Thursday, April 29, 2010

David to play the World Team Cup


(Rochusclub in Düsseldorf; photo: Zinn Tennis)

According to this news item on the World Team Cup website (only available in German at the moment; thanks Denise),
"there will be a prominent addition to the Argentine squad for the World Team Championship in Düsseldorf (May 16-22) in form of David Nalbandian. Team captain Luis Lobo has nominated the 28-year-old right hander as Argentina's fourth player. (...) It will be Nalbandian's third appearance at the ARAG World Team Cup after 2003 and 2006. Juan Monaco, Horacio Zeballos and Eduardo Schwank will complete the Argentine team."
So much for David only having two more clay tournaments ahead of him. Then again, the World Team Cup, traditionally played the week before Roland Garros, isn't really the toughest or most serious of events. And as part of a four-player team, it will probably be up to David to decide whether he wants to play and if so, how much.

And there's good news from the official site, which reports that David has been making "excellent progress", which has by now allowed him to take up training again.
Under the watchful eyes of his medical team, David has started practicing again, though without moving too much, in order to not endanger the area affected by the injury. "I'm very satisfied with the development of the recovery which has been progressing exactly as planned," David said, in good spirits.

The current objective of "El Rey" is to continue his rehabilitation in order to be in perfect physical shape for the Masters 1000 in Madrid, a tournament he managed to win in 2007 when he beat Roger Federer in the final. This year's edition will begin on May 9, on clay at the "Magic Box".

Update (30/04)
By now, there are two different versions of how David will spend the week before Roland Garros. While the World Team Cup website insists that he'll be part of the Argentine team in Düsseldorf, the website of the Guinot Masters exhibition at the Paris Golf & Country Club (which takes place during the same week) also lists David among the participating players...
We'll see which version proves to be the right one.

Update II (01/05)
As David will play only one match at the Guinot Masters exhibition (vs Roddick; Friday, May 21), he will probably begin the week in Düsseldorf and then fly over to Paris in time for that match (thanks, Denise).

Monday, April 26, 2010

Rankings Update

I just wanted to let you know that I haven't been lazy or forgetful. It's just that there's very little to report at the moment...

Except that today, David's points from Barcelona last year came off and, as expected, this has sent him down 32 places, back to #151.
But with no more points to defend this year, things can only get better now.

Meanwhile, David is back home, recovering and preparing his comeback. - Just like after the Copa Telmex. David's special record on clay this season: two events played, two muscular injuries suffered. I guess it's safe to say by now that playing on clay involves a certain risk for David. Therefore, it's perhaps not too bad that by the time he returns, there will only be two more clay tournaments left for him to play, Madrid and Roland Garros.
(photo: EFE)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

(Not really an) Update...

No news from David at the moment. Except that according to Clarin, he was expected to arrive in Argentina last night. About the exact nature of his latest injury, there are still different versions to be found in the Argentine press. Some news sites describe it as a 4cm distension, others as a 4mm tear, which is obviously the result of the ambiguous press release on David's official site. And without really knowing what kind of injury David has, whether distension or tear, it's difficult to tell whether skipping both Barcelona and Rome was simply inevitable or more of a precaution.
So we'll probably have to wait for a new interview with David to find out what is really the matter with his left hamstring. And whether he'll be able to return at Madrid, which still seems to be the plan at the moment.

In the meantime, the 90 ranking points David effectively gained by making the quarterfinal at Monte Carlo (he got 180 but had 90 to defend) have taken him up to #119 in the ranking. Next week, however, his 90 points from Barcelona last year will come off and that will cost him the progress he's been making in the ranking, sending him back to around #150. But the good news is that after those Barcelona points, there'll be no more points for David to defend for the rest of this season.


Update (22/4)
There's a new article from El Cronista (thanks, Ciccio) about David's injury, including quotes from Dr. Ruiz-Cotorro. Apparently, it is a 4mm tear in his left hamstring and therefore, according to David's doctor, a "minor injury and normal for a player coming back after surgery, who has had three tough matches on three consecutive days." And the injury is in no way related to David's hip. "His hip is fine because he's a great patient. It's great news that he has recovered so well."
According to this article, David will remain in Barcelona until the end of this week for further tests and examinations. But in any case, the plan is for him to return at the Masters in Madrid.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Neither Barcelona, nor Rome - David injured again

Bad news from the official site...
As a result of the injury David suffered during the David Cup quarter-final against Novak Djokovic in Monte Carlo, a new ultrasound scan has confirmed there to be a strain of four centimetres in the hamstring of his left leg, which forces him to pull out of the tournament in Barcelona and the Masters 1000 in Rome.

