Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Davis Cup Update - Teams and Travel Plans


(El Litoral archive)

The team nominations for the Davis Cup quarterfinal ties have now officially been announced by the ITF. And as Tito Vázquez already told the press, he's going to rely on the same players who won the first-round tie against Sweden. Only that this time, David will not arrive at the last minute...
So here's Argentina's official line-up, as listed on the Davis Cup site:
Horacio Zeballos, Eduardo Schwank, Leonardo Mayer, David Nalbandian

Despite Schwank's current success with Chela in the doubles competition at Wimbledon, Vázquez is going to have Schwank play the doubles with Zeballos, while Leo Mayer and David will probably play the singles. David's official site insists that he will be the #1 singles player. But I'd be surprised if that's actually going to be the case, as according to the the standard Davis Cup procedure it falls to the #2 singles player to play what could be the decisive fifth rubber on Sunday. And I think that this is probably precisely the match Vázquez wants David to play. As well as the Friday singles rubber against the Russian #1...

Speaking of which, this is what the Russian team will look like:
Nikolay Davydenko, Mikhail Youzhny, Teimuraz Gabashvili, Igor Kunitsyn

Which means that Davydenko and Youzhny will be playing the singles and Gabashvili and Kunitsyn the doubles.

In the meantime, according to Argentine journalist Danny Miche (thanks, Tamar!), David is training together with Leonardo Mayer at Torres Le Parc under the supervision of Ricardo Rivera, the vice captain of Argentina's team. These training sessions have, once more according to Danny Miche, seen David in good form and winning the sets he has played against Mayer (but at the same time suffering some pains due to not having played that much recently - which does make you wonder what exactly David has been doing these last few weeks). Whether David will be able to contest one or two best-of-five matches is apparently still a mystery.
The plan is to travel to Russia on Friday, where David and Mayer will meet the rest of the team and Tito Vázquez. Though David will apparently go for a stopover in London for undefined personal reasons. But there's a training session scheduled in Moscow for Sunday. And from Monday on, the team hopes to be able to practice at the venue.

Danny Miche also doesn't rule out that in the end, there might be the same strategy as in Stockholm, with David playing the doubles and then perhaps the decisive singles on Sunday. Although David has stated in interviews that he'd prefer to play two singles and have a day of rest in-between.

I guess we'll have to wait and see...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Davis Cup Update - Vázquez speaks from London

Two weeks from now, the Davis Cup quarterfinal against Russia will already be over. But tonight, it's all about football for David, who has travelled to South Africa to support Argentina's team. And who's, as we may rightfully assume, having a glorious night out in Johannesburg where the Albiceleste just beat Mexico 3-1 for a place in the quarterfinal.
(A special post about the last time Argentina played a World Cup quarterfinal and the match David supposedly tanked to be able to watch it you can find here.)

But David is not the only one who has done some travelling of late. Argentina's Davis Cup captain Tito Vázquez flew to London to take a closer look at the Argentine players and their matches at The Championships. David, of course, was not among them.
Unfortunately, Nalbandian couldn't come. For me, it would've been important to see him play a best-of-five match after a considerable absence [from the circuit]. I know he's not happy about not being able to play here.
However, Mayer, Zeballos, Schwank and Chela all lost in the first round. In doubles, the second round saw an all-Argentine match. And a slight mishap with the scoreboard that Istabraq has documented...


(For the record, it was Eduardo Schwank who played with Chela.)

In any case, Tito Vázquez had enough time at Wimbledon to talk to the Argentine press about the upcoming Davis Cup quarterfinal against Russia. Confirming that he plans to rely on the same players that pulled off the surprise win against Sweden in March (and hoping to repeat the same kind of team effort that made that victory possible): Leornardo Mayer, Horacio Zeballos, Eduardo Schwank - and David.
Q: How much depends on Nalbandian?
Vázquez: Look, it would be nice if it could be the same as with Hewitt, who also had hip surgery, who recovered and is here now in the third round, playing very well. The logical thing for him would be to play two singles and rest on the day of the doubles, because two points are more important than one. There's a question mark because he hasn't played competitive tennis and because of his injury problems. Every team depends on its best player, whether Russia, or Sweden without Söderling or Switzerland without Federer.

