Saturday, October 30, 2010

Basel Draw

Update II (31/10)
David will play his first-round match against Jan Hajek (currently ranked #98).
It will be their first encounter.

This time, there was not only a live stream available for the draw, David was also present at the ceremony and able to follow proceedings from his seat in the front row. Asked to step onto the stage for a short interview before the actual draw, David correctly remembered that he won his title at Basel (back in 2002) against Fernando Gonzalez and said about the tournament itself: "I always play here, I really like it."
Update: Here's an audio recording of David's interview (in mp3 format; courtesy of Andvari).

Then followed the draw - and here's what it looks like, with David in the top, i.e. Federer's half and in Roddick's quarter:

[1] Roger Federer (SUI) vs Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR)
Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) vs Denis Istomin (UZB)
[WC] Radek Stepanek (CZE) vs Thiemo De Bakker (NED)
Santiago Giraldo (COL) vs [LL] Karol Beck (SVK)

[4] Andy Roddick (USA) vs Sam Querrey (USA)
Xavier Malisse (BEL) vs Andrey Golubev (KAZ)
[Q] Jan Hajek (CZE) vs David Nalbandian (ARG)
[WC] Marco Chiudinelli (SUI) vs [6] Marin Cilic (CRO)

(Complete draw here.)

David's first opponent has yet to be decided (the biggest names in the qualies are Nieminen and Mathieu). And in the second round he could either face an out-of-form Cilic or Chiudinelli, who's currently coming back after having been injured. So the first two rounds look rather makeable, before David could meet Andy Roddick in the quarterfinal. And then Federer...

David and Marco Chiudinelli, who was also present, finding out that they might meet in the second round... (More screencaps you'll find on the new photo page.)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Au revoir Montpellier - David manages to lose to Simon

(Pascal Guyot/AFP/Getty Images)

There was a moment, around an hour maybe into the match, where it looked like it would all be over in a matter of minutes. That was when David, up a set and a break and in complete control of proceedings, got ready to serve for the match at 6-3, 5-4... - Around another hour or so later, Gilles Simon converted his first match point, sealing his 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-5 victory. After David once more proved unable to close out a match that was his for the taking.
Out of Montpellier, David will now move on to play the 500 event in Basel next week, one of his favourite tournaments.

Today's match basically came in two halves. David caught an excellent start and managed to secure an early break (for 3-1) in the first set. A set that saw good tennis from both players, with few errors and lots of great baseline rallies, most of which David was able to dominate. Posting his best numbers on serve today in this set, David carried the break right through it and eventually converted his first set point to take it 6-3. At this point in the match, he hadn't faced a single break point and committed only 9 unforced errors (while hitting 14 winners).
In the second set, David broke Simon again, this time for a 3-2 lead. After that, he seemed in complete control of the match and at 4-2 had two break points to go up a double break. But Simon saved both of them with good serves. Finally, at 5-4, it was David's turn to serve for the match. - And it was precisely at that moment that the second half of the match began.

After arguing with umpire Cedrid Mourier about an overrule (that meant a double fault), David appeared to be losing his focus and quickly went down 15-40, facing the first break points of the entire match. In the course of this game, David saved altogether three break points. On the fourth, however, David decided to play serve and volley behind a weak second serve - and got broken. Still, he remained seemingly unimpressed and broke right back, earning himself another chance to serve for the match at 6-5. But only to follow it up with his worst service game of the match. Three unforced errors in a row plus a double fault - and the second chance to close out the match was gone, as well. In the eventual tiebreak, David led 5-4 and could've still won the match, had he won both of the following points on his serve. But instead, two unforced errors in a row cost him the lead and, eventually, the second set. During which he again hit 14 winners - but also 29 unforced errors, most of them towards the end of the set.
The third set saw David struggling with blisters, with his fitness (he seemed to get slower, the longer the match went on) and also continuing his debates with umpire Mourier. After a couple of quick service holds, David once more broke Simon's serve (for 4-2) but only to get broken back straight away. At 5-5, David went down 0-30 and during the rally that followed, he managed to complain about a shot from Simon he thought was long, all but stopping play, but still won the point. After that however, another double fault (7 in total today) and another unforced error (56 in total) ended up costing David his serve and now gave Simon the chance to serve for the match. Which he did, to love, converting his first match point with an ace.

