like it even better. I'm aware of a lot that goes on inside the whole stadium. For example, if my team is there, I know at which point they leave, when they come back, I know when they're talking, when they're not talking, when they're watching, when they're not watching. I'm like that. But there are also players who keep their head down and don't know what's going on around them.
One year, I was playing on Court 2 at Wimbledon, I don't remember against who. We were in the fourth set and there, hidden in a corner of the stadium, were Ale Gabriel and Valeria Mazza [Argentine actress and her husband] hidden, watching the match. Impressive. There they were, in a corner at the side of the court. After the match I went over to him and said, "you idiot, you arrive at 4-4 in the fourth set and then leave again at 2-1 in the fifth" or something like that, and he said, "how do you know?!" It's just that I like to know what's happening, what's going on around me. I don't think it'll make me win or lose a match point. It's just the way I am. And I use it to concentrate or distract me during moments of pressure. And well, it's just the way I am.

Sometimes, you'll get to see a couple of actors, there to watch a match. And I've seen Tiger Woods a few times. I've spoken to Tiger twice, one "hi" and then another "hi" and "bye". Tiger has an imposing presence, commanding respect. He's like Maradona in this, they both have something special about them, different from the rest. And actors, actresses, they also show up for the tournaments. I've met Owen Wilson, I've met him here in Argentina after first meeting him in the US and that was cool. And I think Sharon Stone was there once, somewhere. And then there are others we don't recognize because they're on American TV andthen someone will say to you, "hey, that was so and so". Or take Tommy Haas' girlfriend, she's a well-known actress and she travels with a friend I don't know. But she's an actress.

Unquillo has always been the site of the Cordoba rally. I have photos of my mom, with me on her arm, at the race. I don't even remember [being there] and yet I have those photos showing that I was. In Cordoba, there is a passion for rally racing. Out of the different kinds of motorsports I like rally the best because the racetrack is great. With rally racing, you have a racetrack of 400km and it'll keep changing, each curve is different from the next. The navigator [co-pilot] is extremely important. That's the beauty of it, that you're competing in teams. The adrenaline I've felt in a rally car I've not felt anywhere else.

I'd like to jump out of a plane, parachuting. I've been on a glider (without motor) before. You get towed by a small aircraft, with the glider attached to it by a cable. I was in the front seat, with the instructor sitting behind me. And then he'll tell you to 'loosen the handle' and you have to disengage the cable, releasing you from the aircraft ahead. And then you let go and when you let go, it's incredible... It's a lot of fun. Hang gliding is more dangerous. I've done bungee jumping, I did that in Austria. I've always said that I would do parachuting and bungee jumping and I always said that I'd go parachuting before trying bungee jumping because with parachuting, I think that you jump and don't see the ground, you just jump. And with bungee jumping, you see the ground. And when you hang there [after having jumped] you're left hanging there for a bit. They don't lift you up again, they lower you down to the ground. I turned around and gripped the rope so I could turn my head.

I've been in a relationship for a long time now.
Q: You should raise a monument for your girlfriend.
David: For me! A monument for me! In fact, we still haven't finished getting to know each other, we're still at the beginning of our relationship. (laughter from the moderators)
We've been together for eleven years now, she's older than I am. There was a short break at some stage, to bring back the adrenaline to the relationship. After all, it's been eleven years... (laughs)
For a tennis player, having children is a synonym for retirement. What I tell her is that it would be different if we were living in Europe because then you can easily travel to tournaments but if you live in South America... And for women who are pregnant it is important not having to travel. It's very difficult. I think in tennis, travelling with a child is very difficult. Just imagine taking a plane every week, different hotels, a different country, time zone, food... For a newborn child that means a lot of trouble. I've seen "Gordo" Calleri and other people travel with children. Four bags for the child, two bags for him, three bags for the wife, and it is very difficult.

[Claudio Galasso on David's way of dealing with defeats]
He'll at least slam a door... There are moments when he needs to be left alone, to go to his room and think about what has happened, alone. Or maybe sitting naked in the locker room, with a towel over his head, thinking about what went wrong. You do an analysis of what happened in your head, why you lost your hold on that match and let it slip through your fingers, why you didn't manage to get a grip on it again. This process is necessary, it has to take place. It's about drawing a line and leaving the problem to be dealt with, later.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

David: "I know I don't have too many years left..."



Originally, the plan was to translate the radio interview and post it maybe tomorrow... But due to a new round of articles, this time from La Voz (thanks, tennisace), the radio interview will have to wait a little longer. (But I'll definitely do a translation of it.)

Today, there are three new articles on the website of La Voz (a Córdoba newspaper). The first one, called "San Juan, the first destination", is about David's current training situation. At the moment, he's playing points in training and struggling with some pain - but a very normal one. "Each time I train harder, with more intensity and I'm starting to feel pain in my muscles, the typical pre-season pain because it's been four, five months since I've played matches. But it's the muscles that hurt, not my hip, so I'm fine." Next week, David will be heading to Buenos Aires to take up a normal, full training regime, beginning his proper preparation for the next season and also for his upcoming exhibition events.
And then, in the first days of January, David will be on his way to New Zealand and his comeback tournament in Auckland.

The second article contains the following interview, which starts with the quote I've used for the headline of this post...
David: I know don't have too many years [of playing] left, and I have to fully concentrate on those two I still have ahead of me.

Q: What are your goals?