Q: Is there anything you're particularly worried about, regarding Russia?
Vázquez: No, they're the favourites. In football, there are surprises. In tennis, there are not so many of those, but it can happen. But you have to win a lot of points. It's been fifteen years since the Russians lost at home, so you can't just say "we're going to win". We have to prepare in silence. And on the court, we'll see [what happens].

Q: Does it bother you that in this year and a half as captain you haven't been able to have a team with the best players?
Vázquez: Yes, certainly. The effort and the desire are the same but when I started as captain, my dream was Del Potro and Nalbandian being fit and playing all ties. In the future, they will be the ones who will play, once the injuries have healed. The withdrawals were justified, of course, but we're unlucky because theoretically, there was a real chance of having a team, able to win ties anywhere. (La Nacion; thanks, tennisace)

Talking to Clarin, Vázquez revealed that David went to Buenos Aires to train with vice-captain Rivera. A training camp that has now been interrupted by David's trip to South Africa. But as can be read on the offical site's Facebook and Twitter accounts, David will be back again soon to continue his preparation.
Still, it gets clear now that David's decision not to play Wimbledon must have indeed come at the last moment. Late enough to have Tito Vázquez travel to London in the hope of seeing him play:
Now there's also the unknown factor of David, who wants to play. Personally, I think it's a pity that he wasn't able to play here, to give us some idea of how he's doing. Because that was one of the reasons we came to Wimbledon.

Q: Is it possible to think that the team will make a great impact like against Sweden or will it take a miracle?
Vázquez: It was a good performance in Stockholm, winning three points that were possible to win, with our players playing at 100%. Leo served 28 aces on the first day and then Nalbandian joined in. But Russia's two singles players are much better then Sweden's, so it will be more difficult. They have a great run, playing home ties and Davydenko is back, who hasn't played too many matches. Hopefully, we'll have a player who can beat him 9-7 in the fifth set of the first match. Physically, he'll be fine and Youzhny is ranked #12 in the world. Hopefully, we can raise our game in training. The Davis Cup is different from all other competitions, we hope that our players will be motivated so we can hope for a good result.

Q: Will the team depend on Nalbandian again or will there be a strategy for dealing with the situation?
Vázquez: We're in a difficult situation. Del Potro is injured, Nalbandian hasn't played any best-of-five matches all year and now Monaco's injury. The other players are in a period of development, or in terms of what they can do for the team. But that analysis has to be left to their coaches. Leo has developed as a player, Zeballos and Schwank still have to do some work. That's what we have.

Q: Is it very important that Nalbandian can play two singles?
Vázquez: If all goes extremely well for us, it would be important for us and that way, he could rest on the day of the doubles. Leo is the one in the kind of shape to play the other two singles. And in any case, the doubles will be Zeballos and Schwank. (Clarin; thanks, Anna)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Davis Cup Intermezzo - Davydenko: I enjoy playing Nalbandian


(taken during the 2008 semifinal tie at Buenos Aires)

With the Davis Cup quarterfinal less than three weeks away, and David busy with his indoor "pre-season" training program, Nikolay Davydenko has now confirmed that he will be part of Russia's team for the tie in Moscow. Currently playing what's only his second tournament after a three-month pause (due to a fractured wrist) at Wimbledon, Davydenko talked about the upcoming tie at his press conference yesterday...
Q: I will ask you about the Davis Cup. Will you play?
Davydenko: Yeah, I will play. If I'm not injury one more time. But I will play, yes.

Q: Nalbandian said that he will play.
Davydenko: Perfect. It's be good. That's was I really enjoy play against Nalbandian.