That David sometimes has his problems with closing out matches isn't new. Neither is David being in control of a match and then still finding a way of losing it (take the notorious five match points he held against Nadal at Indian Wells). But that doesn't make matches like this one today any easier to watch. Or to understand why David's game sometimes just falls apart from one moment to the next - when the finish line is already in sight. I can imagine what David will say about this match, the same thing he always says about matches like this one - "he played better than me in the important moments." I just wish that sometimes, it would be a lot more difficult to play better than David in the important moments...

For those with strong nerves, the match is available on the David on Screen page (thanks, Krystle for the recording).

(tournament website)

Montpellier R2 - David vs Gilles Simon

David served for the match twice in the second set and was two points away from winning the match in the tiebreak that followed... But in the end, Gilles Simon won the match in three sets, 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-5.

Photos from the match on the new photo page.

More soon...

(photos: tournament website; montage: VD)

Less than three months have gone by since David last faced Gilles Simon (currently ranked #48). Their only match so far was part of David's run to the title at Washington. There, Simon became the only player able to take a set off David (who eventually prevailed 3-6, 6-2, 6-3). A look back at that match, including highlights, you can have here.)
Back at Washington, and despite some initial difficulties, David neither seemed to have much of a problem with Simon's serve, nor with his flat groundstrokes and sudden changes of pace. And although David played a rather patchy match, riddled with unforced errors, it was enough to beat Simon - back then.
About today's match and David's chances of repeating his victory it's rather difficult to say anything without having seen his first-round match. In any case, it'll be a good test for his ability to hold serve (in the course of their Washington encounter there was a total of twelve breaks, seven for David but also five for Simon).
And this time, there will be a stream.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Montpellier R1 - Getting back on Track

(Hamish Blair/Getty Images)

Perhaps, David was a bit rusty after his five-week break from competitive tennis. But in the end, it merely took him 88 minutes to win his first match of this year's European indoor swing, as he defeated Marcel Granollers 6-4, 6-4.

As there was no stream available for this match, there was only the scoreboard to watch. And in this particular case, it showed two sets that were very similar in terms of their 'dramaturgy'. Both the first and the second set saw David break Granollers for a 3-2 lead, then immediately surrender his own serve but only to then break Granollers yet again and at 4-3 establish what would turn out to be the decisive break in both sets. Serving for the first set and then later the match, David went down 0-30 before, on both occasions, winning four points in a row.

What else could be gathered from the scoreboard was that David had a lot of break points he didn't manage to convert (nine in total; four of them when Granollers was serving to stay in the first set). As for his serve, while his first-serve percentage went down a bit in the second, all in all his serve seemed to grow more stable as the match went on. Serving no more double faults in the second set (after five in the first) and winning more points, especially on second serve.

A typically slow-ish start into a tournament from David - that's what I'd call this match, judging by the numbers on the scoreboard. But we'll find out more about David's serve, his movement and the shape he's in on Thursday. When he'll face either Simon or Mahut in the second round. And there will be - hopefully - a stream.

More photos from the match now on the new photo page.

Montpellier R1 - David vs Marcel Granollers

(Hamish Blair/Getty Images)

David has won his first match of this year's indoor season, defeating Marcel Granollers 6-4, 6-4 in just under 90 minutes. In the second round, he'll now face either Gilles Simon or Nicolas Mahut (on Thursday).

More soon...

(photos: Getty Images; montage: VD)

39 days after Lyon, today sees David back in France and back on court again. But this one is, fortunately, not pink and green. And his opponent hails from Spain. Marcel Granollers (who dropped to #68 this week) didn't manage to make it through qualies at Stockholm. Apart from that, whenever possible, you'll find him at clay-court events, whether at ATP or Challenger level.
As mentioned in the draw post, David has played against Granollers before, at Monte Carlo 2009. Back then, David, plagued by his hip injury, went down a set and a break before turning the match around and eventually winning in three sets.
This time however, David will be well-rested (though perhaps a little bit rusty) and playing on what's his best surface, as well as his favourite one.

