Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Situation according to David

By now, the dust has settled. And David is back home in Unquillo for a short break before heading on to Europe for the clay season. But before leaving for Argentina, he talked about the match against Nadal, the way he sees his current situation, the clay season ahead and a few other things.

First, here are two short videos of David, holding what looks like a more or less improvised press conference for the Argentine press after the Nadal match...



Asked about some of the top players struggling at the moment, David mentions Djokovic and Murray having lost early at Miami and Federer losing at Indian Wells but says they're still far ahead of the other players, also in terms of the ranking.
He thinks he served really well against Nadal, much better than in his previous matches, so that's something very positive. As for the many unforced errors he made, he simply needs to train, play matches and spend more time on court. Playing his next match, the next tournament he'll still be lacking in terms of these things but it's just a question of playing and getting used to dealing with the pressure at 30-30 or 30-40, those moments you don't get in training.
He simply needs to play more matches. Though he played much better against Nadal than before. And he didn't feel any discomfort or pain, he felt quite normal. Of course he hopes the pain won't come back but there's no guarantee. He has only just started playing again and so far it's going well. Those muscular injuries he suffered were the result of not playing and being away from the Tour for so long. But though having surgery was a big thing his body has responded well.
Until Roland Garros and Wimbledon he'll have to be careful and listen to his doctors. But he's feeling much more calm now because they're telling him it's going better than expected and there were also no problems during his rehabilitation. So he cannot really say what the future will bring but he thinks he's on the right track.




He thinks he played well and that it was a good match. Though he obviously lost his rhythm after a set and a half and couldn't keep it up after that. But that's normal, as he still lacks match practice and simply hasn't played enough tennis yet.
Moving on to clay now, his plan is to play Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome and Madrid before Roland Garros. Using his protected ranking at Monte Carlo and Rome, while getting a wildcard for Barcelona. How he'll enter Madrid is apparently not completely clear yet* but he plans on playing it. He'll have to see how many matches he'll get on clay but he's optimistic.

(*Update - David is not on the entry list for Madrid with his protected ranking, so he'll apparently get a wildcard.)

There's also a new article about David on the tournament website for Barcelona, announcing his participation at this year's edition of the event and containing a couple of quotes. I've made their slightly dodgy English translation a bit more readable and closer to the original...
"Coming back is not about being inside the Top 100. I want to regain a place among the best."

"By the time I get to Barcelona I hope to be playing well. I know that it will be a difficult tournament for me, because the entry list is very impressive and there are a lot of clay court specialists. But I will give it my all and I want to please the fans, especially because there are always a lot of Argentinean supporters."

"This year, the clay court season will be even more special. I'm going to Europe, hoping to play well and to keep improving. I have no pressure, I'm just looking to find my game and gain rhythm, confidence and [ranking] points."

"At Indian Wells and Miami I've seen that I am injury-free now, and that I can relax and focus on improving my game. I want to compete, to feel good on the court again and enjoy it. I'm on the right track."
The same article claims that David has received a wildcard for Monte Carlo. Which is news to me and David also says something else in that clip above. The Monte Carlo website has David's name on the entry list both with his protected ranking and a star next to his name, signifying a wildcard entry. Though no wildcards have been announced yet... I think it might just be a mistake on the website.

Finally, getting interviewed for Spanish Radio Marca, David once more talked about what might be called his favourite subject...
"It's a great competition and representing your country is something unique. I'm fortunate, being able to represent Argentina every time I play [Davis Cup] and it's a huge satisfaction. Winning the Davis Cup obviously isn't something that happens every day and hopefully, it's one of the titles I'll be able to win in my career."

Asked about a possible rematch against Spain, Nalbandian said that "it's still a long way to go" and that "Russia is a very difficult opponent."

"Right now, [the ranking] is secondary, it's not something I lose sleep over. I want to concentrate on my health and on feeling good again. I think that if I play at a good level, the way I did at Indian Wells and Miami, the ranking will take care of itself." (Source: Clarin)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

David vs Rafa Review - The Shape of Things to Come



Note:
The match is now available for download via the David on Screen page.
(Thanks Andvari for the recording and the highlights clip.)


(Al Bello/Getty Images)

Sometimes, looking back at a match you can identify the exact moment where things went wrong. David's match against Rafa Nadal is one of these matches. And the turning point was the fifth game in the second set. At that moment, David was leading by a set and a great return winner just earned him two break points... Had David converted one of them, who knows what might have happened. But Rafa held his serve. And from that moment on, David only managed to win two more games.
It was to be expected that the longer the match went on, the more David would struggle, trying to keep up with Nadal. That his movement would let him down and that he would start missing his shots. Especially his forehand, always likely to break down in situations like this.
But what wasn't expected (at least for me) was just how well David played up until that fifth game of the second set. Until his strength began to desert him. Though there were occasional flashes of brilliance in the last two sets. And of course there were also rallies where his lack of match practice showed, where he made silly errors, going for the wrong shot or not fully committing to the one he was playing. But for one and a half sets, David was more than able to keep up with one of the best players on the Tour and he played his best tennis by far since surgery. And that's what I'll take from this match, I'll take it as a sign of good things to come. Or in David's own words:
"I think I played pretty well in general. I even had the chance to win and for one and a half sets I was playing really well. "

After once more choosing to serve first, David played aggressively from the start, trying to dictate play from the baseline but also taking a lot of risk with his shots. At 1-1 David found himself in trouble for the first time and eventually gifted Rafa the break with a forehand error. At that moment, Nadal looked to be in charge of proceedings. He was dominating the rallies from the baseline and David was struggling with his returns, granting Rafa lots of cheap points on serve. But still, David hung in there and at 3-2 he was rewarded with a first break point of his own. And after a double fault from Rafa they were back on serve. After the rebreak, David began to find his returns and also his range with his groundstrokes, now taking command of the rallies. And if he got himself in trouble, like when he played two silly drop-shots in a row at 5-5, David served his way out of it, with two aces in a row in this case. Eventually, the first set went to tiebreak that saw a lot of nerves and unforced errors from both sides. David wasted two set points with forehand errors, then saved one with a good serve before finally converting his third set point as another baseline battle ended with a forehand error from Rafa this time, the one David is celebrating in this photo. 7-6(8) (photo: Lynne Sladsky/AP Photo)

At the start of the second set, everything seemed to be working in David's favour.
- Until that ominous fifth game. After those two missed break point opportunities it was as if David's energy levels suddenly dropped. From one moment to the next, he appeared to be just that half step slow, trying to get to the ball. And that had its effect, especially on his forehand. After David gifted Rafa a break and the 4-2 lead with a couple of forehand errors, Rafa was now in the driver's seat. In an attempt to make up for his deteriorating movement, David tried to keep the points short, going for the lines. But because of his poor movement, this only led to more errors. Apart from that, David was no longer getting cheap points with his serve at this stage. Serving to stay in the set at 5-2 Rafa, David quickly went down 15-40 before another forehand error cost him the set.

At the beginning of the third set, David seemed to realise that he was rushing things too much and that he had to be a little more patient during the rallies. And it seemed to work out until at 2-1 Nadal David got into trouble on serve again and forehand error #27 of the match gave Rafa another break. After that, not even David's returns would work anymore. And missing yet another one in the following game he threw his racquet in frustration. Still, when he managed to hold serve comfortably to make it 4-2, there was a last glimmer of hope. In the following game, David managed to take Rafa to deuce, prompting chants of "olé David" from the stands. But two return errors later Nadal was leading 5-2 and the glimmer of hope was extinguished. Serving to stay in the match, David made three forehand errors in a row (#30-32) to set up three match points. Rafa took the first one. With a forehand winner.