Q: If you want to tell me the percentage of chance to win in this match.
Davydenko: You know, we have good team also. Not bad. I know Andreev and Tursunov is still, you know, just - like say not injury, but just coming back, like me. But Youzhny and me, for sure we have good shape. We'll try, you know, beat Argentina in Moscow. (source: ASAP Sports)
If all goes well and as planned, after 2003, 2006 and 2008, this tie will mark the fourth time David plays a singles rubber against Davydenko. David has won two of their three Davis Cup matches so far, one of them at the final in Moscow 2006 (where David won both of his singles but Argentina still lost the tie). In the semifinal 2008 however, it was Davydenko who ended David's unbeaten streak in home tie matches at the Parque Roca. Though David was struggling with his hip injury at the time.

Less than three weeks from now, David and Nikolay Davydenko will meet again in Davis Cup. This time, after having both been sidelined with injuries for a large part of the season. While David is training and preparing at home, Davydenko is playing Wimbledon, hoping that it will give him confidence. What's going to happen when the two of them meet in Moscow? We'll see...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Quo Vadis, David?

83 days. If David plays the Davis Cup quarterfinal tie against Russia, this is the amount of time that will have passed since his last match at Monte Carlo. Almost three months without any tournaments, without competitive tennis.
"It was a difficult decision [to pull out of Wimbledon] but we didn't want to put at risk all the physical preparation of the last weeks [by playing] on a demanding surface like grass and with best-of-five matches."
It's not only the muscular tears that have become the leitmotif of David's season. It's also the standardised statements from David, his camp and the official site about his injuries, his recovery and chances of playing again that have become an all too familiar sight. With the tests always showing good results and the recovery always going ahead as planned - and then David pulls out of another tournament. Without any real explanation.
In this case, he apparently went to some lengths to find a grass court to train on in Argentina. He prepared for Wimbledon and said he looked forward to playing it. And then, from one day to the next, Wimbledon turns into nothing more than an obstacle in his way to Moscow and the Davis Cup quarterfinal.

That such a lack of real information leads to rumours and speculations is perhaps only natural. Especially since not even the Argentine press really seem to know what to make of David's ever diminishing schedule. In the comments for the previous post, Tamar (thanks) has mentioned the discussion among Argentine journalists and two theories about why it's taking David so long to return. One is that he broke a finger, playing football with friends. The other that his recovery hasn't been going as planned at all and that the injured hamstring is still causing him trouble. Other writers maintain that David simply wants to focus on the Davis Cup and that there's nothing more to it. The point is - nobody really knows what's going on. Except David and his camp, of course. But they're not letting us know, not really.
"Starting today, I will begin a 'mini-preseason', with physical training and practicing on indoor courts to be in top form for the Davis Cup."
One thing, if nothing else, is clear. As long as he's able to maintain an upright position, David is going to play Davis Cup. But what's more likely to get him into top shape for the tie, practicing on indoor courts or catching up on something he's severely lacking, i.e. match practice? If he gets his way in Moscow and plays singles, chances are that David will find himself facing Nikolay Davydenko and Mikhail Youzhny. Not exactly the easiest opponents for David, even without a three-month pause...
"After the Davis Cup the hardcourt swing starts, a surface that I like a lot and that works well for my game. Therefore, I hope to have a great second half of the season."
(David's quotes taken from the official site)
While it's good to see that David is apparently thinking further than the Davis Cup, he'll still have to "survive" the quarterfinal tie before he can start focusing on the American hardcourt events. So far, David's schedule for the coming weeks and months is still a mystery. And right now, it's really difficult to have hopes and expectations for the rest of his season.
Where will David, his season and his career go from here? - I cannot say. But I'll try to keep up with what's happening. Even if David and his camp don't exactly make it easy for me and the blog.

And just as a reminder, this is what David looks like. With a tennis racquet...


(Clarin)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

David out of Wimbledon

Pulling out of Boodles wasn't the best of signs. And now the worst case scenario has become reality. David has pulled out of Wimbledon.

As Infobae.com reports, together with his team David decided today that he won't take the risk of playing Wimbledon and that he will instead focus entirely on the upcoming Davis Cup tie against Russia.