And this time, in addition to the pics above, I can offer you a glimpse of David and Granollers together on court. Here's short clip of a rally from their match in Monte Carlo, created on the occasion by Andvari. (Thanks!)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Montpellier Draw

After five weeks of waiting, here's finally once again a draw with the name Nalbandian in it. David has been drawn into the bottom, i.e. Tsonga's half, which looks like this:

[5] John Isner (USA) vs [WC] Benoit Paire (FRA)
Lukas Lacko (SVK) vs Adrian Mannarino (FRA)
Steve Darcis (BEL) vs Eduardo Schwank (ARG)
BYE vs [3] Gael Monfils (FRA)

[8 WC] David Nalbandian (ARG) vs Marcel Granollers (ESP)
[WC] Nicolas Mahut (FRA) vs Gilles Simon (FRA)
Frederico Gil (POR) vs Edouard Roger-Vasselin (FRA)
BYE vs [2] Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)

(Complete draw here.)

So David's first-round opponent will be Marcel Granollers, currently ranked #65. Their only meeting so far took place at Monte Carlo last year (see report) where David beat the Spaniard in three sets. Granollers has mostly been playing clay Challengers since the US Open and the conditions should clearly favour David.
In the second round, he could meet either Gilles Simon or Nicolas Mahut, against both of whom David has never lost so far (he's 2-0 against Mahut and 1-0 against Simon, who was the only one to take a set off him at Washington). After that David could meet Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and in a theoretical semifinal, another encounter with Gael Monfils might await...

Friday, October 22, 2010

David on TV - and now off to France

(Clip by BA Tennistv; David talks about his bungee-jumping experience in Vienna)

Update II (23/10)
Here's a link to another clip from the interview.

Yesterday, David appeared on the live show "Pura Quimica" on Argentine TV channel ESPN+ (thanks for the tip, Leandro). Once again wearing his pink shirt, and amidst lots of laughter and general mayhem, David talked about a variety of things. The first one I'd like to mention is that he confirmed he'll play Montpellier and that he'll be on his way to France today.

But the quotes that have made it to the headlines of the Argentine press, are the these two...
I'm going to play for at least another two or three years. There's a lot of stuff that can change things. I have to be more careful because of the injuries that I've had. But for as long as I want to play, I'll keep on playing.

About winning a Slam
An outstanding debt. I've always been close to winning one but it's difficult because it's not easy to maintain the same kind of level over those two weeks that the tournament lasts. (Olé)
So "at least two to three years" sounds good. Though these numbers tend to change (after Washington for example, we were up to three to four years). But after the recent withdrawals and the resulting uncertainty, it's good to hear from David that there's "still much time left" until he'll retire. And already before appearing on the show, David let it be known via his official site's Twitter that "for 2011, my idea is to be back among the 10 best players of the world". This has led to some quipping from Argentine journalists but I'd say it means he still sees himself as a Top 10 player, capable of the same things he did over many years.
But first of all: David's long-awaited indoor comeback. Montpellier, here we come.

Here are some more quotes from the interview.
Especially against the Top 20, the matches have become mental battles. We all hit the ball well and those matches are defined by mental and emotional aspects.

[Concentrating and staying cool in the important moments] is something that can be worked on but I think that those things are inbuilt [meaning, it's normal to be nervous in those moments]. When it comes to things like that, Federer is imperturbable, he's unique, he was born like that. (Telam)
David was also asked if there's a player who can make you lose your cool on the court. His answer, not surprisingly perhaps, was Daniel Köllerer, the Austrian who's infamous for his, let's call it antics on court. (David played him only once, at Acapulco 2009, and lost but he had a viral infection at the time).
Asked which player he finds it especially tough to play against, his reply was Marat Safin - and who knows, they could meet again at the Copa Argentina exhibition in December, if Marat shows up this time.
Finally, David said that the only player he doesn't like on the Tour because of his personality is Lleyton Hewitt. Well, he has said worse things than that about Hewitt before...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Look ahead at Montpellier

Here it is, the replacement for Stockholm on David's indoor schedule (and in my preview):

Open Sud De France Montpellier (October 25-31)