David: First, I want to see how I start [playing] to know what I can achieve. I think that I'll be well enough to aim for important things. But whether I can achieve these things or not, whether I'll win or lose is a different matter. I still have two good years left to make the most of and I'm still in good shape. Later, at 32, it's more difficult. How much will I be able to achieve? I'll know that in May. If I'm 100% then I can stand my ground against anyone, if I'm at 60% then I'll know that there are certain things I won't be able to achieve. But I think I will be fine and able to strive for winning a Masters 1000 or a Grand Slam.

Q: From what you're saying, those are ambitious goals you have.

David: If you don't have the right motivation, then it's difficult to travel, to get going and to train. There's no sense in setting goals and training "just for something". I'm not training to go on vacation, I'm training to win.

Q: Especially with the circuit being demanding and stressful.

David: You get used to it. Tennis pulls you into a maelstrom, very strange, very crazy. But you get used to travelling, to being alone, to missing home. You get to the point where you no longer know in which city of the world you are.

Q: What about rivals?

David: There have been some who were extremely tough to play against. For me, (Marat) Safin, when he was on, he was the best by far. Being up against a guy like that you knew you were going to have to run, suffer and sweat twice as much as with any other opponent. And even playing well, you could end up losing.

Q: But you you've done well against Safin, Federer, Nadal...

David: Those are great matches because that's what you prepare and train for. It can scare you if you're a player who's ranked 500 and you suddenly have to face one of these guys. But I, I've been up there [with the best] for years, playing them is like playing anybody else. It doesn't shock you, being up against Federer or Rafa and those are great matches to play and win.

[About the injury pause]
David: I've spent [these months] with my family, my girlfriend, my friends, organizing weekend trips. I went fishing, I watched the football match between Argentina and Brazil in Rosario. I've taken the opportunity to do those things you long for when you're away playing, spending some quiet time back home.

Q: Like watching the Grand Prix rally race from Unquillo to La Falda, for example.

David: I'll be at the rally (next weekend). I've felt tempted to do more but it's difficult, making the time. I've always liked rally cars and I will always like them because of the adrenaline they generate.

Q: If you had to choose between being a tennis player and being a rally driver, what would your choice be?

David: Depends on the moment. With motorsport, you always have to put lots of money into it. I love it, but I like rally racing, the "poor" part of motorsport, and it's much more difficult to make a living out of it.

Q: Are you good at playing football?

David: I play, I manage. (laughs)

Q: Any other sport you'd like to try?

David: Parachuting. I want to try that some day.

Q: How do you think people see you?

David: I think people respect me and like the way I play. Almost everyone who likes tennis tells me the same, "the way you stay on top of things on court, the way you construct your game". I think that by means of achieving this I get the respect and the admiration that is more difficult to obtain for other players. That's the advantage I have.




Finally, in the third article, David talks about coaches and training...
Q: Do you want to keep having a coach?

David: Yes, with Martin Jaite, what happened is that he didn't want to travel anymore, that's what happened. I think [Luis] Lobo is a very good coach and I've known him since he was a player. We have an excellent relationship, and as a coach he has improved since those days when he was with Marcelo "Chino" Rios. After that he was Carlos Moya's coach. The idea is to have continuity.

Q: On what do you focus in particular when you're picking a coach?

David: On everything. It's difficult because you have to get along well. It has to be a good relationship, both on and off court.

Q: And in terms of strategy?

David: Federer for example travels alone. But that's a personal decision. There are many players who need their coach to tell them what to do at each point. Others are more used to playing and deciding alone. It's up to everyone to make that decision. There have been stages in my career when I thought it was important to have a coach and others, where I didn't think so. And both approaches have worked well and badly for me. It's not that having a coach I was much better than when I didn't have anybody. When I won the Masters [Cup], I didn't have a coach. It's all very relative.

Q: The way you read your opponent matters and it's not transferable...

David: That's why. It's all personal and depends on the individual player. Federer has shown that you can be fine without a coach. And maybe Nadal needs a coach because of his style of playing. It also changes with the different stages of your career.

Q: How much of a "buddy" and how much of an "authority" should your coach be?

David: It's a mixture. Both extremes are not good. Not if he's your best friend because then you don't train, nor if he's the "decider" because then you can't talk about other things outside of training. With the years, you know when you have to be serious during practice and when you can have fun for a couple of minutes. All of that is different for everybody. Every player-coach relationship is different. Even if it's the same coach, working with five different players. I like one way of training, "Pico" Monaco likes a different one, Del Potro and Acasuso have their ways. The coach has to adapt to the needs of the player. We don't all train the same way.

And you just got to love this picture...


(Photos: LaVoz.com.ar)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Another TV Interview with David



On Monday, David made his latest appearance on Argentine television. This time, he was interviewed by Mariana Arias for the special interview program "Dímelo Tú" ("you tell me") on the Magazine channel. I wasn't able to watch it but Tamar has taken some pictures and also recorded the audio. (Thank you so much - again... :)
I'll admit that this one wasn't easy. But I've tried my best and here's the summary.

