Saturday, July 31, 2010

Practice Video

Update
According to the official website for the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, it has already been decided that David (in his match against Rajeev Ram), will be headlining Monday's play, along with James Blake (thanks Noubar). The exact details of when that will be, has not yet been specified yet, but we should find out soon enough towards the end of today's play in Washington.


David has been seen (and recorded) during one of his practice sessions at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, practicing with Radek Stepanek, though you won't see any of him here.  This video is singularly focused on David.  He looks to be in decent shape, from what I can see there.  Though in this video, he doesn't seem to establish much of a rhythm on his groundstrokes. Probably not much should be read into that though.

This video comes from The Daily Forehand, where the webmaster is attending the entire event.  I will probably check back throughout the week, to see what match reports he has, if any.


(Thanks Leandro for the tip)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Washington Draw

The Washington draw is out now, and can be seen here.

He has been short of tournament play since Monte Carlo, and at this stage, all ranking points seem more important than they usually do. However, if it all goes according to plan, there will be more opportunities in the next two weeks in Toronto and Cincinnati, with the hope that David builds up match practice and form.

David's section looks like this:

[7] Stanislas Wawrinka vs BYE
[WC] David Nalbandian vs Rajeev Ram
QUALIFIER vs Marco Chiudinelli
BYE vs [10] Radek Stepanek

[13] Gilles Simon vs BYE
QUALIFIER vs QUALIFIER
Benjamin Becker vs QUALIFIER
BYE vs [2] Andy Roddick

Unfortunately luck wasn't too kind to David this week.  Obviously the main problem here seems to be Stanislas Wawrinka, who I have to say has been quite a nuisance in David's career.

But let's take a step back here, and dissect the draw in terms of hypothetical matches.  Normally I would be the kind of person to completely ignore parts of draws outside of difficult sections, but after Argentina's surprise win over Russia in Davis Cup, I do have to think more than usual that "anything can happen".  Before that, I couldn't remember seeing Argentina pull off a notable upset away from home, for a long time...

David starts his Washington campaign against Rajeev Ram, the American who received very late entry into the main draw after Simon Greul pulled out of the event.  He currently has a ranking of 151, but he had been ranked in the top 100 up until only a couple of weeks ago when he failed to defend his title in Newport (that year he won it as a lucky loser).  That explains why I think of him as a grasscourt player.

I remember watching him in Newport that year but my memory is a bit hazy about this.  He seemed very much like an old-school player with an attacking game, and groundstrokes weaker than a typical modern player.  Looking at his match record for this year, it seems like he is capable to losing to all kinds of players, so this match should be quite easy.

If David makes it in the second round, he should face Stanislas Wawrinka, who is the only player to have managed to defeat David five times in a row.  This five match winning streak was within a relatively short time frame, from August 2006 to 2008.  It seems like Wawrinka is one of the few players that can outrally David on the backhand side, often creating more damage on the down-the-line shot.  It will be a difficult test for David, and I think in order to get a result, Wawrinka has to be off his game to some extent.  Wawrinka is normally quite an inconsistent player, but David does seem to bring out the best of him, the way he is always trying to create openings that end up giving Wawrinka better opportunities to hit more accurate crosscourt and down-the-line shots.

If David somehow manages to get past that, he looks to have a comfortable third round encounter with either a qualifier, Marco Chiudinelli or Radek Stepanek.  Stepanek has been out due to some kind of recurring fatigue problem (possibly mononucleosis).  He has already tried to make several comebacks, ending up on many draws and entry lists, but pulling out on the last minute.  I would say he has probably not fully recovered yet.  So it's either him or Chiudinelli, who I don't really know much about, apart from being a member of the Swiss Davis Cup team.  For good reason, it seems, since he doesn't have any notable results from this year.

Roddick is in the same quarter.  Apparently he wasn't in particularly good form this week in Los Angeles, but one would expect him to pick up form at some stage.  In any case, this really is a hypothetical scenario...

Live streaming, according to TennisTV.com for Washington starts on August 5, on Thursday.  This means that we will only be able to see David playing, if he reaches the third round.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A New Start?


(ATP)

Here, at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center in Rock Creek Park, Washington D.C., the second half of David's ATP season will begin in a couple of days. With the first of the altogether four tournaments that David is planning to play during the US hardcourt swing over the next six weeks. - The same amount he has played so far, all year. But maybe things can only get better.

I'll now leave you with Krystle, for the draw and the first two days of Washington. Hoping that when I come back, David will still be in the tournament...

Monday, July 26, 2010

New TV Interview (Part 1)


(Thanks, Andvari for finding the clip.)

Yesterday, Argentine TV channel Telefe aired this interview that David gave Gonzaleo Bonadeo. Apparently, this was only the first part and there will be more next Sunday (thanks, Tamar). Bonadeo, as some of you may remember, was the one who did a very good, informative one-hour TV interview with David about a month after his surgery (posted in three parts during June 2009).

In this new interview, David talks about the Davis Cup and what makes it so special for him, the added pressure of playing for his country, representing it, all of that is very different from playing on the Tour, he likes it and it's motivation for him.
He had his doubts about being able to win his matches in Moscow, after having played only four tournaments this season, only 15 matches [13 before Moscow, now 15] and that's very little for an athlete, especially for a tennis player, used to playing match after match. Therefore he had some serious doubts, going into the quarterfinal tie but by the time he was up by two sets against Youzhny, he knew he wasn't going to lose.
What's special about playing Davis Cup is the responsibility it means, playing for the country and the people. If he goes to Washington and loses, nobody will really care that much [I think I know a couple of people who will...] but if loses in Davis Cup, then Argentina loses. And that makes it a much bigger responsibility. Playing Davis Cup, five million people are watching at home and it's like they're there with him, on the court.
After that, David once again tells the story about the court that his grandfather built in the backyard and where David first started to play, together with family and friends. There, David grew up, playing on a fast surface, while playing tournaments on clay. But he mostly trained on a hardcourt, so he has been used to playing on a fast surface from the start and that still helps him today, adapting to fast courts like the one in Moscow.
Finally, talking about the impact of sport on people and their lives (with the World Cup and Argentina's early exit there as an example), David says that it plays an important role in people's lives, that there are many people who'd like to be athletes or part of team and identify with them, which generates expectations, joy but also sorrow, and in football more so than anywhere else.
- That's the first part.