(Wilfredo Lee/AP Photo)

More quotes from David after the match:
"After the first one and a half sets, he raised [his level] a little, and my shots didn't have the same intensity anymore."
"Rafa played the important points better than I did and he wouldn't allow me to attack him. I still haven't played enough matches."
"The idea is to play Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome and Madrid leading up to Roland Garros. Then we'll see about the number of matches I play and decide whether we'll stick with the original plan."
"Hopefully the pain won't come back anymore, but there's no guarantee. I'm just starting to play competitive tennis again and I've suffered other injuries due to this lack of playing. Until Roland Garros or Wimbledon I'll have to be careful but I'm not worried because my hip has responded well, there hasn't been any setback so far. And the doctors have told me that my rehabilitation is going better than they expected." (Source: ESPN Deportes - thanks, Anna.)
And there's a lot more (new) photos on the photo page.


Update (29/03)
Rafa talks about David (from his press conference after the match)...
Q. What makes him so good? He's beaten Roger eight times. Is it the backhand? Just the whole package?

Rafael Nadal: Everything, I think. He's very complete player. Anyway, look, I'm very happy to see him back after important surgery. He's a close friend of mine. He is talent, no? He can play very easy. He can make very difficult things very easy. So, you know, when he's playing at his best level he makes you feel like you are nothing in the middle of the court, no? So I think it's strange that one player like David don't have a Grand Slam victory, because he has everything to win.

Miami R3: David vs Rafa - Preview


(Al Bello/Getty Images)

Update
David gave an excellent account of himself but in the end, it wasn't enough.
Rafael Nadal prevailed 6-7(8), 6-2, 6-2, levelling their match record at 2-2.

I've added a first round of photos on the photo page.

More soon...




(Montage: TN)

David versus Rafa. It's the fourth time we'll get to see an encounter between these two. And who could forget the way David dominated and basically destroyed Rafa at Madrid and Paris 2007, allowing him merely seven games in the course of those two matches. And David could've added another straight-set victory at Indian Wells, last year. But after failing to convert five match points, he eventually lost in three sets.
Still, generally speaking David is a difficult match-up for Nadal. Or Nadal is a good match-up for David, whichever way one prefers to look at it. But at this stage of his comeback, does David already have what it takes to beat Rafael Nadal?
Here's David's take on today's match.
"It'll be fun."
"I'm tired but that's normal after having played for two hours and twenty minutes against Troicki. But there's no pain and that's what's important. Last week at Indian Wells, I was completely stiff after the first match and couldn't train the next day."
"Right now, all opponents are difficult for me. I'm very content with those two victories."
"Matches like this one motivate me. On centre court, against a great player like him... That's why I know I'll enjoy [the match]. Obviously I also hope that I'm going to win."
"Those first matches against Rafa may have seemed easy but they were not at all easy. The points were very hard-fought, I had to be very precise [with my shots] and that's what I'm lacking at the moment, precision and consistency."
"Neither of us is a great server so there's a lot of rallies. It [the match] will be good for seeing where we both stand."
"Rafa is not at his best at the moment but my main goal isn't to win on Sunday but to do well in these first three or four months."
"I'm feeling good, destroyed with fatigue but I'll be okay. Rafa is extremely tough to play against, even when I'm healthy, so it's going to be worse this time."
"There are many Argentines living here and so far they've given me a lot of support. Even when I was making errors like a junior player [against Troicki] they still supported me."
And a few words from Rafa about David...
"He's one of the toughest opponents I could possibly face in this round. One of the most talented players, without any doubt. One of the most complete players. There's nothing he cannot do. His backhand is one of the best in the game." (Sources: El Mundo and ESPN Deportes - thanks, Anna)
Of course, David is always good for a surprise. But I think that's exactly what it would be if he were to win this match today - a surprise. It's difficult to say anything about David's chances, without having seen his last two matches. But while it may be possible to beat Troicki, making 60 unforced errors and with serve stats as poor as David posted them during the last match, I'm having my doubts whether this will be enough against Nadal. So if David wants to win this match he'll have to take it up a couple of notches. And whether he'll be able to do that - we'll see.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Miami - A Look back at the Troicki Match

Thanks to Fue Buena (and Krystle, who found their clip) here's an actual look at David playing against Troicki last night...



It's a "best of" video, compiling some of David's best points during the match and making David's performance look much better that it must've actually been. After all, the article on Fue Buena also mentions the 60 unforced errors David committed, prompting him to say that he was making errors "like a junior player".

- In a match that, like so many David matches, was a true rollercoaster, even just following it on the scoreboard. And in a way, each of the three sets had its specific drama leitmotif. In the first set, it was the opportunities to break that David failed to take. While being surprisingly stable on his own serve (he didn't face a break point in this set), David wasted a total of seven break points before eventually converting #8 and going up 4-2. And that one break proved to be enough for David to take the set 6-3.
But then the drama really began. In the second set, David's serve fell apart more or less completely (36% first serves and only 28% second serves won). In what seemed like minutes, Troicki went up a double break and 4-0. But instead of tanking the set and focusing all his efforts on the third, David fought back and managed to get the double rebreak. Back on serve at 4-3, David immediately lost his serve again, but when Troicki served for the set at 5-3, David got the break back yet again and made it 5-4. At that point in the second set, there had already been 6 breaks in 9 games. But it was the seventh one that proved decisive. This time, it was Troicki's turn again and he took the second set.
In the third set David managed to stabilise his serve again and after breaking Troicki in the very first game, the question was whether he would be able to transport the break through the set. A mission that wasn't exactly off to an easy start. Trying to consolidate the break, David had to survive what was the longest serve game of the entire match, including an epic deuce battle (though no break points). But he scraped through. The first break point he faced (and saved) at 4-3. In terms of drama however, David saved the best for last, that is - for the final game of the match. Serving for it, he immediately went down 15-40. But only to then save both break points, set up his first match point and instantly convert it, sealing his 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 victory after 2 hours and 20 minutes.

With this victory David has booked himself a third-round encounter with one of his friends on the Tour - Rafa Nadal. David has done very well against Rafa in the past. But whether he will be able to do so at this stage of his comeback remains to be seen.

It also remains to be seen how much strength and energy those almost two and a half hours have cost David. And how his left hamstring and right adductor have put up with the challenge. So far, I haven't been able to find any statements from David's post-match press conference. But I'll keep looking.


(Wilfredo Lee/AP Photo)

(Two new photos added on the photo page.)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Miami R2 - The Troicki Rematch


(Wilfredo Lee/AP Photo)

Update II

David has sucessfully avenged his defeat from last year by beating Viktor Troicki 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 for a place in the third round. There, he'll face Rafael Nadal...
More tomorrow...
(Two more pics on the photo page.)


Update
1pm Miami time. Play is currently suspended due to rain. So far, one of the three matches scheduled to take place on Grandstand before David's has been finished. By the time play had to be suspended, the second match had not yet begun.
According to the forecast, there'll be more rain throughout the day...

2.30pm Miami time. "A line of showers and possibly a few thunderstorms will continue moving southeast across the Florida peninsula this afternoon." (National Weather Service)

3.30pm Miami time. Play resumes on the the Grandstand. Two more matches to go now until it's David's turn.

4.50pm Miami time. Play is once again suspended. With Jelena Jankovic three points away from victory plus the Blake/Bellucci match still to come before David's match.