The first part begins with David, talking about leading the typical life in Unquillo, a country smalltown, his "village". Growing up there, he always loved all kinds of sports. Tennis he took up at the age of four or five, with his much older brothers starting to play at the same time. On their court, they'd play with family and friends, on the weekends, and sometimes those tennis sessions would also include having a barbecue together. The entire family would play, tennis was a true family sport for them. Asked about what he learned from his father, David replies, "order, discipline and perseverance". All of which have turned out to be very important for his career.
The decision to become a professional tennis player was one that had to be made when he was still very young, eight, ten, twelve and his family played an important role in it. They have always supported him, through thick and thin. The first years of playing juniors at an international level were very tough, despite his excellent juniors results and despite his good results on the national level because that was the time during which the question was whether he'd have a future as a tennis player, or not. But he's lucky to have a family that has never put him under any kind of pressure.
Tennis is very tough, the pressure, the travelling, being away from home all the time, being alone. It's very demanding and very stressful. According to David, tennis players are not normal people. It's the sport that does it to them and it also happens in other sports, like the Formula 1, for example. But he has his "life policy" - on the weekends, in his spare time he'll do whatever he wants. He needs to do things he enjoys in order to be motivated for his training and for playing matches.
Victoria accompanies him to the very important tournaments, Grand Slams or Davis Cup ties. And if she's with him, it's always a special motivation. He still believes that he can win a Slam or the Davis Cup, those are his goals. And that's also his motivation. The other, smaller tournaments David sees as being basically just complementary. It's the big ones that matter.



At the beginning of the second part, the topic is, once again, last year's Davis Cup final. And once again David mentions Delpo arriving tired and jetlagged for the tie but also talks about problems with the surface and various other reasons for the final having turned out the way it did. Adding that another complication was having to play the final at a different venue and not on clay (at the Parque Roca) because they were facing Spain. In David's opinion, the Davis Cup simply is very different from any other tournament as there's so much more euphoria but also expectations involved. And people have very high expectations in Argentina though he thinks that it's the same everywhere. At the end of the day, everyone is entitled to their opinion about what happened, what went wrong with the final. And you get used to it, to the people and their expectations, and also to the press. But he doesn't think that it's a general problem, that he's incompatible with Delpo. After all, they were born in the same country and they'll make an effort, playing for Argentina.
There are always all sorts of things happening in a player's life but what it comes down to in the end is what happens on court. If you're not well, physically you can't play properly - but you also have to be well "in your head". The mental aspect is very important, though physical fitness is of course also a decisive factor. Returning to the Tour, he'll have to play matches to regain his rhythm and also get some confidence.
Asked what he thinks about during the match, when he's serving, his reply is that there's always a lot of pressure in that moment. That he thinks about where to serve and what he can do to win the next point. But it all happens very quickly, there's not much time to think.
When the interviewer calls him very talented, David refuses to be called that. He mentions Rafa, who often gets labelled as not being very talented and says that in his opinion, Rafa does possess a lot of talent, physically. That the way he moves on court shows that he's very talented in that regard. And being talented not just means playing beautiful tennis. Federer is special, he plays beautiful tennis. But David thinks that every player on the Tour is talented, you have to be in order to be making a living as a professional player.
Asked about the injury pause and his way of dealing with it, David says that the pause has given him the chance to do other things, to spend time with his family and friends. And therefore, the rehabilitation passed very quickly and was not a problem for him. Finally, he speaks about Unquillo, how important his roots are for him, the place where he was born and where people know him. There, he can be among his family and friends. And he believes that it's very important for an athlete to have a place to come home to.


No wonder David has discovered his taste for interviews...


(Photo: LaVoz.com.ar)

Apart from that, Tamar has also made a transcript of David's last radio interview with the guys from Basta de Todo. Another good one. Translation coming up soon...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Davis Cup in Stockholm, Vázquez on David/Delpo & David on Agassi

Argentina's first-round Davis Cup tie against Sweden on March 5-7, 2010 will take place in Stockholm. It's the first time in 12 years that the Swedish Tennis Federation has chosen their capital for hosting a tie, after having preferred other cities in recent years. For example Gothemburg, the site of Argentina's last and not too successful Davis Cup visit to Sweden (quarterfinal 2007; David lost both matches he played and Sweden clinched the tie already after the doubles).

But this time, the Argentine team will travel to Stockholm and to a venue that holds some very positive memories for David - the Kungliga Tennishallen (Royal Tennis Hall), which is also the site of the Stockholm Open.
The tie will be played on a fast carpet surface.
(Source: Óle and EFE via canchallena.com)


(Photo: Wikipedia)

Earlier this week, Argentina's Davis Cup captain Tito Vázquez gave an interview during which he spoke about David's importance for the team but also admitted that he's "a little concerned" about David's and Delpo's continuing differences. Here are the quotes.
It's still a long way to go but there are some things that are certain, for example that we have fewer players now who can be nominated (without Gaudio, Cañas, Calleri) and there's a lot of guys who are showing promise but lacking maturity. The truth is that we're rather dependent on Nalbandian's development and how he'll do in those next few tournaments. He's a very experienced Davis Cup player but the clock is ticking and it's been many months since has played.

With Del Potro and Nalbandian in good shape and getting along with each other, we can beat anyone, anywhere.

David is a Davis Cup hero, a key player, and Juan Martin has shown that he can be that too, like in the 2008 semis against Russia or during the last tie [playing] against Berdych. Of course, it depends on how they are, their schedule, their willingness, whether they want to [play Davis Cup].