During the match against Djokovic, David felt a pull in that muscle. After the match an ultrasound scan was performed which showed a swelling in the affected area and 48 hours later it was confirmed that it was a tear of about four centimetres in his left hamstring muscle.

Therefore, David and his personal doctor Angel Ruiz-Cotorro have decided that the best way for him to recover from this new injury will be to stay off the circuit and skip the next two tournaments David was scheduled to play.

David said that he's "sad to leave the circuit at this time, as I've been playing at a very good level and adding hours on court to [build up] my game."

David will soon be returning to Unquillo to begin rehabilitation for this new injury.
- This is the literal translation. First it says "strain" and then it says "tear" though it probably is a tear. Four centimetres sounds like a whole lot to me, maybe they mean millimetres.
But what's certain now is that David won't be playing the next two weeks.
Just when things looked to be getting back to normal again...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Barcelona Draw

UPDATE: David will neither play Barcelona, nor Rome.


Update II
(19/04)
Still no news from David...

To pass the time, here's an interview with David from last Thursday for the Spanish sports newspaper Mundo Deportivo (thanks, Anna).
Q: Monte Carlo is your fourth tournament after the pause. How do you feel?

David: I need matches to find my rhythm but it's going better than I expected. I've lost the fear of feeling discomfort or pain in the hip.

Q: Do you see tennis differently now?

David: It's a sport where you're always in a rush and you don't have time to enjoy what you're doing. The pause was good for me mentally because it gave me time me to think, to value what I've achieved and to enjoy other things. I intend to enjoy my last years of tennis as best as I can.

Q: Do you set goals for yourself?

David: This is not time to be thinking about the ranking or titles. It's not something I worry about because I know these things will take care of themselves if I manage to get back my level [of playing]. Right now, my goal is to finish the clay swing, physically the most demanding part of season, healthy. And depending on the results, I'll then go for more.

Q: What would you prefer, winning a Grand Slam or the Davis Cup?

David: Both, but if I have to choose, the Davis [Cup]. Argentina is a country with the potential to win it, but so far we haven't managed. It's special, it's different from the normal tournaments, you have a whole country behind you.

Q: You lost in Mar del Plata. Are you and Del Potro united now?

David: I haven't talked to him about it [Davis Cup], but we both know that the best thing for the team is if we're united at all times.

Q: You helped the team win the first round in Sweden.

David: It was an act of madness, I got there on the last day [before the tie], the kind of thing you only do when it comes to Davis Cup.

Q: Next week, it's the Barcelona Open. What does that tournament mean to you?

David: For me, it's special. There are many ties I have with Barcelona, my doctor, my manager and Barça [FC Barcelona], which I'm a passionate fan of. I spend much time here even if there is no tournament going on. I have many friends there, I feel at home.

Q: Your good friend Rafa Nadal has won the tournament for five straight years now. Do you think he'll win again this year even though he hasn't won a title for a while now?

David: Look, people exaggerate a lot when it's about Nadal and ask too much of him all the time. What do they want, he has done great things but it is normal not to win every week, that's normal in sport. But he's playing better and better and on clay Rafa will remain to be Rafa, the biggest favourite.

Q: Should we put you on the list as one of the other candidates for the title?

David: Well, I would like that but there's a lot of good players here and I'm going step by step. Right now, I want to play tennis and with every match I'm feeling better. So I'll try to do my best.

Q: You've said that you're a fan of Barça. What do you think about Pep Guardiola's [FC Barcelona manager] team?

David: I really enjoy [watching them play], I've never seen a football team like this, playing this way. It doesn't get better than this, it's like they play a different sport.

Q: And your fellow countryman Leo Messi?

David: The best player in the world without any doubt. He's a crack, different from all the others.

Q: What do you think about the way he plays for the Albiceleste [Argentina's national team]?

David: It has been said that he still hasn't always played as well there as he does for Barça. But as part of a club team you play the same system every day and with the national team, there's no such continuity. But it's only a matter of time. Messi will surely shine at the World Cup.


Update
(18/04)
According to a new article from La Nacion, David has suffered a strain of the left hamstring during the match against Djokovic. The scan has shown that there's no tear this time but an edema and right now, as I'm writing this, David apparently still doesn't know whether he'll be able to play.


Right now, it's not clear whether David will be able to play Barcelona. Whether his left hamstring is better again by now. Whether the scan schedulded for today is merely a precaution or whether another muscular injury will sideline him for the next week... We'll have to wait and see.