5.35pm Miami time. Play has resumed on the Grandstand and Jankovic has already won her match. One more to go now.

6.57pm Miami time. Blake vs Bellucci, the last match before David's match on the Grandstand, goes into a third set. Of course it does...

7.40 pm Miami time. Bellucci beats Blake and David is now next up on Grandstand.

7.58 Miami time. David's match is on now.

One year ago, almost to the day, an injured David lost to Viktor Troicki in the second round at Miami. It was one of his worst matches in the months leading up to hip surgery. Today, David faces Troicki again - and we won't get to see it. That the first round at Miami doesn't get televised/streamed isn't new. But that coverage only starts after half of the second round is already over, is new, I think. So we're in for another round of "scoreboard-watching".

David expects today's match to be a "very tough" one and he thinks of Troicki (against whom he has a 2-1 match record overall) as a "tough" opponent. Therefore, if he wants to win this match, he knows he'll have to play well, serve well and keep the unforced errors count down. - At least that's what he says in this video (thanks, Andvari)...



Apart from that, he talks about being content with the match he played against Kubot and that he didn't feel any discomfort. The match itself didn't provide that much practice as it was rather short and there weren't too many rallies, but it went quite well. And while he's happy to have won, there are things he still needs to work on, most of all his serve and his unforced errors count, though he thinks it's normal to make quite a few errors, not having played that much in a long time. What he really needs is rhythm and to play matches, after all he still hasn't played all that many after those nine months and he's no longer used to playing competitive tennis. But he thinks he's playing good tennis and he's feeling better now, both physically and in terms of his game. He's also very motivated, going into this event. And talking about Stockholm, yes, the others did think that what he did was crazy. - But you only have to see the smile on his face when he says that to know that he'd do it again. Any time...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Miami: David dismisses Kubot, sets up Encounter with Troicki


(Pedro Portal/El Nuevo Herald)

It only took 62 minutes and the result was never really in doubt - David won his first match at Miami against Lukasz Kubot fairly easily 6-3, 6-2. In the second round, he now faces Viktor Troicki, just like last year at this stage. But hopefully with a very different outcome. Their match should take place on Friday and if this is the case then there will once again be no live coverage. Only the scoreboard.

The first set saw an early exchange of breaks after which David's serve began to grow more stable and his first serve percentage started to go up, which was even more important as he didn't win too many points behind his second serve. At 3-2, David managed to get what was going be the decisive break in the the first set. He recovered from down 0-30 in his next service game (something he did more than once in this match) and eventually, at 5-3, served out the match without difficulties, converting his first set point. 6-3

In the second set, David was in complete control of the match and immediately raced to a 4-0 lead. His first serve percentage went down again now (from 64% to 43%) but winning 90% of first and 62% of his second serves in this set, David had little trouble holding serve and didn't face a break point in this set. But he must have been on fire in the return games, allowing Kubot to win only 14% of points on his second serve. At the beginning of the set, it even looked like it could end with a bagel for Kubot but in the end David served for the match at 5-2 - once more without difficulties and converting his his first match point. 6-2

So - a good match from David. And a good start at Miami. Or in David's words:
"The most important thing is to have won but also to have finished the match without feeling any discomfort and without having spent that much energy, after a long time of trying to start playing competitive tennis again." (Source: Olé)


(Al Bello/Getty Images)

More photos on the photo page.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Miami R1 - David versus Kubot


(EFE)

Update

David has defeated Lukasz Kubot 6-3, 6-2. More soon...


Later today, David will play his first-round match against Lukasz Kubot. The match will take place on what's the Centre Court at Miami and though this may seem ironic and also irrelevant, given that the match won't be shown/streamed, it means that it should at least be possible to find some photos from it, afterwards.

To pass the time until the match, here are the quotes from the interview Anna mentioned in the comments (or one of them; thanks). The next Davis Cup tie may still be months away (and Delpo still off the Tour because of his wrist problems) but David is already thinking about the Davis Cup again. Or maybe he never really stopped thinking about it...
"Everybody has the right to have their personal goals. When we talk about this with the others [on the team] I always say - if you're on the team then you have to be ready to give everything and work hard, one hundred percent, not only for yourself or your teammates, but also for the country you're representing."

"Hopefully, [Davis Cup] will be a priority for Juan Martin and important for him to play. If we're both well, we have a great team. We have a chance to win the Davis Cup every year if we all commit to it. It's quite simple. If the best [players] are playing, then you have a better chance of winning."

"If we both go [to Moscow], we have a strong team. I don't know if we can beat Russia without him [= Delpo]. Davydenko is now injured as well, just like Juan Martin. But the tie is still a long way away and so much can happen until after Wimbledon..."

"I ended up completely destroyed, with a lot of pain in my adductor. I thought I had suffered another tear. Such a long time without tennis and then seven sets in two days... I usually end up dead, playing Davis Cup, and this time it was worse without being used to playing competitive tennis. I paid the price for it at Indian Wells. Apart from that, the time difference between Stockholm and Indian Wells was nine hours. We got up at five in the morning."

The much needed days off he enjoyed in a house he owns in Boca Raton, north of Miami. "Luckily I can say that I'm well again, physically, without pain. I'm not back at one hundred percent in terms of my level [of playing], I need to play matches." (Source: La Nacion)
Let's hope he gets as many matches as possible at Miami...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Miami Draw


(Getty Images)

Here it is, David's draw for Miami...

[15] David Ferrer (ESP) vs BYE
Michael Llodra (FRA) vs [WC] Ryan Harrison (USA)
[Q] Andrey Golubev (KAZ) vs Daniel Gimeno-Traver (ESP)
BYE vs [24] Ivo Karlovic (CRO)

[30] Viktor Troicki (SRB) vs BYE
[WC] David Nalbandian (ARG) vs Lukasz Kubot (POL)
Taylor Dent (USA) vs [Q] Rainer Schüttler (GER)
BYE vs [4] Rafael Nadal (ESP)

So David has been drawn into Nadal's quarter, which is in the bottom half of the draw. You'll find the complete draw here.
Lukasz Kubot, David's opponent in the first round, is currently ranked #43. It will be the first meeting between the two and I can only hope that David knows more about Kubot than I do. Which really isn't all that much though I seem to remember that he's more of a clay-courter. In any case, Kubot apparently hasn't played since Acapulco. (No idea, why.)
If David makes it past Kubot, he'll face Troicki in the second round - just like last year. And it could be his chance to avenge what was one of the worst defeats (and matches) I've ever seen from David. After that, theoretically at least, Rafa could be waiting in the third round...
But first of all - Lukasz Kubot and the first round, which once again won't be televised/streamed anywhere. Instead, it'll be back to "watching" the scoreboard.

This year marks the tenth time David will play what some people call the "fifth Slam". But with the single exception of 2006, when he reached the semifinal (where he lost to Ljubicic), David has never really been too successful at Miami. Five out nine times he lost what was his first match at Crandon Park, whether it took place in the first round or in the second. And among those five times are his last two appearances at Miami, his 2008 defeat against Malisse and the gruesome match against Troicki last year, though it's clear by now that David was struggling with his hip injury back then. Still, things can only get better for David at Miami.

Meanwhile, David's early exit at Indian Wells has by now had its consequences in terms of his ranking. David gained 25 points for making the second round but at the same time he had 90 to defend from last year (when he reached the fourth round). Therefore, David effectively lost 65 points and that has now sent him down 22 places to #161. At Miami, David only has 10 points to defend.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Update - On the Road to Miami and then on to Europe



Hi there. I'm back. :)
First of all I'd like to thank Krystle again for covering for me. And for allowing me to take this break, knowing I was leaving Vamos David in the best of hands.