[About David's and Delpo's differences]
I'm obviously a little concerned about it but tennis is an individual sport and it's not as damaging if you understand that it's about the team and that you have to try and get along for a week for the sake of Argentina. For that, they don't need to share everything or go to church together. If they play four singles matches and win them - done. That's what needs to be done. A bad relationship would be worse for the doubles because there, you have to work together and need to have a good vibe. They have to be mature and grown-up enough to overcome their problems.
(Source.)

Apart from that, I've managed to dig up these quotes from David, taken from his last interview with the guys from the Basta de Todo program on 95.1 Metro. About David's take on Andre Agassi's recent disclosures.
What Agassi did surprised me, it's very strange. I don't see any kind of purpose. If it's true what he said - but what's his purpose? Making money, selling the book? To deal the ATP a blow? I don't see any sense in this.

Now many will think about what might happen if you came out with something like that today. It seems that the ATP protected important players but not others, like the ones from Argentina. That's the affront.

I'm a good friend of Rafa (Nadal) and he was always asked about this [i.e. doping]. I tell you that he's hyperkinetic. He plays PlayStation games the same way he plays tennis. He's a born competitor. Poor Rafa! He was under a microscope [the whole time] and now it's possible that this could mean more trouble for him.
(Source.)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Clinic cancelled

The tennis clinic for boys David was supposed to give later today at the Córdoba Lawn Tenis Club has been cancelled, as reported by this article (thanks, tennisace) and confirmed on David's official website, citing force majeure and more specifically "scheduling problems" as the reason behind this step.
Let's hope it's really just that...

Monday, November 16, 2009

A brief Update...


(photo: BBC)

After David's considerable drop down in the rankings (though it turned out to be not quite as bad as I initially thought), we now get to witness the same phenomenon that already occurred back in June/July when David was still inside the Top 20. He's not playing and yet his ranking is slowly creeping up again. From #69 to #68 last week. Now from #68 to #66. And even though the official site makes sure to remind us that David's ranking hasn't been this low since all the way back in September 2001 (new article, only in Spanish so far), #66 is really not so bad, I think. Especially now that the season is virtually over and it looks like David will keep this ranking until the start of the new one, next year.

In the meantime, David will be holding a tennis clinic for boys at the Córdoba Lawn Tenis Club next Friday (also from the official site). The aim being to provide the boys from different tennis academies "with concepts for learning and helping them to continue getting better" and "meeting the former #3 player in the world". Something probably both sides will enjoy very much. And let's not forget that David didn't rule out working as a coach after his retirement...


Update
Here's the latest video of David, this time from ESPN Deportes.



David talks about his preparation for the upcoming season getting more intense now, with double shifts of physical as well as tennis training. He'll also slowly start practising on a hard court. When he returns, he won't put himself under pressure, thinking he has to win the first tournament he plays. Should he win something, then that would be great, of course. But his objective for the first few months is a different one. After that, I believe he talks about the Masters Cup 2005 and how back then, he didn't really get the chance to fully understand what happened there but although four years have passed since then, it's still like it all took place yesterday. Adding that the life of a tennis player passes very quickly and you don't get the chance to think about anything. Finally, about the Davis Cup final 2008, he says that getting the surface right was very difficult and that those were two very strange weeks they spent, trying. And I think he adds that this was another reason the whole thing ended up being a mess.

Friday, November 13, 2009

David: I want to beat them all

Here's a new article about David and what he thinks about his future prospects in tennis from infobae.com, quoting from another appearance David has made on Argentine television.
David Nalbandian, currently ranked #68, said he still has the same goals as always for his return to the circuit, which will occur in January 2010, and he believes that there's still a chance for him to win a Grand Slam.

"I've always had very high aims. It depends on how I'll finish the rehabilitation. I think that I'll be able to aspire to winning a Grand Slam, try to get inside the Top Ten again, win the Davis Cup. The first three or four months will be very important to see how I am," he said.

When asked who he would like to beat when he returns to the court, his reply was a conclusive one. "I want to beat them all. It's always nice, playing against those who're ahead in the ranking."

About the recovery from his injury - the longest period of inactivity since he turned pro - he said that "to be out for six months is a considerable time. Right now, I am fine. Enjoying training and doing things I haven't done since I started playing. Now, adjusting will be difficult. It will take me about two months to adapt."

On the TV program AM, Nalbandian also talked about the stress life as a tennis player means. "If I was born again and had to choose, I would be a tennis player. But it's not all good, it's not all nice."

"Today, being 27 years old, I get on a plane every week, that's the life of a tennis player. You don't get to know anything, you live with the pressure, you play a tournament, you go to a different country, different food, hotel, you don't know in which country you are, where you live. You return to Argentina and five days later, when you've adapted to it, you get on a plane again."

He added, "I'm not saying it's not nice, eating out, to stay at the hotel, to have a car, the comfort. But after 15 days you feel like having a barbecue with your friends, in your country."

Apart from that, David has apparently had another chat with the guys from the Basta de Todo program on radio 95.1 Metro. (Thanks for the hint, Tamar.) You may remember them from the "Radio Interview", Tamar transcribed and I translated for Vamos David (part one, two, three). While back then, they interviewed David over the phone, this time he showed up in person at the studios, as can be seen in the photos below. Unfortunately, there's no recording of the new interview, sorry.