Fue Buena adds that having only played little tennis recently and no real preparation on grass also played a part in David's decision. According to Fue Buena, David is now already training indoors to prepare for the Davis Cup tie. "If I have to choose between the Davis Cup and Wimbledon, I'll choose the Davis Cup".

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

No Boodles for David

As announced on the official site (thanks,Tamar) and reported by Clarin, David has decided not to play the Boodles Challenge, in order to "not endanger his health".
Instead, he'll be on his way to London on Thursday and make his comeback at Wimbledon.

From the Clarin article...
A change of plans for David Nalbandian's schedule. Nalbandian has pulled out of the Boodles Challenge exhibition, which starts today outside of London. He will move on directly to play Wimbledon, which begins next Monday. Why? He wants to be 100% fit for the third Grand Slam of the year and therefore, he doesn't want to put his physical fitness at risk.

Nalbandian was suppposed to travel to Britain on Sunday but changed his ticket and will now fly to Britain not until Thursday evening. Yesterday, there were further examinations of his left hamstring, the area where he suffered the tear, and as Nalbandian's spokesman Bernardo Ballero told Clarin, they showed good results.

The former #3 of the world, now #150 in the ranking, not only has the tournament in London on his mind but also the Davis Cup, as Argentina will face Russia the week after Wimbledon.

As Krystle has asked in the comments - how does playing a couple of easy exho matches put his fitness at risk? And isn't playing a Slam with best-of-five matches and without any real preparation much more dangerous?
And is it really certain that David will play Wimbledon?
Who knows...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Boodles Preview


(stokeparkclub.com)

Update
Apparently, Bet365 will have a stream for Boodles this year. It remains to be seen whether all matches will be shown or just some of them. But still, there's a chance we might get to see David play. (Thanks, Andvari for the tip.)
And it's clear now that David will play on Wednesday.


By now, David has probably arrived at Stoke Park, where The Boodles Challenge exhibition will start tomorrow. The imposing manor house, located west of London and not too far away from Windsor Castle, has served as the backdrop for a variety of movies (including "Wimbledon") and its grounds are the home of Boodles - "summer entertaining at its most exclusive" as their website calls it.

For the participating players, the event has a different purpose, of course and that is getting some matches on grass before Wimbledon. But without too much exertion. Therefore, Boodles matches are played with a champions tiebreak instead of a third set (like doubles matches).

In the past, it used to be difficult to find out what exactly was going on at Boodles. And I remember the conflicting reports about David's matches back in 2008 that caused some chaos in the very early days of this blog... Right now, it's still not entirely clear whether David will play on Tuesday or on Wednesday (which could be the case, after all he only left Argentina yesterday).
But this year, Vamos David has someone on site at Stoke Park. Istabraq will be there to follow David's matches and provide us with photos. So I hope that this time, there'll be less chaos and more info about David and his first matches on grass.

To give you an idea of the place, here's a short clip of David practicing at Boodles, three years ago...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Interview - David on Wimbledon, Injuries & Davis Cup


(canchallena.com; archive)

Update
Two more (new) interviews with David you can find here.

It's been a while since there has been an interview with David. But now, somewhere between following the World Cup and preparations for his trip to Britain, David found the time to talk to La Nacion's José Luis Domínguez. About his expectations for Wimbledon, the injury problems that have overshadowed the first half of his season and, of course, the Davis Cup. "I'll be going there, expecting to win the tie. Russia is a complicated and tough opponent, but we can do it. I have faith that everything will be fine." - So it's clear what David's main focus will be in the weeks to come. Here's the interview...
Q: Given the absence of Del Potro and Monaco, can you still hope to beat Russia?

David: I think that Juan Martin is the team's strong point, and the fact that he's not going to be there makes matters more complicated. Pico's absence is also an important factor, but we have to go there and play. We beat Sweden without them and we're going to try and do the same again.

Q: Talking about the team that beat Sweden, will you maybe use the same strategy against the Russians?

David: No, it will be different... I wasn't on the team and then I had a fit of madness and I went [to Stockholm]. But I'm not ready to play on all three days, I'm not in the physical shape for that. So I think it would be good for me to rest on Saturday. I think there's a chance for me to play two singles, that would be ideal for me.