In the meantime - the draw for Barcelona is out now.
And this is David's quarter:

[4] Fernando Gonzalez (CHI) vs BYE
Michael Russell (USA) vs QUALIFIER
Peter Luczak (AUS) vs Ernests Gulbis (LAT)
Jeremy Chardy (FRA) vs [14] Albert Montañes (ESP)

[11] Jürgen Melzer (AUT) vs [WC] David Nalbandian (ARG)
Ilya Marchenko (UKR) vs Oscar Hernandez (ESP)
Richard Gasquet (FRA) vs Igor Andreev (RUS)
BYE vs [5 WC] Fernando Verdasco

Full draw here.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Au revoir, Monte Carlo - David downed by Djokovic


(Reuters Pictures)

Update II
Quotes from David after the match (from the official site, thanks Ciccio).
"I am very happy to have reached this stage at this important tournament. Novak played a great and very consistent match in both sets."
And the not so good news...
"I finished the match feeling a little sore, which is why there'll be a scan tomorrow in order to assess the extent of the injury together with my personal doctor, Angel Ruiz-Cotorro."
Looks like it wasn't the hip but now it's his left hamstring again.


Update: The match is now available on the David on Screen page.
In two different versions this time. (Thanks, Krystle and Andvari.)

David's run at the Monte Carlo Masters ended today with a defeat at the hands of Novak Djokovic, who won 6-2, 6-3. After a catastrophic start, David managed make the match more competitive. But although he was able to consolidate his game in the second set, playing well in patches, David was unable to keep up with Djokovic.

Perhaps, this week's exertions caught up with David today. Djokovic played a great and very consistent match. But still, from the start David seemed to be struggling in virtually every department. With his serve, his movement on court and the accuracy on his groundstrokes, even in those moments when he wasn't under immediate pressure. The result: 33 unforced errors in this relatively short match. The only thing that worked for David today was coming to the net, which he did and almost always with success during the second set. But it wasn't enough to turn around the tables.

At the start of the match and before David even knew what was happening, he already found himself down a double break and 0-3. From the first rally on, Djokovic dictated play from the baseline, exposing David's weak movement, especially on the forehand side, by going down the lines. And the power and accuracy of Djokovic's strokes left David with little to do but scramble left and right, trying but often enough failing to retrieve his shots. Still, David managed to get one break back, helped by couple of Djokovic's few errors today. But although he started to get into the match a little better after the re-break, he could neither find a way of truly capitalising on Djokovic's relatively low percentage of first serves, nor of stabilising his own. At 4-2 David lost his serve to love again and minutes later, Djokovic took the first set, 6-2.

The second set began with another break against David. But only one this time. And the second set was not as one-sided as the first one. With his groundstrokes, especially his forehand, letting him down and unable to keep up with Djokovic from the baseline for the most part, David began to shorten points and attack at the net. He also hit a couple of great returns in this set and an amazing lob winner. But those great moments were too few and far between to really turn the match around. David had a last chance to draw level at 4-3, when he had two break points. But when he couldn't convert either of the two, it was pretty much clear how the match was going to end. And it did, with Djokovic comfortably serving it out, 6-3.

During the second set (at 3-2) also this happened:


(AP Photo)

- The shock moment I mentioned earlier on. A familiar sight and one I was really hoping I wouldn't get to see anymore. David holding his leg, the way he used to do it before surgery. I don't want cause a panic here. But I can't wait to see what David will have to say about this match, whether he was in pain. I hope it was maybe just a brief moment.
(I just watched that particular rally again and seeing it for the second time I think it might not have been that bad after all, maybe he pulled a muscle a bit - though that could also have consequences... We'll see.)

And so a great week at Monte Carlo ends...
David will now travel to Barcelona. For the "Trofeo Conde de Godó" and maybe also to pay a visit to Dr. Ruiz-Cotorro. Hopefully just to say hi.

The draw for Barcelona will already be pulled tomorrow (at noon CET).

More photos on the photo page.

Monte Carlo QF - David vs Djokovic


(Valery Hache/Getty Images)

Update
David has lost his quarterfinal match against Djokovic, who prevailed 6-2, 6-3.
There was a brief shock moment towards the end of the second set, when David felt his left leg, indicating problems with his hip. But afterwards he seemed to be moving okay again. It remains to be seen what he will have to say about it, whether he was in pain.
But in the end, Djokovic simply was the better, much more consistent player today.

More soon.