(photos from the "95.1 Metro" site)

Update
TyC Sports, the Argentine TV channel, has another video clip of David, as I've just discovered. I don't know what it is with TyC and their videos but embedding them here simply doesn't work... But you can watch the clip (and David wearing a suit) using this link.
The interview is from mid-October and David basically says the same things he has said in the last few interviews. About trying to come back as best as possible, the ATP calendar being a massacre and Delpo's US Open victory being great for the country. And that with two (hopefully) strong singles players, they'll have a good chance of winning the four singles rubbers at DC ties next year...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

YouTube Best Of-3... We'll always have Paris

With the last Masters 1000 event of the season currently underway, here's a look back at some great matches David has played at the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy.
(I already included his third-round victory over Federer 2007 with this post, that's why it's missing here.)


One of my favourites. Before the match, a smiling David congratulated Gasquet on making it to Shanghai. On court, he was not so kind...
(Full match here: http://www.megaupload.com/?d=BTNM22BU)



...Nor the next day, in the final against Nadal. Despite their one-sided match at Madrid two weeks earlier, I for one didn't really think that David would inflict another beatdown on Nadal. But he did.



I had been waiting for another edition of this match-up since Wimbledon 2005. And when it finally took place last year, it was well worth the wait... Knowing now what state David was in when he played this match makes his performance even more amazing. (Full report here.)


By the way, back in 2002 when David played this event for the first time, he lost in the second round - to Marat Safin. Over the years, the two of them had some tough, exciting matches, with Safin more often than not prevailing in the end (match record: 6-3 in his favour). On this day of Safin's last official match, here's one of those three encounters where David managed to beat him. And who knows, maybe a final, "unofficial" one will follow at the Copa Argentina...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

David (almost) everywhere...



Some of you may remember it, back in May, shortly after David's surgery, I wrote a post about what I thought the next few months would be like for this blog. Back then, I thought that the Argentine press would probably take no more than an occasional, cursory interest in David, for as long as he was being kept sidelined. Little did I know...

So here's the latest round of the "David media marathon". First of all, I just came across this video, a special appearance of David on the show Tenis Pro. On a training bike at a gym in Buenos Aires (and with Pico working out next to him), David talks about a camping trip he undertook with a couple of friends. But even if you don't understand a word he's saying, this clip is definitely worth a look, simply because of David's mimics...



I can't embed the video here. But you can watch it, following this link.
Highly recommended.


But that's not all. Last night, another TV interview with David got aired on Fox Sports, this time as part of a program called 360°. I didn't get to see it but Tamar recorded part of the audio and also took a couple of photos off of her TV set, kindly allowing me to use both (thanks).

Update
There's a video of the first part of this interview (the one Tamar didn't record)...



You can watch it here.
This first part is all about David's injury and recovery. He says he's fine but he's still not allowed to run as that could endanger his hip. But he swims his 3000 metres and also trains at the gym and seems pretty happy with the shape he's in. Still, he feels that there's not too much time left until his comeback. After an injury that could have ended up costing him the three or four years he still wants to play [I guess it's official now, he really doesn't know yet how long he'll go on playing; he says something different in each and every interview.] For athletes it's very difficult, being injured and it affects your body as well as your head. He was lucky enough to have never had any serious injuries that required a long pause until this one. But he enjoys the time he gets to spend back home with his family and friends. Hip injuries like his one, David sees as a fairly new phenomenon in tennis. But tennis, like all sports, evolves and the game changes. Tennis has become a lot faster. And that affects the way you move on court, leading to injuries like his. During his time with it, some weeks were okay, others were not. Until eventually, he couldn't go on anymore. It was tough because he couldn't play his best tennis, kept thinking about the pain and simply didn't enjoy playing anymore. Suffering already in the first round, whether against a good or not so good opponent and not being able to train because of the pain. And that's the point where you just can't go on.




The range of topics in the rest of the interview was once again pretty much the usual, from questions about his comeback to Davis Cup (as can be seen on the photos)...
About his comeback, he says that his goals remain the same but that after surgery, he'll have to see what kind of shape he'll be in. Right now, he's feeling good, there are no problems with his hip, he should be okay to play again. But he's also aware that a lot will depend on his head, or rather what will be going on inside it. Apart from that, he once again defends his right to do what he wants in his spare time. And repeats that he has always been aware that the professional career of a tennis player is necessarily bound to be short one, more reason to be also interested in other things. Like for example, if I heard it correctly, golf. The problem with rally racing is that you can't really do it anymore when you have your own family. Asked about what it takes to beat Federer and Nadal, David says you have to walk on court, believing you can beat them, just like with any other player. You have to see yourself as meeting them eye to eye. The difference compared to other sports is that in tennis, the surface plays an important role. Playing against Rafa on clay is one thing, playing against him on a fast surface is another. But at the end of the day, it's just another match and you play well or badly.
Davis Cup. And last year's final. David repeats that there were various problems, surrounding the final and mentions Delpo being tired and in bad shape after Shanghai. Next year, the problem will be playing away ties but if Delpo and David are in good shape, the Argentine team should be okay [more on that below]. How difficult a Davis Cup tie is to play also depends at what point during the season it takes place and whether you feel confident at that moment or not. But even if he doesn't feel confident going into a tie, the special feeling of playing Davis Cup, of playing for his country makes up for it, for him. The Tour gets ever more tough, more competitive, more demanding. And you have to make that decision, whether you're going to play Davis Cup, or not.
His foundation. It started one year ago and it's about giving disabled persons the chance to do sports, not just tennis. After all, he's not just a tennis player, he does all kinds of things. After all, he doesn't like sitting around at home. [Though apparently, he likes sitting down with a reporter to be interviewed, these days.]