Q: And coming back now, what are your goals for Wimbledon?

David: The reality is that I won't go to Wimbledon with the same expectations like in the previous years. I don't think I can go far given the situation I'm in now, but I'll try to do my best and prepare for the Davis Cup. Playing there [at Wimbledon] will help me me to get some matches and not feel the lack of competetive tennis so much.

Q: You've only been able to play four tournaments this year. Has this low level of activity changed your plans for your return after hip surgery?

David: Yes, the truth is that I felt frustrated, because you are eager to compete and play and be active, but things like that happen and you have to deal with them. Now I'm not anxious, but eager to play again and have a good start. I've been training on grass this week, trying to adapt and I think I was doing quite well.

Q: Angel Ruiz-Cotorro, your doctor, said that playing on clay could affect your recovery. Has there been any advice for you about playing on grass?

David: It should be less demanding, physically than playing on slower courts, because the hip suffer doesn't get to suffer as much. There might be more pain from my back and gluteus. But it's not something that should affect my game. Those injuries have been the result of the lack of playing and the surgery.

Q: Are you worried that you might be unable to solve the problem of those recurring muscular tears?

David: The reality is that when I start playing again then it's because I'm well, but then something might happen to me, it's difficult to know. It's clear that I have to be careful to keep things from happening to me. The doctor told me that everything that happened to me is normal, that it's a process where there were going to be complications in the first half of this year as the second half, after Wimbledon, it would get better. I hope that it will.

Q: As for your goals, how much has it affected you to have played only a few matches in the first half of the year?

David: What it has changed is having gained only a few points. The plan was to have a better ranking by now [currently #150] but I have to adjust to the circumstances and I know that if I'm fit, I can play a good tournament and start gaining points. But the ranking issue doesn't take away the dream.
(Source: La Nacion/canchallena.com; thanks, tennisace)

David will be on his way to Britain (and his preparatory events for the Davis Cup) tomorrow.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

To play or not to play Wimbledon... To play!


(Guardian.co.uk)

Update
...And the answer is - yes. David will play Wimbledon.
As Fue Buena reports (thanks, Ciccio), after a final training session at the Vilas Club today, David decided that he will travel to Europe on Sunday to first play Boodles and then Wimbledon. His hamstring has fully healed by now.
So - good news. At last. :)


According to La Nacion (quoted also on canchallena.com; thanks tennisace and Ciccio), David will make his decision today:
David Nalbandian, who's recovering from an injured hamstring, has been training with a good intensity these last few days. And today, after analysing the situation with his team, he will decide whether or not he's going to play Wimbledon. Nalbandian, who could play an exhibition [i.e. Boodles] before the Grand Slam in London, doesn't want to put his health "at risk" but still longs to play the quarterfinal Davis Cup tie against Russia in Moscow from July 9 to 11.
I'll try my best to keep you posted...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Davis Cup Speculations


(John Togasaki; Indian Wells 2008)

Update
(08/06)
There's still no real news for me to report, no confirmation that David will (or won't) play Wimbledon. Whether that's cause for concern or simply his camp being more careful with their statements now - I can't say.
The only thing David seems to be willing to talk about at the moment is the World Cup, which starts on Friday (Argentina play their first match on Saturday). "For me, the World Cup is special because it's about representing Argentina. It's similar to the Davis Cup in tennis. I'm going to watch the matches, no matter whether I'm in Argentina or in Europe." (Source: Telam.)
But where will David be watching Argentina's matches? Maybe the first one still back home and then the rest in Europe? - I hope so...


Still no news from David. Only his name, still on the entry list for Wimbledon. And on the list of players for the Boodles exhibition (June 15-19).