(EPA)

When the draw came out last weekend, I refused to look any further than the second round. Now it's quarterfinals day at Monte Carlo - and David is still there.
So yes, thumbs up, David. :)

Today, for the second time after his comeback, David will be up against one of the top players and the top seed at this tournament, Novak Djokovic. It'll be their fourth encounter, with the Serb having won two of the three matches they've played, all of which took place on fast surfaces. David's only victory over Djokovic so far was part of his run at Madrid 2007, while the last time they met (Queen's Club 2008) David only managed to win a single game, though at a time when his hip was causing him serious trouble.
Today's match will be their first meeting on clay and despite the problems Djokovic has had recently, I'm expecting this to be a very tough match for David. As I think of Djokovic as an excellent clay-courter and a player whose defensive abilities might make it very hard for David to construct points the way he did for example against Robredo. In any case, it's matches like this one, against a top player and on the big stage that David likes and that he probably missed the most during his months of absence.

The first match on Court Central, Ferrer vs Kohlschreiber, is underway at the moment. After that Nadal vs Ferrero - and then David against Djokovic...

12.30pm (local) Ferrer beats Kohlschreiber. Only one more match to go now.

1.27pm Play is suspended on Court Central, due to rain and strong winds...

2.01pm Nadal and Ferrero are back on court, getting ready to continue.

2.27pm Nadal takes the first set.

3.09pm Nadal wins. And David & Djokovic are up next on Court Central...

3.22pm And here they come.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Monte Carlo - Welcome to the Quarterfinal


Match highlights by Andvari (thanks).
The match is available for download on the David on Screen page.
(Recording by Krystle - thank you!)


(AP Photo)

Perhaps David felt a little tired, going into this match. But still good enough to knock out the second seeded player in a row and this time without the drama. In their third meeting in Monte Carlo in a row, David defeated Spain's Tommy Robredo 6-3, 6-4, coverting his first match point after 89 minutes. This victory grants David a place in tomorrow's quarterfinal where his opponent will be the top seed Novak Djokovic. And although David has played a very impressive tournament so far, in the quarterfinal a whole new and much bigger challenge will wait for him.

After yesterday's epic battle, the contrast to today's match could've hardly been much greater. And while there were not as many spectacular and wild rallies as in the match against Youzhny the important thing is that today, David managed to tidy up his game and get the unforced errors count down when he had to. And that, also in a stark contrast to yesterday, his break point conversion was immaculate. Breaking Robredo's serve 3 times in the course of the match, David invariably did so at the first time of asking.

David began the match, playing aggressively from the start, trying to keep the rallies from getting too long and to expose Robredo's backhand. But also growing a little impatient at times and going for the winner too early. At 1-1, with David serving and on game point, David thought a shot from Robredo had been out and that he had already won the game. But umpire Bernardes overruled the call. During the deuce battle that followed, Robredo wasted three break points with errors, rather than David saving them. A scenario that repeated itself at 2-2 when David came back from 0-40 down, again helped by errors from Robredo. At 4-3 David had his very first break point of the match and once again, he profited from an unforced error by his opponent, giving him the break and the 5-3 lead. Serving for the set, David quickly went up 40-0 and after sending a forehand long on his first set point, he converted his second with an easy forehand winner as a return from Robredo landed short.

At the start of the second set, David immediately broke Robredo again but after initially consolidating his break and going up 2-0, Robredo broke back to level the score at 2-2. At this stage of the match, David seemed to have lost his range a little, making lots of unforced errors (especially with the forehand) and not moving too well at times. And I was beginning to think that yesterday's match might now catch up with him after all. But it was exactly in that moment, David pulled himself together again. He cleaned up his game and constructed his points much better now, setting up attacks with his backhand, preferably down the line, and then finishing points at the net. At 3-3, David broke Robredo for the third and eventually decisive time in this match, converting his break point in style, with a return winner. Serving for the match at 5-4, David threw in a double fault for 15-15 but then went on to convert his first match point with an easy smash.

Overall a good and solid performance from David, making 65% of first serves and hitting 26 unforced errors to 20 winners. And it's also good that he didn't have to spend too much time on court today.
Still - tomorrow a much bigger challenge awaits.

- Whereas my biggest challenge today is finding photos from this match...

Update
There's a couple more pics from today on the photo page now.

Monte Carlo R3 - David vs Robredo


(AP Photo)

Update

David has reached the quarterfinal, defeating Tommy Robredo 6-3, 6-4.
There, he will meet either Novak Djokovic or Stanislas Wawrinka (who still have to play their third-round match).

More soon.




Today, it's time for the third-round matches at Monte Carlo - and for David's encounter with Tommy Robredo, currently ranked #23.

This is, by the way, not just the second but the third time in a row they meet in the third round at Monte Carlo (in 2008 David crushed Robredo 6-1, 6-0; in 2006 Robredo won 5-7, 6-1, 7-5).
And while in their overall match record David leads 4-2, if you take away David's two wins on hard court and only look at the matches they've play on clay, then they're even at 2-2.