So - what have I missed... The return of the yellow shirt. Great. And David's Stockholm shenanigans catching up with him. Or, as he put it, "I didn't have any energy. I'm still tired from the Davis Cup trip and Melzer also played very well." (Source: La Nacion)
The good news about David's defeat however was that neither the problems with his left hamstring, nor with his right adductor played a part in it. David made sure to deny any such speculations after the match and simply said that he was tired and ran out of steam after the first set. Apart from that, it seems that it was also his lack of both training and match practice that took its toll. And as Krystle pointed out in her report, it was the first match where David had to take on a Top 30 player... Still a long way to go.

According to the official site, David's plan after the Melzer match was to first of all rest for a couple of days and then take up training again with Luis Lobo. So he should be back on the practice court by now, preparing for Miami.
As for the question what David's schedule will look like after Miami and when he will start making use of his protected ranking (which is #15 by the way) - there finally are at least some answers now.
Here's David's schedule for the first weeks of the European clay-court swing and the way he'll get into the main draw (thanks, Anna for the hint about Barcelona).

Masters Monte Carlo (April 11-18) - protected ranking
Barcelona (April 19-25) - wildcard
Masters Rome (April 25 - May 2) - protected ranking

But first of all - Miami. The draw will be made on Monday.


Update
I've added an extra David on Screen page for all past and hopefully also future download links for David's matches. Just like with the photo page you can access it directly via the link the sidebar.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Indian Wells R2 - David Bows Out Tamely to Melzer


(Zumapress)

Before today, David had yet to face a top 30 player in his comeback. The players that he faced were mostly easier to dominate, but even more so, easier to play aggressively against while compromising errors every now and then. I have noticed that since his comeback, David hasn’t really played much of what could be called solid tennis, and that seemed to cost him today, in his 6-4 6-1 loss to Jurgen Melzer. It’s not really his fault. He looked rusty to me, and he looked very rusty in that second set especially.

In the beginning of the match, there was nothing to suggest that the end of the match would disintegrate as quickly as it did. Actually it was a promising start from David. In the first five minutes anyway. He opened up his first service game with some good serving and seemed to carry on with a similar kind of dominance early in the first set. In Melzer’s first service game, David seemed to be returning well and hitting devastating groundstrokes. Not exactly in vintage fashion but he was hitting them so big that all the rallies seemed to be played in his favour, from a control point of view.

I remember being taken by surprise by that because Melzer isn’t exactly a defensive player himself. But maybe he hadn’t been getting to the ball early enough to do more with it, though I think what happened later in the match also suggested that he wasn’t fully confident yet.

This looked a bit like David in his overly aggressive state, trying to keep points short though. At the moment he’s still missing rhythm and timing in his shots, one of his trademarks and also one of the key components in tennis that pretty much determine how well a player is playing. I think when David is playing well, sometimes he has so much time in between shots that it’s like he has so much time to split step and kind of dance around his shots. Here, it seemed like only a matter of time that David would leak an error, if the rally was extended long enough. Melzer hadn’t really been doing much spectacular, but he showed some good defensive skills to hang in rallies long enough for them to turn in his favour. And he seemed to handle the pace well, and in fact seemed to enjoy it.

The key factor in the majority of the first set though was the serve and return. The first set was characterised by short rallies that were either set up by the serve or won directly from it. After a promising opening return game from David, he never looked like he had a chance on Melzer’s serve. Not even close. Only on rare occasions would David actually manage to hit the return in the court, though it must be said that part of this was due to Melzer’s lefty serve which seemed to swing far away from the court after the bounce.


(Zumapress)

I’m pretty sure that if Melzer’s serve didn’t have as much work on the ball, there is no way that David would have shanked so many backhand returns. Though you would have thought that after a while, David would have started to read and anticipate it better. The majority of Melzer’s serves were directed down the T on the deuce court and wide on the ad court, standard lefty serves, and also mostly directed to David’s backhand. Again, I guess this is a timing issue. At least Melzer didn’t seem to have much of a look on David’s serve either. So it was strange to not worry about David’s serve for a while, since it looked to be working well enough. Though I really don’t think Melzer should have stood so far behind the baseline to return it.

The first set was all very standard until the crucial game where Melzer broke serve. I think I noted one of Melzer’s winners in that 4-4 game as being one of his first aggressive shots on the match. I could have very well been right considering that he only ended up with three winners in the first set, and he also stepped into the court to unleash a backhand down-the-line to give himself a clear advantage. I don’t think David moved particularly well to his right, and actually all of his lunging around the court looked to be very heavy-footed.

Melzer definitely stepped up his game, and David was maybe taken by surprise by it. He went down four break points, and after so excitingly saving the first three, succumbed to the final one with a tame double fault. Though he did save one of the break points with a nice kick second serve to the ad court and backhand crosscourt winner, which I’d consider to be one of the most memorable points of the match, probably due to the circumstances.

There was nothing in that set to suggest that the next one would be as one-sided as it turned out, but I guess confidence and lack of confidence can play huge roles in matches, and it did so here for both players. I think somewhere along the way, David lost a bit of pace on his shots but it’s always hard for me to tell whether that’s intentional, in an attempt to regain consistency, considering that when he was in better form, he didn’t always choose to hit at full pace either. In fact, most of the time, he didn’t.

Melzer definitely picked up his pace though, now being more adventurous changing directions and hitting down the lines more. The first return game he played was easily his best of the match, as if much of the pressure had been relieved off his shoulders from winning that first set.

I started to notice David having more difficulty finishing off rallies though. Pretty much nothing was going in his favour. His timing continued to deteriorate as the match went on, hitting a very large amount of shanks for his standards. In the end, I think he had pretty much lost concentration and lost hope, which is what led to the tame ending. Nothing he tried really looked like he believed in it. He tried to hit his way out of trouble, but it was basically just a low percentage attempt. This is now the end of his Indian Wells campaign, and it was unfortunately a short-lived one.

The commentator I was listening to was right. At this stage of David’s comeback, it’s important for him to get as much match play as possible, and this includes the match clock. And unfortunately for him, he was out of this match in 1 hour and 4 minutes, and probably not in competitive mode even earlier than that. But I guess there is Miami coming up not too far away, though by then I won’t be the one here to report on that.

Match download
For anyone that was unable to watch the match, Andvari has kindly uploaded the match to Megaupload (Thanks again!).
http://www.megaupload.com/?d=MDOG4R4Y

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Indian Wells R2 - David faces Melzer

David is scheduled fourth on Stadium 3 against the 22nd seed, Jurgen Melzer. Fortunately for us, Indian Wells is the only Masters event that has live streaming of three courts, rather than the usual two.

The schedule looks like this:

STADIUM 3 start 11:00 am
A Clement (FRA) vs [27] M Baghdatis (CYP) - ATP
J Craybas (USA) vs [11] M Bartoli (FRA) - WTA
E Korolev (KAZ) vs [6] R Soderling (SWE) - ATP
[WC] D Nalbandian (ARG) vs [22] J Melzer (AUT) - ATP
M Russell (USA) vs [32] I Andreev (RUS) - ATP

So I guess that is around 4pm local time/11pm GMT/8pm in Argentina depending on how long the earlier matches take.  I believe that daylight saving starts in California so play starts one hour earlier than it did for Saturday's play.  My TV guide seemed to reflect that, but this website about daylight saving confirms it.