But even if there's no news from David, there's still the Davis Cup...
And the following Clarin article that contains a revealing statement from Tito Vázquez and some speculations about what could be Argentina's strategy going into the quarterfinal tie.
[At the press conference] on Wednesday at the AAT, Clarin asked a direct question. "When it comes to choosing what will be the definitive players for the team, are you going to favour those players who have the most experience or those who are 100% fit?" The reply from Modesto Vázquez was an indirect one but very useful for drawing a conclusion. "Those who do best on a fast surface will play. It doesn't matter if they're not completely fit."
These words from the Argentine team captain allow the assumption that Eduardo Schwank and Federico Delbonis won't be part of the team and that Juan Monaco, Horacio Zeballos, Leonardo Mayer and David Nalbandian will play the Davis Cup quarterfinal tie against Russia in Moscow (July 9-11). That is, of course, if there are no important injuries at the time of what will be a record-breaking sixth encounter with Russia, the two-time Davis Cup champions. (...)

Vázquez and vice captain Rivera agree on two points even though they don't discuss these things publicly. Nalbandian is not in the physical shape to play two singles and the doubles and therefore now the best plan seems to be having Nalbandian and Zeballos play the doubles (Vázquez said that the final of St. Petersburg, which Zeballos reached last October, was played on a similar surface like the one at Moscow). From that you could deduce that Monaco and Mayer will be nominated for the singles rather than Nalbandian. Just like against Sweden in Stockholm, that would allow Nalbandian to be more fresh in case he has to play a decisive rubber on the final day.
So it "doesn't matter" if David isn't completely fit. And the worst thing about this statement is David himself would probably agree...
But what began as a chaotic, last-minute trip to Stockholm could indeed now become the new strategy for David's Davis Cup appearances - playing the doubles with Zeballos and then, if need be, the decisive singles match. When David did the same thing in Stockholm it really was "madness". But for Moscow it could be a good plan, I think. If he's fit enough for it, of course.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Davis Cup Intermezzo: Nominations

Update II (02/06)
Tito Vázquez has by now officially announced that he's going to nominate David, Monaco, Zeballos, Mayer and Schwank for the Davis Cup quarterfinal against Russia (source).

Edit: Vázquez has also added Federico Delbonis to his list of possible players for the tie in Moscow, obviously in case either David or Monaco won't be able to play. And, not surprisingly perhaps, Vázquez believes that much will depend on whether Davydenko will play for Russia (source).


Update
There's a new article on the official site, reiterating that David was offered a wildcard for the Queen's Club but has chosen to decline the offer. Still, his goal remains to be coming back at Wimbledon. With his recovery described as being "on track". - Which sounds good but also very familiar.


At the moment, it may still not be entirely clear when David is going to return. But still, according to a new Clarin article (thanks, tennisace), David is one of the five players Tito Vázquez plans to nominate for the upcoming Davis Cup quarterfinal tie against Russia.
Tomorrow, Modesto "Tito" Vázquez and Ricardo Rivera, captain and vice captain of the Argentine Davis Cup team, will announce that David Nalbandian, Juan Monaco, Horacio Zeballos, Leonardo Mayer and Eduardo Schwank will form the quintet that is going to play the away-tie against Russia in Moscow from July 9-11.

At the headquarters of the Asociación Argentina de Tenis (AAT), Tito Vázquez is going to hold a press conference, during which he will outline the team's situation now and on the way to the quarterfinal, which will be played the week after Wimbledon.

According to the list that was given to the press, Vázquez is going to add Monaco to the team that beat Sweden in Stockholm. At the time of that tie, Monaco was injured. Now he has announced that he's not going to have surgery on his left wrist and that he's therefore available.

Meanwhile, Nalbandian continues his recovery from a tear in his left hamstring and he hopes to make his return on the grass courts at London. Nalbandian too was injured prior to the first tie of the year but he arrived in Europe at the last moment, played and won the doubles with Zeballos, and on the following day clinched the tie with his victory against Andreas Vinciguerra.

Juan Martin Del Potro however, having had surgery on his right wrist, is not going to return to the circuit anytime soon. He has said that he'll try to come back after the US Open.

Argentina will face Russia at the Olympic Stadium [Olimpijski sports complex], just like with the final 2006. The matches will be played on a hardcourt, very similar to the one at Stockholm.