The big question today is of course how tired David will feel. How much strength and energy he has left.
Yesterday after the match, David seemed determined to focus on the positive aspects...
"I'm very happy about the victory and to have defeated an opponent of Youzhny's caliber. Without any doubt, this match has been one of the most important since my return to the Tour. And while I'm tired, having played for about three hours, I'm very happy to have reached this stage at a tournament as prestigious as Monte Carlo." (from David's official site; photo: AP Photo)
So let's hope that yesterday's marathon match hasn't taken too much out of David.

Meanwhile, on Court des Princes Ferrer vs Ljubicic, the second match of the day and the one directly before David's has just started...

1.10pm (local) Ferrer seems to be making short work of Ljubicic and takes the first set 6-0. David's match could be on sooner than expected.

2.07pm - Or not... But it's over now, Ferrer beats Ljubicic and David's match will soon begin on the Court des Princes.

2.15pm And here they come, David and Robredo...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Monte Carlo R2 - David overcomes Youzhny


This is the third-set tiebreak.
Update: You can now download the match via the David on Screen page. (YouTube clip and recording by Andvari - thank you.)

Three-shot rallies, cheap points, service games that only take a minute or two - David's victory over Youzhny, his first ever over the Russian, had little of all that. What the match had in abundance were epic rallies, wasted break points and all those twists and turns that often make it so utterly nerve-racking to watch David's matches... - But also so exciting when after all the drama and the match having been on a knife's edge he still manages to pull off the win in the end.

After dominating the first set but failing to convert 8 break points, one poor service game at the worst possible moment (serving to stay in it) ended up costing David the first set. Still visibly frustrated, David immediately went down a break in the second. But only to get the break straight back and follow it up with another break of serve against Youzhny and finally a third one to take the set. Halfway through the third, David was up a break but couldn't consolidate his lead. Instead, Youzhny broke right back and then again for 6-5 lead and the chance to serve for the match. Once more, David broke back, at the very last minute, and the match went into a decisive tiebreak. There, David squandered a double mini-break before converting his second match point after 2 hours and 55 minutes. 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(5)

In the first set, it didn't really look like this match would turn into an epic three-set battle. David served very well and was hardly more tested in his service games than he was against Beck. And the first break against Youzhny's serve merely seemed to be a question of time because David returned very well from the start and managed to put Youzhny under pressure. The result were break points in three out of five of the Russian's service games in this set. But somehow, the break just didn't happen. Some of those break points Youzhny saved with good serves that set up the point for him. Others David wasted with unforced errors, whether from the baseline or trying his luck at the net. At the same time, already during the early stages it became clear what a lot of the rallies in this match would look like. With lengthy backhand slice exchanges to set up the attack, mostly going to the forehand side, both players' weaker wing. Apart from that, both also tried to mix up their game from the start, upsetting the opponent's rhythm with drop-shots or coming to the net. This made for entertaining rallies with David more often than not the winner - but there was still no break. At 4-4, David failed to convert a record-breaking five break points in the course of a single service game. And as is so often the case in tennis, afterwards he found himself in trouble on serve. After having lost only 3 points in his previous service games, David immediately went down 0-40 and after saving the first break and set point, a backhand from David landing wide granted Youzhny the first set.

At the start of the second set, David lost his serve yet again (to give Youzhny a 2-0 lead). That was the moment his frustration boiled over. He smashed his racquet, destroying it in one go. I believe he received a code violation for it. But what's more important - releasing all that frustration and anger seemed to help. In Youzhny's following service game David saved a game point, wasted yet another break point with a horrible forehand but fought on and eventually converted his tenth (!) break point of the match to get the re-break. The momentum switch that followed didn't happen right away. It was more a case of David steadily battling his way back into the match, struggling to consolidate his break but scraping through after saving a break point. In Youzhny's next service game David managed to get the break that turned the tables in his favour, now assuming control of most of the rallies again, just like in the first set. At 4-2, David had two chances to go up a double break. In the end, he broke the Russian's serve for a third time in this set when Youzhny, serving to stay in it, double-faulted on set point.