While David is optimistic about Argentina's future in Davis Cup, a recent article from clarin.com claims that Delpo may choose not to play the first-round tie against Sweden in March. He hasn't made his decision yet but that tie is apparently not a fixed part of his schedule. Looks like we might be in for a lot more Davis Cup drama...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Nalbandian al natural





I'm back from Vienna and here it is, the latest article about David from La Nacion. Complete with lots of new photos and the video above (thanks Tamar and tennisace). I'll admit that I find it a bit funny how the author of this article keeps claiming that he's the first journalist David has allowed to visit him in his hometown when we've already had articles like this one before and especially from La Nacion. Anyway, here it is. The title is easy enough to understand in Spanish: Nalbandian al natural...


By Maximiliano Boso
Standing, David Nalbandian chats with one of the local boys at the Mumú Mamá, the bar he bought last summer and which still maintains the appearance of what it used to be, one of the biggest gas stations in Unquillo. He breaks off the conversation when he sees the figure of a woman, walking calmly down the Avenida San Martin. "What are you doing, mom, everything okay? Where are you going?". Shortly afterwards, Alda says goodbye to her son but not without warning him, "Don't act so crazy, eh!" She walks on to do some shopping.



"Unquillo hasn't changed in 40 years," Nalbandian thinks aloud. This corner of the Sierras Chicas, 24 kilometres from Córdoba city, is connected to Villa Allende, Mendiolaza and Rio Ceballos by the main artery of the Avenida San Martin, and it continues to look much like it always has. Just like back in the days when grandfather Nalbandian's book shop was across the street, here on the Avenida San Martin, and he was "the people's photographer."
Founded early in the last century as a vacation site for wealthy families, this is where the sculptor Lino Enea Spilimbergo still has his modest houses, along with all the necessary shops and businesses, friends and family. Limited hours, where the siesta is nonnegotiable and the barbecue a ritual. Here, David Nalbandian is not a tennis player, nor a Masters [Cup] champion, and here he never was one of the three best players on the planet, someone who could keep up with giants like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Here, he is the Gringo or David, one of them. Here, he is the son of Norberto (his father, who died in late 2004) and Alda, who you can see crossing the street just after breakfast. He's the younger brother of Javier and Dario. Vicky's boyfriend. Here, he comes to discharge energy when the electricity of the circuit gives him the creeps. Here he found refuge during the last months when hip surgery sidelined him from the sport to which he will return next month. Here he is happy. "The whole recovery program is going as planned. I followed all the steps and I feel better every day. The training sessions are getting more intensive," he says and seems eager to return to the court.



It is not easy to pervade the privacy of an elite athlete like Nalbandian. Individual sport and the company that goes with it give you the feeling that the tennis circuit is a meat grinder. It creates impervious personalities. Therefore, this is the first time that this man from Unquillo opens the doors to his life for a journalist.
Though he is a thrill seeker, here, Nalbandian doesn't do anything like swimming with sharks or bungee jumping. Even though he tried driving rally cars, another one of his passions, perhaps the second one after tennis. "This place means everything to me. Here I was born, raised, it's where I live and where I always return to. Here I am normal, one of them. I have my friends, I live very quietly, here's where I feel comfortable, where my family is, the things I love, my brothers, my girlfriend, my mom, my friends. Where they all are. Being here gives you another rhythm of life. It doesn't matter whether there's football, whether we're having a beer at the bar or get together to eat. But it's not like I just lie on my back all day, I can't stand it."



The bar is the starting point on the trail of discovering the other side of a professional tennis player. A meeting place anytime of the day, for meeting anyone, but especially his friends, like "Gordo" Bernasconi, a guy who if he didn't own the pizza joint "13" a hundred metres from the house where David lives with his mother, he'd probably abandon his tables to become a comedian, he's simply unstoppable. But Gordo also has a special function when Nalbandian plays Davis Cup. He's the leader of the fan group with the drum. Therefore, at the bar of the Mumú Mamá there hangs a photo of all those who travelled to Moscow for the 2006 Davis Cup final that Argentina lost to Russia.



Passionate about brands, Nalbandian enjoys driving his special favourite, a white BMW X6, a tank, something like a car with the dimensions of a smaller truck. On the road to Villa Allende, where he trains, he passes the Colegio Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes [his former school], where he never finished his studies for the sake of playing tennis, something he doesn't plan to return to. "That's over."