Aside from looking at the Time and Date website, you can also look at the local time in Indian Wells on the official site though it doesn't seem to have been updated today to reflect the daylight saving.

Streams will be available on TennisTV (paid stream), Bet365 (for non-US residents) and also likely on FromSport.com and LiveScoreHunter.com - the usual suspects.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Indian Wells R1 - David Defeats Koubek in the First Round

David has made a successful start to his Indian Wells campaign, disposing of Stefan Koubek 6-2 7-6(2) in an untelevised match. I guess, given the injury cloud that David came into this event, it is good to see him win his first match in a relatively straightforward manner.

The second set was a little more unpredictable and featured multiple service breaks. David served for the match at 6-5 in the second set, but failed to finish it off, but won convincingly in the tie-break.

Now David will meet Jurgen Melzer in the next round. This will be a different match-up and challenge as Melzer likes to take the ball incredibly early, hit big shots and sneak to the net. He also has a rather good serve, so the battle between his serve and David's return should be interesting. David will have to be moving well, since Melzer is the kind of player to take his opponents by surprise. But he is also not very consistent...


(Getty Images)


(Getty Images)


(Getty Images)

Okay, somehow there seem to be a lot of pictures of David hitting a backhand, almost like they are exactly the same shot. There are about two more that I didn't post, but none of him hitting any other shot...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Indian Wells - David Faces Koubek in the First Round

The order of play for David's opening match in Indian Wells has now been released. He is scheduled for third on Stadium 2, following Elena Dementieva's match in case you were wanting to keep track of when that might start.

I predict that the match will start sometime around 2:30pm California time. This is 10:30pm GMT/7:30pm in Argentina. Perhaps it would be best to use the Time and Date website for time zone conversions.

It has now been revealed that David will play against Stefan Koubek in the first round, one of the more experienced players on the tour.  He is ranked 132 at the moment but most people will be familiar with his game, having had a relatively solid and consistent career, and having played his fair share of matches on the ATP circuit, outside of challengers.

I am having a look at the head-to-head ranking and David leads it 2-0, with both wins occurring in 2004 and on clay, though I was more caught by seeing how strange it was, seeing David's ranking as even lower than Koubek's with their names right next to each other, after mentioning Koubek's ranking earlier.

I think of Koubek as a slightly tricky player.  He's a lefty player with nice finesse, and is particularly good at creating angles.  He's quick around the court and relatively consistent from the back of the court, though I guess his foot speed is maybe not as good as it was a couple of years ago.  The main problem for him is that he can't seem to generate that much pace on his shots, so he's not exactly a threatening player, and his serve is also very average.  In short, David should easily be able to control the rallies (then again he does against everyone these days trying to conserve energy), but Koubek might throw him off his rhythm a little bit.

There is no television coverage and no live streams, so I guess we'll all just have to watch the scoreboard.  And maybe post here in the meantime (to make it feel like we're spending time in front of a computer doing more than just watching a scoreboard move).

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Indian Wells Draw

And the good news is... David has drawn a qualifier for his first-round match.
When it could have been anyone...

The other good news (thanks, Anna) is Fue Buena now reporting that David woke up today without feeling any pain and so there won't have to be a scan, after all.

Here's David's section of the draw:

[12] Gael Monfils (FRA) vs BYE
Richard Gasquet (FRA) vs Simon Greul (GER)
QUALIFIER vs [WC] David Nalbandian (ARG)
BYE vs [22] Jürgen Melzer (AUT)

[22] Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) vs BYE
Thiemo De Bakker (NED) vs Marcos Daniel (BRA)
QUALIFIER vs Oscar Hernandez (ESP)
BYE vs [7] Andy Roddick (USA)

This section is the lower half of Federer's quarter (top half). You'll find the complete draw here.
With qualifying having only just begun today, it's not yet possible to present a list of possible first-round opponents for David. Though if you want to have a look at the whole panorama of possibilities, you can do so here (qualifying draw).

At the same time, the fact that David will be up against a qualifier in his first match (and that he's no longer in pain) makes it difficult not to look beyond that first match... This much is certain, if David wins he'll face Jürgen Melzer in the second round. They've only met once so far and that was five years ago at Madrid where David won in straights. But I think that Melzer (who has already reached two quarterfinals and two semis in this still young season) could mean trouble for David. With his lefty serve and the good use he's able to make of the whole court.
As for anything that may - theoretically - come after that, I guess we're all hoping for Gasquet to pull through and take care of Monfils along the way...

- And with this post it's goodbye from me to you. I'm off now to prepare for my exam. Thanks again to all of you who have wished me luck. :)
I will now leave Vamos David - and you - in the more than capable hands of Krystle.

Vamos David! :)

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Day After...

Update (09/03)
According to Fue Buena, David "arrived in Los Angeles at 5.30pm yesterday and rented a car to travel to Indian Wells. His left hamstring is okay but he still feels some pain in his right adductor and therefore there'll be an ultrasound scan today. But he still thinks that he'll be fine and able to play at Indian Wells."


As I'm writing this, David's brief but very eventful visit to Stockholm is already over. According to the well-informed Fue Buena blog (thanks, Tamar and Anna), by now David is on his way to California where he will rest for a couple of days before the start of the next tournament - the Masters at Indian Wells. (First round matches begin on Thursday.)

At first, there was talk of David doing another ultrasound scan in the U.S. to determine whether he would be able to play. But by now it seems that David and both his right and his left leg are in better shape after yesterday's match than initially feared. And that the scan has been cancelled.
(Photo: Arne Forsell/Davis Cup website)

More photos on the photo page.

Yesterday's match marked the 12th time David was able to win a rubber during an away tie (four of those wins having come in doubles.) Though of course he never had to play a rubber with such little preparation before.
Apart from that, David's singles victory has won him 40 ranking points, enough to take a 15-place leap forward in the rankings. As of today, David is ranked #139.

Update (also 09/03)
Andvari (thank you so much!) has recorded the match. You can download it here (flv format):

Set 1: http://www.megaupload.com/?d=8BUAKF0A
Set 2: http://www.megaupload.com/?d=9P0EACIV
Set 3: http://www.megaupload.com/?d=PMKTTP0I
Set 4: http://www.megaupload.com/?d=H4E8C4UJ

In the meantime, Andvari has also uploaded the doubles match:

Part 1: http://www.megaupload.com/?d=S5M7EV28
Part 2: http://www.megaupload.com/?d=4RJ2M3UZ


Here's a look back at yesterday's match.
First up, match highlights (thanks, Andvari).



And the final game and celebration (thanks, Tim).




Some quotes from David after the match...
During the warm-up, I felt a spasm in my left leg and I was on the verge of not playing. In the end, I decided to take the risk because of my passion [for Davis Cup] and because I love playing for my country. From the start, it was a very weird tie and what I did was madness. I didn't even train together with the other guys who were working really hard. But for your country you do spontaneous things like that. I didn't play because I was feeling good. It was a decision made out of instinct and passion.

I had to make a lot of adjustments [during the match]. On top of that, at the end of the first set, I again felt some discomfort in the right adductor. But it never crossed my mind to retire. What was going through my head when I lost the third set? That I have to win the fourth. I tried to finish the points as quickly as possible, to win them at the first chance I got, and it worked.