This tournament will be a premiere - and not just for David. Held at Montpellier for the first time this year, at a newly built venue that opened its doors to the public merely six weeks ago, the new edition of what used to be the tournament in Lyon is indeed so very new that to date, only computer graphics of the court exist (like the one above). It will be the first time of playing at the Arena Montpellier for everyone involved but it's also not like David can look back at any kind of history with the Open Sud De France in its old form, having never played the event when it was still held in Lyon. Speaking of which, David will meet them all again, the entire French Davis Cup team will be at Montpellier: Monfils, Llodra, Simon and Clement, plus Gasquet and Tsonga. But David won't have to face this "French Armada" on his own, Eduardo Schwank is also scheduled to play this event.
Top on the Montepellier entry list: Davydenko, Tsonga, Monfils, Ljubicic, Montañes
The draw will take place either on Saturday at 6pm local (according to the entry list) or on Sunday 12pm local (according to the tournament website; thanks, tennisace).

Monday, October 18, 2010

Changing Plans and Unchangeable Priorities

A new week (that now sees David ranked at #31). But still no sign of David.
Instead of playing the tournament in Stockholm, he'll stay home for one more week before, theoretically at least, returning at Montpellier. The same tournament that used to be held at the Palais Gerland in Lyon before it got relocated, by the way. The field at Montpellier won't be as strong as in Stockholm and there's that additional week of rest that returning in France grants him. But at the same time, playing Montpellier means playing three weeks in a row. Here's David's statement about the change in plans:
I'm not going to play Stockholm in order to recover physically and not take any risks. (from the official site's Twitter)
Last Friday, David appeared on the Argentine TV channel TyC Sports. Quotes from the interview he gave there were afterwards published by various Argentine news sites (and the official site). It was during this interview that he first revealed his new, changed indoor schedule. And according to the article about the interview on the TyC Sports website, David himself said that he'll play Montpellier, Valencia, Basel and the Paris Masters. Just like it was listed on the official site (where it's been corrected by now) and in some of the news articles. Which is of course impossible, as Basel and Valencia take place during the same week. A minor, yet decisive detail you might expect David to be aware of. Whether this betrays a lack of interest in the remainder of the season or whether the whole thing was just a little mishap or misunderstanding - who knows.

Another important topic was, of course, the Davis Cup. And not surprisingly really, after David's recent statements about playing under whichever captain the AAT might put in front of him, he was asked about his relationship with Tito Vázquez. And once more, David claimed that everything is fine and that he never intended to cause any trouble with what he did and said in Lyon. At the same time, and looking ahead at next year, David made it very clear what his #1 priority will be for the next season...
Davis Cup is not compatible with the circuit and [playing it] means a big sacrifice but I'm going to plan the 2011 season so that I can be there [for the ties].

I'm going to play the clay-court events in South America in order to prepare [for the first-round tie against Romania]. (TyC Sports)
In other words, anything else may change - but not David's Davis Cup obsession.
But first of all, come next week (theoretically at least), it'll be time for the long-awaited start of David's indoor swing. At Montpellier. Theoretically...
I'm very happy to play the European indoor swing as it's my favourite surface and the one that's suited best for my game. (from the official site's Twitter)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Not really an Update

Update II (15/10)
From a new Clarin article:
Nalbandian confirmed his absence from the tournament in Stockholm (one of his favourites) to be better rested in time for Montpellier, which starts on October 25. "Due to the team's decision I'll have one week more. I would've liked to play Stockholm, I like it and I've always played well there. But we've decided to go to Montpellier, more for medical reasons than anything."

Update (15/10)
According to the Swedish version of the tournament website, the third and last remaining wildcard for the Stockholm Open will not go to David but to Stanislas Wawrinka. What's behind this decision, whether there's any injury involved and whether David will play a different event instead (Miche says it could be Montpellier) I can't tell you at this moment. I'll try to find out what's behind it. (But I'm sick, so it might all take a bit longer than usual...)

No news at the moment. Only some vague reports about David currently finishing his preparation, due to travel to Europe in the next couple of days.
And as I'm posting this, there's still not a word to be found about David on the Stockholm website, nor has his name been officially added on the entry list. David's official site is not always to be trusted but I guess that his spokesman knew what he was doing when he told the Argentine press that David will receive a wildcard for Stockholm... Apparently, there will be an announcement from the organisers on Friday.
The draw will take place on Saturday, at 3pm local. And as always, I'll post it as soon as I get my hands on it.