In the third set, David, who spent a lot of the time between points talking to and often enough berating himself, had his difficulties on serve but somehow (for the most part) managed to scrape through. In the very first game of the set David went down 0-40, with his first serve completely gone at that moment - but still he managed to hold serve in the end and not by playing it safe. He played aggressive points in that moment, coming to the net and it paid off. At 3-2 David managed to break Youzhny's serve but the break was short-lived as David handed it straight back again with a horrible service game that consisted of a double fault and 3 unforced errors. At 5-5 it was Youzhny's turn to break again and he did so, winning one of the many spectacular rallies today, during which not even two smashs from David were enough to win the point. So at 6-5, Youzhny served for the match. And once again, like so during so many of the Russian's service games today, David had break points. The first one he wasted with a wild backhand. But on the second, it was Youzhny who made the backhand error. Re-break, 6-6 and tiebreak... You can watch it in the clip above. David going up a double mini-break. The return error on the first match point. And then finally the easy forehand winner after Youzhny's return clipped the net...

It was a great match, very entertaining (and nerve-racking) to watch. And it had all the typical ingredients of a David drama match. The wasted chances, the silly re-breaks... But it also had more of what seems to become David's new specialty. Winning matches in tiebreaks. This is the third time he has done it this season. Apart from that, he was able to hold his nerve and strike back when Youzhny was serving for the match. And as David has said before, it's situations like these you can't train. So for someone who hasn't played a really tight match like this one in a long time, David did exceptionally well today.
And overall, he played really well. With his backhand maybe not quite as spectacular as it was against Beck but then again he was much more tested today. Still, it was working well and he hit many great returns and a couple of beautiful angles with it. I also liked that he mixed up his game a lot more than before, going for drop-shots, lobs, extreme short angles and that unlike in the previous match, he attacked at the net. He made too many unforced errors (46; 28 winners) but that number also bears testament to the countless long and gruelling rallies he had to play today. The worst number however, and the one that sums up the drama of this match is David's break point conversion: 5 of 19...

The question now is how much David will have left in the tank after today's marathon... In the third round tomorrow, his opponent will be Tommy Robredo. - Just like two years ago when David and Robredo met the last time, also in the third round at Monte Carlo. On the Court des Princes. Back then, Robredo was completely chanceless and managed to win only a single game (overall, their match record stands at 4-2 in David's favour). Tomorrow will be a new day and a new match of course but maybe both will catch themselves thinking back of that last match when they walk onto the court tomorrow. Or at least, I hope that they will. But above all I hope that David won't be too tired. And not feeling any pain.

There are only very few photos from today's match - sorry. But what little I've been able to find I've added to the photo page.


(AP Photo)

Monte Carlo R2 - David vs Youzhny


(AP Photo)

Update

Mikhail Youzhny was up a set and a break in the second and he served for the match in the third set - but in the end, it was David who won the match 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(5).
After a hard-fought battle that lasted almost three hours...

More soon...




(AP Photo)

Later this afternoon (local time), David will play his second-round match against Russia's Mikhail Youzhny. It'll be their first encounter since the US Open 2004.
As David said in his last TennisTV interview, he has known Youzhny since juniors. So he should probably know what to expect. Even if it's been a while...

David's match is scheduled fourth on Court des Princes, the second biggest court at Monte Carlo. But there's also coverage from that one.
Right now, the second match on Court des Princes is underway. So I guess David's match will be on around 4pm, maybe 4.30pm local time, depending of course on how long the other matches take.
I'll keep you up-to-date.

1.35pm (local) News from Court 2 - should David win today, his opponent in Round 3 will be Tommy Robredo, who just beat Troicki in straights.

2.15pm Montañes defeats Seppi. One more match to go now (Llodra vs Ljubicic). And then it'll be David's turn on Court des Princes.

3.02pm Ljubicic takes the first set against Llodra.

4.10pm Ljubicic prevails after an epic second set.
And the Court des Princes is now ready and waiting for David and Youzhny.

4.18pm - And here they come...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Monte Carlo R1 - David gets started against Beck



The match is available for download via the David on Screen page.
(Recording and highlights by Andvari - thank you!)

Maybe today's match was on a little early for David's taste but in the end, he couldn't have wished for a better start. After 68 minutes on court and having faced (and saved) only one break point in the entire match, David defeated last year's surprise quarterfinalist Andreas Beck 6-3, 6-1. In the second round, David now faces Mikhail Youzhny - his chance to play the Russian ahead of the Davis Cup quarterfinal in July and also to score what would be his first ever win against Youzhny.

Prior to this match, David had talked about clay being a difficult surface for him and that he would have to be careful with his movement on it, especially sliding, as it might cause trouble with his hip. And during the early stages, he seemed to be moving a bit cautiously, not lunging after balls and also not sliding if he could avoid it. As the match went on however, he seemed to grow more confident, moving much more freely.