I'm happy because we've managed to win a very difficult tie. The strategy was clear and we achieved everything we wanted. The guys did a fantastic job, they handled the situation of playing for their country very well. And for my part, the [singles] match I played was much more difficult than I thought it would be because I didn't get to play against a strong server [Johansson] but Vinciguerra still varied his serve really well and it was hard for me to find the return. I'm glad that Argentina is in the quarterfinal.

I'm calm now because I'm shattered. Right now, I'm completely broken, finished, everything hurts. I hope that I'll be able to recover within two or three days when I get to Indian Wells and that I'll be able to put in a good performance, there.

With this tie we were very unlucky, because there were so many injuries. Against Russia [in the quarterfinal] we'll have to have the best possible team. It would be good if Juan Martin and I could be there and if it was possible to form a [fixed] doubles team, because this time I had to play two consecutive days, and I don't think I can play on all three days. But we will all try to do our best. (Source: La Nacion)
David should know what to expect. After all, it'll be his fifth tie against Russia. With the most memorable one certainly being the lost 2006 final. Generally speaking, beating the Russians at home isn't exactly easy. The last time a visiting team won a tie in Moscow was fifteen years ago.
But as this last weekend has once again shown - the rules of logic or statistics don't apply when it comes to David and Davis Cup...


(Fabian Gastiarena)

Last but not least, David explains the basic difference between Swedes and Argentines: "The people here are very respectful and we are very noisy."
(Also from La Nacion.)

But now on to Indian Wells...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Davis Cup Day 3 - David clinches the tie for Argentina


(Reuters)

In the post match interview, David claimed to have only decided to take the court against Andreas Vinciguerra ten minutes prior to the match, because he was feeling worse than expected in practice. Given all the circumstances and drama surrounding David's physical state and the potential damage he was risking to play this tie, it was an impressive performance which resulted in a 7-5 6-3 4-6 6-4 win. Aside from displaying some fine ball-striking, he also held up physically, not showing too many signs of slowing down or fatigue late in this match.

The way David started this match seemed representative of the mental frame of mind he was in, the complete uncertainty surrounding his choice to play this match. Initially it seemed like he thought he could just blast Vinciguerra off the court, finishing points in a couple of shots and not really playing the rallies out properly. It was difficult viewing thinking of the next three or so sets that might be ahead if David continued to play tennis as inhibited as this. Whenever he had to move, he struggled and he looked mechanical in general. It was like trying to watch him play a match on pure ball striking alone. Both players were striking the ball quite flat, low across the net.

Vinciguerra came out firing, no doubt aided by David's defensive skills being poor. But he was cracking his forehand and finding some good angles on it. He played a particularly inspired game, and broke serve early on, though this was during David's slow start. It was only 2-1 in the third set, and there was already the first sign of David grabbing his leg after hitting an approach shot. He seemed to be having some problems changing directions too, landing awkwardly after hitting certain shots, but as his movement and anticipation improved, he didn't need to make as many abrupt movements as he did earlier.


(Reuters)

As the first set progressed, David began to improve his form and confidence in his movement. It was more of a gradual and slow improvement. First he improved his consistency and ability to hang in long rallies, but he'd still throw in these terrible errors that looked nowhere near making it mainly because he'd catch the ball late. What I was most impressed with as the match went on, was how he cut back on the bad errors significantly, which is a sign of how he was moving up to the ball so much earlier than he did to start with.

From 3-4 one break down in the first set, was when David turned the match in his favour, breaking serve with some good first strike tennis and aggressive play. I marked down one particular point at 4-5 in the first set which helped David regain confidence in his own movement, or at least to find a new level of energy that would see him break serve two games later. It was one of those trademark rallies where David had sent Vinciguerra running side-to-side, then he followed it up at the net with an excellent wrong-footing backhand volley. David briefly turned his head thinking the point was over only to find Vinciguerra hitting a superb lob over his head and even though he didn't successfully chase the lob or even get close to it, he'd pretty much covered large amounts of court by the end of it.

In the best game of the match, David broke Vinciguerra's serve to love, to take the first set at 6-5, playing four perfect aggressive points. This marked the end of David's patchy play as the match started to resemble more of a normal standard that we'd expect from him, as if he was injury-free. His improved movement gave him much more opportunities to finish points off at net, and this was a strong point of his in the match.


(Reuters)

I was surprised with how David more or less sustained a consistent level throughout the match, without any horrible service games thrown in for the most part. David was clearly the better player whenever they exchanged groundstrokes, more capable of smothering his opponents but for some reason, he could never step it up to break serve. I think, because his return of serve was not as aggressive as we sometimes see from him.

This time, the crucial break that allowed David to break serve was not as spectacular as the first set. He hung tough in some long rallies, and Vinciguerra made a couple of mistakes trying to return some of David's slice backhands. The third set was slightly more patchy in standard, not being played in the same relentless pace, but I was content at least knowing that David was playing in a more relaxed manner, rather than the forced play at the start.

The longer the match progressed, the more David started to utilise his net play. But he was not playing as aggressively in this set, not on a consistent basis anyway. Vinciguerra began to find more success forcing errors and wearing out David in long rallies. It was pretty much an even set the whole way, but like the other sets, there was a feeling that David might step it up. But he didn't.


(Reuters)

5-4 in the third set was the big dramatic game of the match, one that required three set points on Vinciguerra's part to finally break serve and take the set. It was the first time that Vinciguerra's inexperience and recent playing history started to show. On the first two set points, Vinciguerra had simple second serves and tried to hit great shots off them, except that he'd swing far too late, and far too big missing them miserably. But whenever he got back onto the deuce court, he'd be okay with playing a patient point again, and his slice backhand caused David numerous problems in this game. Though somewhere in the middle of this game, David hit a memorable drop volley that had him twirling his finger in the air.

The fourth set was an unexpected return of form for David, to some extent anyway, reverting to a more aggressive game. I think the most noticeable difference was how he was taking the ball earlier, and therefore taking more control over rallies. David didn't look to do anything overly special to break serve early in the fourth set, but the early ball striking did enough to rush Vinciguerra into error.

Given that David hadn't even shown this year that he was physically capable of not slowing down or showing fatigue in three sets, I thought it was a pleasant surprise to see him keep up a similar standard in the fourth set. His serve was also surprisingly consistent. He finished the match in style with a big backhand down-the-line. I thought Vinciguerra played a very good match though, for his standards. He forced David to play at a relatively high standard, and played well above his ranking.

Davis Cup Day 3 - David confirmed to play the 5th rubber

So far it's going according to the script. Robin Soderling has levelled up the tie, and taken it to a fifth and decisive rubber after defeating Leonardo Mayer in straight sets 7-5 7-6(5) 7-5.

It has now been confirmed that David will play the final rubber against Andreas Vinciguerra, who has been chosen in favour of Joachim Johansson.

Soderling started slowly early in the match, resembling more of the Soderling of old looking slow and sluggish around the court, only capable of being dangerous when standing and delivering on shots. Mayer was fired up from the beginning, but the match started to take a turn when Mayer failed to convert break point opportunities on Soderling's serve at 3-3 in the first set missing two makeable backhands, a theme that would later repeat itself.

Unfortunately this is the problem for Mayer, trying to take the ball early and playing aggressively, the likelihood of not pulling it off on big points. In all three sets, it was late in the set when Mayer would decisively make a couple of poor errors though his timing particularly on the backhand at times cost him.