Meanwhile, back at home, David is probably congratulating himself for skipping Shanghai. And for missing out on the epic rain delays and the food poisoning that some of the players seem to be suffering from.
Another thing David has been missing out on was the official presentation of his terracotta warrior. You can see it here and make up your own opinion...
(photo: Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Look ahead at the Indoor Swing

With David back home, preparing for the last events of the season, there's not much to report at the moment. So I'll use this opportunity to take a look at what's ahead: the European indoor swing, traditionally David's strongest part of the season - and one that he likes.
Asked once why he plays so well indoors, David replied, "I like it. I feel better the ball. Conditions are perfect, I like it." That was at a press conference in Stockholm in 2008, the year that David played the same three tournaments he'll play this time, Stockholm, Basel and the Paris Masters. Back in 2008, and although he was struggling with his hip injury at the time, David won Stockholm and made the final at the other two events. Now, after missing this part of season last year, David will finally return to the indoor courts of Europe...

If Stockholm Open (October 18-24)

(; taken during the 2008 final)

David's first indoor event will take him back to the site of his Davis Cup "rescue mission" in March: the Kungliga Tennishallen, a place of few but exclusively good memories. Of clinching the first-round tie for Argentina this year. But of course also of 2008 and his first ever appearance at the Stockholm Open, where after marching through the earlier rounds, David beat Robin Söderling in the final, to win what's been his last indoor title, so far (clip).
Top on the Stockholm entry list: Federer, Söderling, Berdych, Ljubicic, Lopez

Davidoff Swiss Indoors Basel (November 1-7)


It's a special relationship that David has with the tournament at the St. Jakobshalle, and a long-standing one. Ever since winning the title all the way back in 2002, David has returned to Basel every year, posting better and more consistent results than at any other tournament. And bowing out early only once (ironically enough, in 2007). But apart from that, David's track record at Basel includes a semi and three more finals, including the one in 2008, where he lost to Roger Federer (clip).
Top on the Basel entry list: Djokovic, Federer, Berdych, Roddick, Melzer

BNP Paribas Masters Paris (November 7-14)


It was at the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy in 2007 that David put in what has perhaps been his most commanding performance, ever. Beating Federer in straights and dropping only one set (against Ferrer) on his way to the final, where he completely outplayed Nadal. Still, David's record at the year-ending Masters event is a mixed one - and also rather short. Having played it only four times so far, he didn't make it past the second round on the first two occasions. In 2008 however, and coming to Paris as the defending champion, he once more reached the final. - And then almost withdrew before the match because of his hip injury. But in the end, David played and lost to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (clip).
As a Masters event, it's mandatory for the top players. Therefore everyone will be there. Theoretically, at least.

So these are David's stops on his indoor tour across Europe. He has won each of the three events before and should return to these places with good memories.
And feeling better the ball.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

David talks about Asia, Scheduling and Lyon...

(La Nacion)

When David came back home from Lyon, he told the press, waiting for him at the airport, "we'll talk later". Now, about two weeks later, he has kept his promise. On Monday, before catching a flight to Cordoba, David sat down with journalists from three different Argentine newspapers at the Tennis Club Argentino in Buenos Aires to talk about Lyon, his withdrawal from the Asian swing, future adjustments to his schedule and also Delpo's comeback.
These three interviews were all published today and although they're in parts similar, I've translated all three of them (though from one I only took David's quotes). Posting all of them together would lead to an entry of epic and somewhat unmanageable length. Therefore I've decided to only post the article/interview from La Nacion right here. The other two interviews, for Clarin and MundoD, and another photo of David in his pink shirt you'll find here.

So here's Maximiliano Boso's article about and interview with David for La Nacion...

Update (06/10)
And a video of that interview.

David Nalbandian is calm and relaxed in Palermo [part of Buenos Aires], waiting for the flight that will take him back to Cordoba. He talks with the recorder on, but much more when it's switched off and it's no longer about tennis.
The mark left by the Davis Cup semifinal is still there. The 5-0 defeat against France, painful both in sporting terms and because of the repercussions off court, has left a mark Nalbandian is now trying to erase.
The conversation turns to other topics but at a tennis club things happen, like meeting one of his teammates. Horacio Zeballos greets him with a hug, "what's up, El Rey?" They chat for a few minutes, also with Alex Lombardo, Zeballos' coach.
Soon Tito Vázquez appears, the captain. They talk as well. Vázquez asks if he has been getting some rest and what his schedule is going to be like. Nalbandian tells him that he'll play Stockholm or Vienna, preferably the first, if he gets a wildcard [the official site says that he'll play so he must have received one], and then Basel and the Paris Masters 1000. It's an encounter just like any other that could take place here or in other parts of the world. They have a professional relationship.