The first set saw a striking contrast between David's and Beck's service games. While David cruised through his, losing only three points on serve in this set, Beck had huge difficuties to hold serve from the start, making far too few first serves and way too many unforced errors. Already in the very first game David had two break points but couldn't convert any of them. Still, from the beginning it only seemed to be a matter of time until David would break first and start capitalising on Beck's more than patchy performance. Apart from that, Beck chose to play to David's backhand a lot of the time - a mistake as he was to find out. At 2-2, two unforced errors from Beck first set up another break point for David and then gifted him the break and the 3-2 lead. With Beck serving to stay in the set at 5-3, another unforced error from the German granted David his first set point - though he didn't have to do anything to convert it, as Beck took care of that himself by serving a double fault.

At the beginning of the second set, David found himself in a bit of trouble for the first (and last) time during this match, facing the only break point in the first game after a couple of good returns from Beck. But the German failed to convert it. After that game, David went back to being in complete control of his service games. - And of the match. After Beck had managed to hold for 1-1, it was pretty much one-way traffic. With David dominating the rallies from the baseline and putting Beck under pressure on serve with consistent, deep returns. At 2-1 Beck gifted David another break with another double fault. Whereas the double break and the 5-1 lead David earned himself with another good return that drew the error from Beck. Serving for the match, David squandered his first match point with a forehand error. But only to follow it up with the last of his 8 aces today and then convert his second match point as Beck's return landed wide.

So - an easy win for David. But one that was made very easy for him by Beck and his poor performance. Still, I think this match was perfect for David, as a chance to get used to playing on clay again and adapting his movement. Without really being tested. How he will fare against Youzhny in the second round - we'll see.
In any case it was great to see David's backhand working as well as it did today. With some of his cross-court winners drawing "oohs" and "aahs" from the crowd. He also served very well, very consistent and coming up with good serves in important moments. His forehand grew more stable as the match went on. And the 11 unforced errors in total David made speak of an overall solid performance. The only thing I was missing during this match was the sight of David coming to the net. Perhaps another indicator that above all, this match was about getting started, getting used to clay again.


Update
There's a nice post-match video interview with David from TennisTV that you can watch here.



(Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images)

Monte Carlo R1 - Good Morning, David


(Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images)

Update
David has started his Monte Carlo campaign with the easiest victory since his comeback, defeating Andreas Beck 6-3, 6-1 in just under 70 minutes.

More soon...
(And more photos are already up on the photo page.)


Today, David's European clay season begins with his first-round match at Monte Carlo against Andreas Beck. At 10.30am - not exactly the time of day David likes to play matches...
But maybe it's not too bad that his match has been scheduled first on the Court Central, as the weather forecast predicts rain for the afternoon.

- And rain we had enough last year at Monte Carlo, when David's third-round match was delayed for a day because of rain, hail and thunderstorms. It was also around that time Luis Lobo first talked about David's hip problems and that they had already been bothering him for eight months...

One year later, David is now playing on clay at Monte Carlo again. Knowing that he has to be a little careful with his movement. How careful he will be with it - we'll see.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Monte Carlo Draw

Here's David's draw for Monte Carlo...

[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs BYE
Florent Serra (FRA) vs Stephane Robert (FRA)
Ernests Gulbis (LAT) vs Marco Chiudinelli (SUI)
Victor Hanescu (ROU) vs [13]Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI)

[12] Tommy Robredo (ESP) vs Horacio Zeballos (ARG)
Viktor Troicki (SRB) vs Lukasz Kubot (POL)
David Nalbandian (ARG) vs Andreas Beck (GER)
BYE vs [7] Mikhail Youzhny (RUS)

(Full draw here.)

David finds himself in the top half, top quarter.
- But still far enough away from the top seed Novak Djokovic so that David won't meet him until the quarterfinal. Theoretically. (The same goes for Stanislas Wawrinka, by the way.)

His first match David will play against someone he has never faced before - Andreas Beck. The German lefty (currently ranked #53) is a good clay-courter with a strong serve. But due to injury problems he was only able to begin this season at Indian Wells. Since then, he has played three events and went out in the first round at all three of them.
In the second round however, David might face a player he'll probably meet again at the Davis Cup quarterfinal in July. And one he has never beaten before... Mikhail Youzhny won both of their two previous encounters. Both matches took place on hard court and all the way back in 2004. But what's probably more important is the good form Youzhny has shown himself to be in this season, having already reached two finals (Rotterdam and Dubai) and the quarterfinal at Miami, recently.

So for my part, I'm not going to look beyond the second round, this time.
Or at least, not at this point...


Update
The order of play for Sunday is out and the good news is that David's name is not on it. This means he'll play his first-round match either Monday or Tuesday and unless they put him on an outside court there'll be a stream for it.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

On the way to Europe...