Soderling started to find his range late in the first set, becoming much more consistent from the back of the court, and dangerous with his forehand. His unforced error count was about half the total of Mayer's which is surprising when you think of Soderling's aggressive power game, but he actually looked very solid. It was almost like he was playing within himself striking powerful shots but also being patient with crosscourt shots, and being able to win points just with sheer pace rather than accuracy. Whereas Mayer pretty much had to hit close to the lines to be able to win points, a sign that he was simply outclassed by a better player.

Towards the end of the match, Mayer started to struggle with either a leg injury or cramp, which explains how his game continued to evolve throughout the match to a more free-flowing game and more net approaches. He started to become irritated with himself in the second set, perhaps not showing enough feel on the ball, then slapped his leg after falling over to go down break point in the second set. Until he no longer believed he could win in the third set, though he still managed to give a decent account of himself once the pressure was off.

Now let's hope that things will continue to go according to plan, and that at the end of the day, David can be the hero, just like he wanted to. And that he can recover from this match physically in a short period of time.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Davis Cup - Argentina in the Lead after the Doubles


(Arne Forsell/Davis Cup website)

David and Horacio Zeballos won today's doubles, defeating Robin Söderling and Robert Lindstedt 6-2, 7-6(4), 7-6(5).
After the second day of the tie, Argentina is now up 2-1.

- Those are the facts after a match that proved of how little importance statistics and sheer logic can be when David is playing Davis Cup. On paper, it looked like a very makeable rubber for the Swedes, with their experienced doubles team and playing in front of their home crowd. Against Davis Cup debutant Horacio Zeballos and David, coming straight from another injury and having played exactly two matches in the last ten moths. Apart from that, the two of them only had one and a half days to prepare for their first ever doubles match together...

I guess you cannot even blame the Swedish team for being as surprised as they obviously were when after the first four games they found themselves down a double break and 4-0. From the very first point on, David and Horacio seemed determined to give everything they could - but also to enjoy themselves on court. It was clear from the start that David was the boss. But the atmosphere between the two was very relaxed and that helped Horacio to play his best tennis, or as he later said, "I felt very safe with David at my side". Early on in the match, David hit a couple of amazing return winners and also displayed some deft touch at the net. And although his serve didn't really look too good at first (it improved as the match went on though his first serve percentage was once more a catastrophe) he was able to hold serve, also in the important moments, for example when he served for the first set at 5-2 and after saving a break point served an ace to set up a first set point. In that moment, one of their biggest strengths today became apparent - they took the first chance they had and won the first set 6-2.



In the first set, David and Horacio had been the dominant team, playing more aggressively than the Swedes and also showing no real signs of any coordination problems. Especially on David's serve, Horacio covered the net extremely well, winning many quick points for their team with his amazingly fast volleys. At the start of the second set, however, a couple of unfortunate points during Horacio's first service game (and maybe also the Swedish crowd recovering from their shock again) led to an early break against Argentina and gave Sweden a 2-0 lead. At 3-0 and on David's serve the Swedish team had another break point to go up a double break but once again, David saved it with a service winner and eventually held for 3-1. At 4-2, David and Horacio managed to get the re-break, when Lindstedt dropped his serve after having already been up 40-15. Once more taking the first chance that presented itself to them. At 5-4 and on game point, David played a series of artistic volleys at the net that had Horacio bow to him and of which I really hope there's going to be a YouTube clip... In the end, the set went to a tiebreak. There, they had two set points at 6-4, the first of which coming on Horacio's serve. And once again, he immediately took his chance and converted it with an ace. 7-6(4).


(AP Photo)

Though David and Horacio were now leading two sets to love, many of the games had been fairly long and hard-fought until this point. But this was to change now in the third set. Until 6-5 Argentina, there were neither any deuces, nor further break points. Instead, all four players easily held their serves until Lindstedt had to serve for Sweden to stay in the match. That particular game saw a lengthy deuce battle but in the end no break, i.e. match points. Instead, the third set also went to a tiebreak. Which began with a clean return winner from Lindstedt off a second serve from David and therefore a mini-break for Sweden. But already two points later, Horacio hit a return winner off a second serve from Söderling to bring them back on serve. At 3-2, a great return from David drew the error from Lindstedt and now saw them up a mini-break. Eventually, at 6-4, David and Horacio had two match points, though this time the first one came on Söderling's serve and he managed to save it with an ace. But then, at 6-5, it was Horacio's turn to serve... And he converted their second match point with a great short volley cross. 7-6(5).

Here's a clip of the last two points...



(More photos from the match on the photo page.)

In his interview directly after the match, David was of course happy about the victory and also full of praise for his new doubles partner...
A key rubber for this tie. We played a very good match. We had our doubts because we've never played together before and I just arrived here. But Horacio was fantastic. As if he had already played 20 Davis Cup ties and that was his debut today... He played an impressive match. Taking the match point by point helped us a lot.
But at the same time, he had to admit that he's not in perfect shape and that by all rights he shouldn't be playing...
I feel fine but the adductor is there, only half okay. The reality is that I shouldn't be playing. I came here only to play the doubles and fortunately, we won. But well, we'll see tomorrow...
Tito Vázquez is still hoping for Leonardo Mayer to pull off the big upset and beat Söderling tomorrow. But he's obviously speculating that if it all comes down to a decisive fifth rubber then David will play...
David has a good chance of playing tomorrow. Mayer will play against Söderling and if after that the score is 2-2 then hopefully we'll have a surprise for them. Then we'll see who's going to play [the fifth rubber]. (Sources: canchallena.com & Olé)
Though I'm not really sure whether it would be such a huge surprise for the Swedes, as the following quote from Robert Lindstedt (from his interview for the Davis Cup website) shows...
Hopefully we made David run a little bit so he's not going to feel too fit tomorrow.

In his audio interview for the Davis Cup website (which you can find at the bottom of this article), David once again admits that he's not 100% fit and that he hopes he won't have to play tomorrow. But that he will if he has to...
The Davis Cup madness continues.

- But whatever may happen on the third day of this tie, one thing is certain. I won't be here to see it. Instead, Krystle's debut on Vamos David will come a little sooner than expected and she'll keep you posted tomorrow. So, be nice to her. ;)

Davis Cup vs Sweden - Day 2: Doubles with David

After about 16 months, David finally returns to the Davis Cup stage today.
Merely a week ago, this would've seemed completely impossible. But nothing is impossible when it comes to David and his beloved Copa Davis...
It will be David's first Davis Cup match after the disastrous 2008 final against Spain and the lost doubles (with Calleri) there. Now, David's Davis Cup comeback will again be playing the doubles, Argentina's "problem rubber".

And David will play it with someone he has never played with before, nor had enough time to train with... 24-year-old, left-handed Horacio Zeballos is, as the stats reveal, more successful at playing doubles than singles on the Tour and has a current doubles ranking of #42. He plays with different partners, so he's used to adapting to a new partner quickly. But what's probably more important for today - he has never played a Davis Cup match before. While for David, it will be his 37th match (and the 16th doubles).

I never really know what to expect when it comes to the doubles rubber. And even less so in this special case...
I guess I just hope that David won't find a way of injuring himself again.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Davis Cup vs Sweden - Day 1

In the first rubber of this weekend's tie, Eduardo Schwank has lost what was his first ever Davis Cup match. After two hours and thirty minutes, Robin Söderling prevailed 6-1, 7-6(0), 7-5 to give Sweden the expected 1-0 lead.
Still, I think Schwank deserves credit for making this match a lot more competitive than I for one thought it would be.