Q: Why was it [the semifinal] lost?

David: Because we were not as strong as they were, in a good sense. They were better throughout the weekend and in all of the matches. We all gave our best but we were faced with a strong opponent, with players who were in good shape at that moment.

Q: Is it harder for you to lose in Davis Cup?

David: I never like to lose, not anywhere. And losing in Davis Cup hurts even more. Because of your teammates, because of the country, because there's a different kind of pressure. And this time also because it was a semifinal, a very important tie. But it happens sometimes.

Q: There's been talk about the team. Did something get broken in France?

David: No, no, not really. I get along very well with the players and also with the coaches. I was surprised by the mess that followed. I made a comment about something we talked about before the tie, nothing more. I never had any intention of generating anything.

Q: Don't you think that saying the captain "didn't have the guts to make those changes" was a bit strong?

David: I said that totally relaxed and without any kind of intention. I repeat: that was what we talked about before the matches. Afterwards, they asked me whether I would've preferred to play Llodra and I said yes. That was discussed as part of the strategy. Then the captain made his decision and that was fine, that's his job. I also think that I should've been able to beat Monfils on any day. There are no excuses, neither for the team's defeat, nor for mine.

Q: But all is well with Tito?

David: Yes, it's all good.

Q: He'll continue as captain. You two don't have any problems?

David: The players don't make those decisions, the AAT does. All is fine with the coaches. I've played under several captains and I'll continue playing Davis Cup under this captain or whichever one they choose.

Q: Are you difficult or is that just your reputation?

David: It's a bit of everything. In that kind of environment, nobody is easy [to get along with]. It's tough, individualistic. When we get to be on a team, we're not used to that. When I get to represent the country, I give everything and I try to convey that to my teammates and the coaches because the goal is clear for all of us and we want to win the Davis Cup.

Q: Is that the same fire that makes you win but also often betrays you when you lose?

David: I think that things can be good or bad, from the players' side, our coaches, the Davis Cup organisers and the directors [of the AAT, I assume]. It is very difficult if not everybody is pulling in the same direction. If we're not all on the same side, it gets very difficult. We must try to keep the roads open for us. Tennis is an individual sport and it's difficult to form a team, but I think with the guys we have we can achieve it.

Q: Will there be another great season finale, like the ones you used to have?

David: I wish.

Q: Is that what you think?

David: No, I will try to do my best to finish as well as I can. I played a very long series of tournaments in the US and ended up feeling very tired, I didn't stop until Davis Cup. I had a very chaotic first half of the season and then suddenly that series of tournaments. The good thing is that I managed to hold up very well, without any serious injuries, but it was such a long series of tournaments that I ended up very tired and I couldn't completely recover during those last ten days that I was here, so I modified my schedule. I wanted to finish inside the Top 30 to be seeded in Australia, and I've achieved that. I don't have a goal in terms of the ranking now.

Q: Not having to defend any points, does that make things easier for you now and next year?

David: Yes, I only have points from a few tournaments, and almost all of them are from the US swing.

Q: The seasons 2011/12 will be great.

David: Yes, that's the idea, that's what I work for. This swing [US hardcourt] made us realise the pros and cons of my return. The positive side is that I was able to hold up well, playing a lot of matches. But the downside is that I ended up feeling very tired and that it took me a while to recover. So I'll have to plan the next year well, with training, pauses and tournaments. I have to take care that I don't get to play another series of tournaments as long as that one. That's going to limit me for many tournaments. I'll have to be very selective. But yeah, I think I'm going to have the kind of level that will allow me to to compete at the top.

Given that Nalbandian said he has two or three more years at the highest level, it is logical to think that one of his objectives will be the Olympics 2012 at Wimbledon. "I can still make it there, huh? Ha ha! Right now, I don't see that as a goal because it's still too far away but it's obviously a special competition and eventually, if I'm well, it will surely become a goal," he says.