As La Mañana De Córdoba reports, today is the day David will bid farewell to Argentina and fly to Monaco for his first tournament of this year's European clay-court swing - the Monte Carlo Masters, starting on Sunday. At what is, arguably, the most beautiful tournament site in the world.
It will also be the first time David enters a main draw by means of his protected ranking.

The draw for Monte Carlo will take place on Saturday at noon (11am GMT).

And apart from hoping for a good draw for David, I also hope that he won't get to play his first match until Monday. As it looks like there won't be any coverage of Sunday's first-round matches.


Update (10/04)
Tamar (thank you) has sent some photos she took at the "6000 Angelitos" auction for David's foundation that he attended on Tuesday...



More on the photo page.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A few Words from David

Between training and the auction for his foundation tomorrow, David has found the time to talk to Argentine sports radio ESPN 107.9. The following quotes I've taken from a new Clarin article about that radio interview...

Surely enjoying the current break and being back home again, David says that he's "fine, recovering and working on finding his rhythm." Talking about the upcoming clay season however, he's aware of the possible risk of playing on clay.

"Next Monday I'll start playing in Monte Carlo and I'll have to be very careful on clay because it's complicated with the hip, especially the sliding on that kind of surface."
"The doctors and my team are very satisfied because I'm doing well, recovering and gaining rhythm again."
Asked about the match against Nadal, David explains why he wasn't too frustrated about that particular defeat...
"I was content. I didn't expect that I would beat him straight away. But I left that tournament without feeling any pain, I'm going from okay to better and I'm getting into a good rhythm, physically."
"I still have two, three or four more years of tennis ahead of me, for sure."
Of course, there were also a couple of questions in connection with the Davis Cup.
"Had we lost to Sweden, I would've ended up knackered and the press would've killed me, for sure. "
"We can only win the [Davis] Cup together, as a team in every sense. That's the question. A matter of getting your act together and doing things right once and for all, like the great tennis nations do it."

[About Delpo]
"We have a good professional relationship. I don't have any problem with him, I never had. Everybody makes their own, different decisions [when it comes to Davis Cup] but it's all okay."

"With Tito Vázquez, everything is fine. I arrived [in Stockholm] at the last minute and we didn't have much time to really get to know each other. We'll get together now and make plans for what's ahead, together with the other guys."
Tomorrow evening (at 7pm local time) David will be present at the auction for his foundation in Buenos Aires, looking to help raising money to reduce infant mortality in Cordoba and set up a "Health Centre" in Unquillo.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Brief Update...


(Fundación David Nalbandian/archive)

Update (5/4)
The ranking after Miami is out. The good news is that with only 10 points to defend from last year and getting 45 for reaching the third round this time, the 35 points David has effectively gained have now taken him up 14 places to #147.
The not so good news is the 90 points David will have to defend at Monte Carlo and then also a week later at Barcelona... But at least that's it then. After Barcelona, he won't have any points to defend for the rest of the season.


According to latest news item on the official page, David is not only back home to relax and prepare for the European clay-court swing. He'll also be spending some of his time on his foundation, the "Fundación David Nalbandian". With the latest project being "6000 Angelitos" (6000 little angels), an arts auction the proceedings of which will go to projects aimed at reducing infant mortality in the Cordoba region. The auction will take place on Tusday.

Meanwhile, the schedule section on David's offical site has been updated, confirming David's itinerary for the upcoming clay season: Monte Carlo (which, according to the official site, is in France...), Barcelona, Rome, Madrid and then Roland Garros. After that, the next tournament on the list is Wimbledon but I guess it's simply not clear yet, which one of the preparatory events on grass David will play.

In other news, Russia have announced both the site and their choice of surface for the Davis Cup quarterfinal tie in July (They already did a couple of weeks ago, to be honest.) It was clear from the start that the tie will be played indoors, at the Luzhniki sports complex in Moscow that comprises several indoor venues of different sizes. Russia always play their home ties at what's also the home of the Kremlin Cup tournament in October. Therefore, the only question was which surface they would choose. They've decided to play the tie on hard court.
In the past, Russia have sometimes tried to neutralise their opponent's strengths with their choice of surface. Playing against the USA on clay or against Chile on carpet. But it has not been their general strategy as they also held a tie against Serbia (with Djokovic) on hard court. Playing against Argentina, Russia always chose to play on carpet - until now. I'm not going to pretend that I know the reasons behind this change. And although this may seem like taking a gamble, there's a number that speaks for itself. 1995. The last time an away team managed to win a tie in Moscow (back then, it was the US team with Sampras and Courier).
The quarterfinal tie will take place July 9-11, on the weekend after the Wimbledon final.