Update
After the second rubber and at the end of Day 1, Argentina and Sweden are now tied at 1-1.
Argentina's #1 Leonardo Mayer fought back from a set down to defeat Joachim Johansson 5-7, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4. All of that in Mayer's first Davis Cup singles match (and his second overall).
His victory grants the Argentine team what's probably the best result they could realistically hope for after the first day.
And it also means that absolutely nothing has been decided yet.

Here's a (bad) screencap I've taken of David, congratulating Mayer after the match...




Update II
It has been clear pretty much since David arrived in Stockholm but by now, Tito Vázquez has officially confirmed that David will play the doubles.
We'll definitely use David tomorrow – he hasn't just come to watch. It's great for us to have a fresh guy in the doubles and he will play with Horacio Zeballos. (Source: Davis Cup website.)
Whether or not David will also play on Sunday, perhaps even against Söderling, is still the subject of much speculation. My guess would be that David will have to wait and see how tough the doubles will be for him and in what kind of shape he is, afterwards.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Training Videos

Update (05/03)
La Nacion has this report about David's first evening in Stockholm yesterday, complete with some quotes and David admitting that what he's doing is indeed madness...
At 6.20pm the Lufthansa flight with David Nalbandian on board landed at Arlanda, Stockholm's airport.

At 7.30pm, Nalbandian appeared at the Kungliga Tennishallen and couldn't keep himself from joking around with vice-captain Ricardo Rivera, who was on court, playing some points with Luis Pianelli, the team's stringer.

At 7.35pm, Nalbandian went down the stairs to the locker room, together with his faithful companion and kinesiologist Diego Rodriguez, and walked directly into Federico Delbonis, the player he's replacing, and Modesto Vázquez, Argentina's captain. "Sorry, mate. This was a crazy idea," Nalbandian said to the 19-year-old Delbonis. "Thank you for coming, David," Tito cut in quickly.

At 7.40pm, Javier Maquirriain [apparently the team's doctor] examined the strained right adductor.

At 7.50pm, Nalbandian walked onto the court, ready for his first training session in Stockholm, along with the one who will be his doubles partner on Saturday - Horacio Zeballos.

With the help of Delbonis, Caio Rivera and Tito Vázquez, the training for the [newly formed] doubles was designed for them to find their rhythm and also to start adjusting some things, like the positions on court. David will be playing on the left because the left-hander [Zeballos] prefers to play his forehand at the centre of the court. Nalbandian was constantly giving instructions to Zeballos. On Friday, apart from [following] the first two rubbers, they will do two more shifts of training and continue to work on the details.

"It's not ideal to come here now, but it was a strange week and fortunately one that saw a very positive development. If I think about it, I'd say that I shouldn't be playing yet. Having come here is madness, but I do it because I love Davis [Cup] and because playing for Argentina motivates me. The first training went well. I hope to do my part in the doubles," Nalbandian said.

And on Sunday, if necessary? "Today is Thursday... Tomorrow, there's the two singles? Then we play on Saturday? And then we'll see. - I still haven't got my bags," added Nalbandian, who had to practice in an outfit borrowed from Diego Rodriguez and shoes from Alejandro Lombardo, Zeballos' coach.

"That David was able to come is a huge help for us. He's a great Davis Cup player. He'll help us stay calm and he'll lead the way because we are fairly new to this. I'll be the best partner I can be for him in the doubles. He's the leading figure of the team," Zeballos said.

And Mayer? "For us it changes everything. David is a great Davis Cup player. That he's here is what's best for everyone. He's going to play the doubles, which is always the most difficult rubber for Argentina."


And here are some clips of David arriving, training, practicing doubles with Zeballos and doing a first interview at the Kungliga Tennishallen in Stockholm (thanks, Tamar)...













News agency EFE reports that David arrived in Stockholm only with his hand luggage as his bags got lost somewhere along the way between Argentina and Sweden. Therefore, David had to borrow a pair of shoes for his first training session... (Though for some reason his hand luggage apparently contained what looks like a Yonex training outfit.)

Davis Cup Schedule

Update - the first photos of David training in Stockholm...




(AP Photo)


Here's the schedule for the weekend...

Friday
Matches start 3pm CET (2pm GMT, 11am Argentina, 9am EST)

Eduardo Schwank vs Robin Söderling
Leornardo Mayer vs Joachim Johansson

Saturday
Doubles starts 4pm CET (3pm GMT, 12pm Argentina, 10am EST)

David Nalbandian/Horacio Zeballos vs Robin Söderling/Robert Lindstedt
[The official version of the draw is that Zeballos will play with Mayer but it's clear by now that David will play the doubles.]

Sunday
Matches start 1pm CET (12pm GMT, 9am Argentina, 7am EST)

Leonardo Mayer vs Robin Söderling
Eduardo Schwank vs Joachim Johansson

I cannot offer you any photos of David at the draw ceremony for the simple reason that David wasn't able to attend it. Usually, players have to be present at the draw ceremony. But the Argentine team was able to get a special permission for David to join the team after the ceremony. (Which is also why his name doesn't appear on the official draw). David is expected to arrive in Stockholm in the early evening.


(Olé)

The matches will be streamed on Bet365.
I'll try to make further stream links available here in time for David's match.
- Or matches? Some of the Argentine sites already proclaim that David will definitely play on Sunday. But I think that La Nacion, who interviewed David directly before he boarded his Lufthansa flight to Europe, are closer to the truth, writing that "depending on the results and how tired he feels after the doubles, he would risk playing the fifth rubber, although he's not back to 100%"...

Update
...Though David obviously feels confident enough about his recovery and current state to fly to Stockholm and play one, if not two live Davis Cup rubbers. After having read all sorts of bits and pieces about how David's late addition to the team came to pass, I'll try now to put together a chronology of events.
As you will remember, last Saturday the news came that Juan Monaco got injured at Acalpulco and that he was out of the tie. (Pico has by now said that if possible, he wants to fly to Stockholm as well to support the team.)
On Monday, David had another ultrasound scan which revealed that the tear he suffered at the Copa Telmex has fully healed. Or at least, that was the verdict of the Argentine doctors who reviewed the scan images. Dr. Ruiz-Cotorro was apparently not consulted this time.
On Tuesday, David and his coach Luis Lobo called Ricardo Rivera (vice-captain of the Argentine Davis Cup team) and informed him that David was "practically recovered" from his injury, asking whether he might still be considered for the team. When Rivera delivered the news to Vázquez, the captain was extremely glad to hear of this development. After calling a meeting with the rest of the team, he invited David to Stockholm - under the condition that he'd first play a full match at home as a proof of his fitness.
Therefore, on Wednesday, David played a test match on an indoor hard court against Argentine player Guido Pella. After that match, David felt confident enough about his health and fitness to declare that he was "better than the rest" (source: Clarin).
So the Argentine team got a special permission for him to join the team at the very last minute. And David got on the plane yesterday to fly to Europe.

Some quotes from David (source: La Nacion)...
Hopefully, they [= the Swedes] will be a little frightened.

I hope that my teammates will be glad to see me and that [my arrival] won't make them feel uncomfortable because they've already been training for a couple of days and they're working hard for Argentina. I'm going to add to the team. I hope I can lend a hand, play and be [the team's] #1 supporter.

I don't know whether it's going to make any difference. We'll have to see how it all turns out. I hope that the team will do well and that [my presence] will generate some doubts among the Swedish team.

A first reaction from Sweden's captain Thomas Enqvist...
If Nalbandian plays, it won't really change too much. He's a class player, but I think it [David being on the team] is more important for Argentina than it is for Sweden.

(Additional sources: Telam 1, 2)