A long way away from the days when she played on the women's tour with Gabriela Sabatini, Ines Gorrochategui, owner of the club, greets him as usual. Distracted, David walks up to the bar and asks, "Do you know where my racquet is?" On the court he is expected by one of his brothers. Javier, the eldest, who was his coach at some stages of his career (nowadays it's Luis Lobo), or Dario, also a coach, but above all the one who turned David into a Bon Jovi fanatic.
"Dario lives behind my house, 50 metres away. He has a family and two children. Javier did a lot of coaching when I was a boy. He lives in Rio Ceballos, is married and has two children. I live with my mom." He laughs as if it's an insult. David turns 28 on January 1.
But then he picks up the theme of his relationship with his brothers again. "They helped me a lot in the beginning. Javier is very focused on training, he loves tennis. And Dario, he's more like an accountant. Seeing him there are more questions. The three of us, we are all very different. I've had good times and bad times with my brothers. They are much older than me. Javier ten years and Dario seven. When you're a kid that's a big difference. Sometimes it's good for you, because they take care of you like they're your dad . But there are other things you don't share. With Javier there were times when all was well and others when we fought because he was my coach," David says, after playing ball with Matías, a kid of 14, who breaks out in a sweat just from seeing him.
Nalbandian also misses playing golf, he can't currently practice because of his hip problem. He talks about it as he walks past the gates of the Córdoba Golf Club in Villa Allende, where a huge image of his friend Pato Cabrera greets him, across the street from a small commercial complex owned by Gato Romero, another well-known golfer from Cordoba.
Back in Unquillo, Nalbandian slows down in the middle of the street and honks at the door of the butcher's shop of Dario Torres, nephew of football referee Hector Baldassi from Rio Ceballos. He talks to him, leaning out the window. The subject is horses, a passion which during the last few months has seen Nalbandian in constant contact with his friend, the polo player Adolfito Cambiaso. As a boy, Nalbandian also rode horses, amongst other sports, and he calls himself a "restless ass". Just a few metres further down the road, on a corner, is the bar El Trebol, out of which emerges a dark-haired boy with tousled hair who shouts something unintelligible. "It's like this every day, and today is Monday?" said Nalbandian, laughing heartily.
"Come to my place for dinner and we'll talk," David invites a friend, who asks, "Are you going to cook?" "Cook? And why do I still live with my mom?" Nalbandian replies offhandedly. His home is the only place that is absolutely sacred to Nalbandian. No way of getting in there. Alda treats him just like she did when he was still a child, she makes his bed, prepares the food, pampers him, takes care of him. Norberto was the only one here who set boundaries for a boy who never obeyed.
"My mom is a phenomenon. When I'm here I try to eat with her. 'Empanadas árabes infernales' and also 'kepi', an Armenian dish. Every afternoon she calls me or sends me text messages, asking, hey, what are you doing tonight? Then I send her off to play cards with a group of friends. She's like me, she doesn't want to stay home all day. She's preparing to go on a trip to Machu Picchu. She's a little tired now because she had three boys and it was not easy. For example, I don't make my bed, I don't do anything. At best, I make a café latte, because I like whipping the coffee. I don't do the dishes, I don't cook. Because I don't know how. I swear I don't know. Maybe when I retire I'll take a little course. Meanwhile, I told Vicky to learn from my mom."
Near the bus station are the two hard courts built by his father, Norberto, and other cousins and friends for playing with and against each other. They are now abandoned. The small pavilion is busy. The lots were sold long ago. Some kids play ball. Here's where the tennis player David Nalbandian was born, who now wants to buy the land and rebuild the courts for his brothers to give lessons and also for the people to use them.
"My dad was a guy who set boundaries. My mom let me get away with more. I think, as far as I remember, he was a virtuous man who tried to give the best he had or could to his children. In that sense, I was very well educated, with principles. That I'll always be grateful for because it was very important in my childhood to have someone telling me this is okay and this is not okay. Though sometimes, not even he could stop me because of my personality. But he was the one most listened to and respected. In exchange for his efforts to help me, all he ever asked of me was to arrive as well-prepared as possible."



The bar is again the meeting point for football and a barbecue every Monday night as the tennis player is just leaving the village. David calls a little boy with stunningly clear eyes who's doing pirouettes on the street. It's Pedrito, the butcher's son. The mother leaves him and walks on. Nalbandian buys an ice cream, sits down beside him. He has a soft spot for the boy.
Gradually, the friends are coming together. "El Turco" Antún, who is a car dealer and supplies the cars whenever Nalbandian travels to Buenos Aires, Gordo Bernasconi, Hernan Biasotto, the Arabian Fabian Farah, who works on the field, and his brother, Gaby Farah.

"Are there times when you want to be alone?"
"Sometimes yes. It doesn't happen often, but sometimes I try. Being alone is good because you think and make plans in peace, without having to discuss anything with anyone. But it's not something I do all the time. Well, when I've lost, I sometimes like to stay in a room just for a couple of hours but it doesn't happen all the time. A defeat has to hurt a lot for me to stay in my room for two hours, being pissed off. I love being active. There are not many times when I'm alone."
David analyzes his future here where he was born and which will also be his destination when he eventually agrees to move in with Victoria Bosch, his girlfriend of 11 years. In addition to having a football pitch, he'll have a tennis court, a house on top of one of the three hills that surround the place, another house for guests, a pool, a polo field, a barbecue area and a farm. "At 60, I will still be living here, quietly, but doing things. A day or two I'll spend staring at the sunset, after that I need to do something," he says.
Despite Vicky's insistence, she lives with her parents in Rio Ceballos and has a shop in Córdoba, David still manages to squirm out of this. "Eleven years is an important number. She always goes back home to sleep and tries to arrange her work so that she can accompany me on some of my trips. About marrying, I have cured her of her fears. What she wants now is that we move in together. It's a tug of war. I'm making preparations for us to move here."
Being together for 11 years seems utopian in these days where footbal and also tennis players have their groupies. "I know it's not easy, but you get used to other people saying all kinds of things. Luckily I've come to understand that and I can handle it. It's not the easiest part of the relationship. It's not the same now it was when we were 20, but we get along well. She's very relaxedl. We can talk about anything. We discuss a thousand different things, like any other couple. We talk about our plans for life but she respects my schedule, my job."
The barbecue, which gets repeated on Thursdays at noon (without football) comes to an end after a long meal, complete with the typical jokes of an all-male get-together where the meat is served with bread and eaten by hand. Wine with Coca-Cola ("if you drink this you die alone") is prepared by "La Rata" and everyone pays their 15 pesos, including Nalbandian. It's time to go looking for Vicky now, who's at her parents, in order to have a siesta at the house where David lives with his mother. For Vicky, this time is precious. Having him around is far from normal. "I told her if we'll get through these six months without fighting, we'll stay together. These six months (the injury pause) are what my life will be like after I retire. I'll be mostly here but I'll also go to Buenos Aires, I'll travel, ski, watch the matches of the national [football] team with my friends, play polo with Adolfito. I see myself doing thousands of things with her, going to the movies in Cordoba, or enjoying a good meal, like now."