Asked to talk about Juan Martin del Potro, David Nalbandian smiles and brings up something he likes. "Yesterday, I didn't watch anything. I was busy with some other stuff." This other stuff has to do with his fanaticism about the rock band Bon Jovi, whose show at the River Plate stadium on Sunday David went to see, having been invited by the band's drummer Tico Torres, with whom David had the chance to dine at a mutual friend's house the night before. Nalbandian regularly attends the band's shows - it was his brother Dario who turned him into a fanatic - whenever he's taking a break from the Tour.

Back now to talking about Del Potro, Nalbandian says that he was able to watch him play in Bangkok: "He didn't play bad, he served very well and played well in general. Those errors are normal after having been away from the Tour for so long. He will soon be playing well again, I have no doubt."
Nalbandian elaborates: "It's normal to play a little erratically at that stage. It can happen to you that you lose to a guy who is #100 or #150 in the world, imagine coming back after an injury, without having played any matches. That's absolutely normal."

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Some Thoughts about David's Withdrawals...

The strategy as such isn't new - skipping the Asian tournaments to be rested and prepared for the indoor events. David has done that before, and a couple of times. And yet, this time it is different.

This time, David was scheduled to play two tournaments and then changed his mind at practically the last minute. Deciding to skip a 500 event and a Masters because of the long and exhausting trip playing those tournaments would have involved and because of his "growing exhaustion". And it's the timing of this decision, as well as the reasons given for it that I'm finding difficult to accept. To say the least.

First of all, the question is - if the long trip is to be a factor in this, then why did he sign on for Tokyo and Shanghai in the first place? Playing in Asia this year must have seemed like a good idea at some point (despite the trip), otherwise he wouldn't have entered those events. And it's obvious why it would seem like a good idea, given how few tournaments David has played this season. So this is the kind of situation where you would expect him to make some adjustments to his schedule and play in Asia, in order to make the most of the remaining season. And apparently that was the plan, until David changed his mind.

As for the "growing exhaustion", it's early October now. The exhausting series of tournaments he played (Washington, Toronto, Cincy) took place in August. In September, he played exactly three matches, his last two at the US Open at the beginning of the month and then the one in Davis Cup. After which he went back home where he's been ever since. Which makes it difficult to believe that exhaustion really has something to do with this decision.

The timing and the reasons given for it make it difficult not to suspect other reasons behind this, other motives. Of course I don't know what's going on in David's head. But allow me to speculate, to say what I think may have played a part in this.
The timing speaks, I believe, of a decision based more on feelings (or mood, if you will) than on rational considerations. To me, it says - David has decided that he just doesn't want to play. As for the possible reasons, I think that the Davis Cup loss and all that went with it will have left its mark. And not only because of his defeat against Monfils. In the course of that weekend, David went from being the big hero to the one who "sabotaged" the semifinal (as some news sites wrote). So does David suffer from a bruised ego? For my part, I'd say it's probably part of the whole situation.
I also think that after Washington and Toronto, maybe he thought that it would go on like that. I believe he thought that he was now finally his old self again, back to his old strength and able to beat anyone. Back then, he talked about being able to aspire to greater things but only to then see things go downhill again at Cincy and the US Open. Already during Washington, David said that his goal for this season was to be inside the Top 30 at the end of the year. And to me, it looks like he has now reverted to that goal, basically saying - I've already achieved what I set out to achieve, now I'm just going to play a couple of indoor tournaments I like and have good memories of, and then I'll call it a season.

It's no secret that David hates travelling. It's also no secret that David's life doesn't just revolve around tennis. And that's something I've always liked about him. Still, his decision raises some questions. About his priorities at this stage of his career, where he doesn't have that much time left. And also about whether in the future, David will only play tournaments he likes or when he's in the mood for it, to put it drastically. And that makes me ask myself - for how much longer will he be in the mood? Especially if things aren't going the way he wants them to.

- As I've said, it's all speculation. David could put an end to it by explaining his decision, himself. But once more he has chosen not to. Perhaps we'll learn more about it in the days and weeks to come. Otherwise we'll have to see what the indoor swing brings.