Del Potro and the Davis Cup
Juan Martin del Potro recently achieved what David Nalbandian failed to achieve repeatedly and what still remains to be one of his biggest goals - winning a Grand Slam. As the US Open champion, Del Potro got all the praise, even from someone who still has his differences with Delpo's father and with his coach Franco Davin, differences which were exposed during the painful defeat in the Davis Cup final against Spain at Mar del Plata.
"What Del Potro did was spectacular. It's not easy to win a Grand Slam. I watched the final on TV and it always makes you a little nervous. He showed that he's playing at a high level because you have to have a lot of confidence to beat Federer the way he beat him. I hope for him that he'll be able to maintain it over time. He's young and has a lot to give," says Nalbandian, who after two failed attempts, also has this one supreme dream: to win the Davis Cup.
"His success is important for those kids who can see themselves in us. And may also serve as an impulse for winning the Davis Cup."



Politics and the country
Last year, David Nalbandian launched a charitable foundation that bears his name and to which he tried to dedicate more of his time while being in Argentina. "It developed from the need of the people, someone asks you, then another one asks you and it was all very disorganized. That led to me, trying to do my best to help because it is difficult to say yes to someone and no to someone else. I think that there are many ways the state can't do it alone and requires assistance, instruments, infrastructure, many things that we try to help with, with the foundation. We are at a difficult point in time because of the economic crisis. But this happens everywhere in the world now."
Nalbandian says he doesn't like politics but that he tries to stay informed. He has no ideology in that sense. "It's a complicated matter. I don't see myself as a politician, it makes you age 1000 years in the course of 4. But never say never," says Nalbandian, who appeared in an ad for Cristina Kirchner's presidential campaign. "Yes, I did that because I was asked to do it. You cannot say no to the President (then Néstor Kirchner). But I'm not a radical, or a Peronist, or anything. I believe in those people who want to do things right. The goal is to act in concert. I don't think that who's in charge today should destroy what has been done before. That's what happens here and in other countries it's very different. Argentina is a very rich country, but we've never finished exploiting it for one reason or another. And it won't be easy," says Nalbandian, a big fan of Australia, who believes that Argentina can still become more like this model.





The eagerly awaited return
Nalbandian's return will take place at the exhibition tournament which will be held at the stadium Aldo Cantoni, San Juan, December 12 and 13, where Gaston Gaudio, Guillermo Cañas and Nicolas Massu will also play. Nalbandian's last match was on May 4 at Estoril, where he lost to Chile's Paul Capdeville in the first round.
"I look forward to it, not to the nerves that come with playing, but because how much I long to return to the court. After so many months, you want to be back there. Anyway, I know I have to go little by little, without making myself crazy, because it is not an easy injury."

His relationship with the press
Journalism was never one of Nalbandian's favourite things. Instead, he has always regarded talking to the media as an obligation. "I'm quite difficult, in terms of character, personality, temperament, however you want to put it."
He explains why he disagrees with some of the opinions [about him]. "To be inside the Top Ten for four or five years, to win a Masters [Cup], to be a finalist at Wimbledon, that's not something that just happens. You don't do this kind of thing, sitting at home, watching videos or having a barbecue in Unquillo. What this is about is that I need these things. To come here, to have fun. And a lot of people don't understand this."
"Sometimes, it happens with the people, as well. I'm a normal guy and I want to be left in peace. And journalists, they think that you have to meet them when they want, at whatever time they want and as often as they want. And sometimes I want to be left in peace just as you would want to, being at your home. That shocked a lot of them. And because of that they'll never stop trying to find out who I really am. I think that journalists are never satisfied with one sentence. It is difficult to make everybody happy."




Meanwhile, a news item has appeared on the official site, claiming that David has tentatively set a date for retiring from tennis - when he's 30. I'll just quote the English version here:

"King" David has set a date: he says he thinks of withdrawing from competition after his 30th birthday. There are still two more years to go since he will be 28 next January 1st. His idea is to go on playing a couple of years more and try to achieve his greatest dream: the Davis Cup. "In this stage, I will see how I am year after year. And it depends a lot on how my hip is, if I feel well and competitive", he said. The player from Cordoba said: "If I start feeling limitations, I will have to reconsider the situation."

This doesn't sound like anything has really been decided yet. But it also sounds like David wants to go and see how well he's able to play after surgery. And if he's not able to play all that well... Who knows what will happen.