And for the record, as of this week, David is ranked #114.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Brief Update



Update
I just found this brief clip from Argentine TV channel TV Publica. In-between footage of David playing Davis Cup and the Copa Telmex, he talks about his injuries this season, which he puts down to his lack of match practice but also to not having been able to train enough at times. And having played merely 4 tournaments in the first 7 months of the year is of course not much but he hopes that the second half of the season will be different.
David also talks about the great relationship he has with the other guys on the Davis Cup team, he has known them all for a while and especially Schwank of course, as David's brother Javier used to be his coach. Tito Vázquez is, according to David, a very special guy with a lot of experience. And France will be a tough opponent, even more so than Russia. But the most important thing will simply be that everyone on the team will give their best, playing for Argentina.


It's already been mentioned in the comments: David is currently in training in Buenos Aires, together with Juan Monaco, Leonardo Mayer and a special sparring partner - Ernests Gulbis. Perhaps it was Gulbis' Argentine coach Hernan Gumy who made the contact. In any case, David is apparently doing well at those training sessions, as well as at the football-tennis matches that go with them, forming an unconquerable team with "Pico" Monaco.
Argentine tennis magazine Grip (which has David on the cover of its latest edition) posted a couple of photos of those sessions via their Twitter. But the quality is not too good and whether that's really David on some of those photos, well - your guess is as good as mine.

After a few more days of training and football-tennis, next week David will fly to Washington where a week from now, the draw will be made. The draw, as well as the first two days of the tournament I'm going to miss as I'll be away on family business. So I'll leave you once again in the more than capable hands of Krystle, who will be covering for me.

Apart from that, and not really surprisingly perhaps, the news came this week that David will once more finish the year, playing the Copa Argentina exhibition at the Buenos Aires Lawn Tenis Club (December 16-19).
So far, four players have announced their participation - David, Marcos Baghdatis, Carlos Moya and Marat Safin.
(Thanks, Tamar and also Anna and Ciccio.)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Davis Cup Semifinal: Argentina vs France in Lyon


(lyonmag.com)

As reported now also by the French press (e.g. L'Equipe and Eurosport France - thanks, tennisace), the Davis Cup semifinal tie between Argentina and France will be held at the Palais des Sports de Gerland in Lyon.

Until last year, the indoor sports arena with a maximum capacity of 6500 seats used to be the home of the Open Sud de France tournament, which has now been moved to Montpellier. And perhaps, this is one of the reasons that Lyon now gets to host the semifinal.
What's not really clear so far is the surface the tie will be played on, whether it's going to be on hardcourt or maybe carpet. But in any case, playing the semifinal indoors - David will like that...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Protected Ranking and Schedule Speculations...


(thanks, Krystle)

Update
As Fue Buena and a couple of other Argentine sites report, the Davis Cup semifinal tie against France will take place in Lyon at the Palais de Sports de Gerland. Indoors, and on a fast surface. The official announcement will be made tomorrow.


While David (ranked #112, as of this week) is currently preparing for the upcoming US hardcourt events and his first ever appearance at the tournament in Washington, I'll take this opportunity to focus on questions concerning David's protected ranking. And I'll also take a look at what the rest of David's season, after the US hardcourt swing and the Davis Cup semifinal, could look like...

Protected Ranking
As the ATP rulebook (.pdf download only) states, the protected ranking ends after either nine months or nine times of using it. With the starting point of those nine months defined by the first "tennis event" a player takes part in after his injury, which includes exhibitions.
In David's case, the first event was the San Juan exhibition, where he played his first match after surgery on December 12, 2009. His protected ranking should therefore expire on September 12, after the US Open. Even though so far, he has only used it for Monte Carlo (and will use it for Toronto, Cincinnati and probably also the US Open).
One of the reasons David hasn't made use of his protected ranking more often is of course that after Monte Carlo, he was out for almost three months. The important word here is 'almost'. Because for players, out for "a minimum of three months", there's the chance to apply for a so-called "freeze" of the protected ranking. But David played against Davydenko two months and three weeks after his last match at Monte Carlo. Therefore, according to the rules, he's not eligible for such a "freeze", i.e. extension of his protected ranking.
This means that once the US Open are over, David will either have to have a much better ranking that allows him to get into main draws, or he will have to rely on receiving wildcards from tournament organisers. Though getting wildcards hasn't been a problem for David, so far. And this is surely not going to change during the indoor swing, traditionally David's best part of the season.

Schedule
Up until mid-September, it's all clear (and to be found on the schedule page). David will play Washington, Toronto, Cincinnati, the US Open and then the week after the Davis Cup semifinal. (Provided that all goes well, of course and that he stays injury-free.)
After that begins the realm of speculation. But I'll try and make an educated guess here, just to provide some general idea of what the rest of David's season could look like.

After the Davis Cup semifinal (September 17-19) and his crowded schedule leading up to it, I wouldn't be surprised if David takes a break of three weeks and then begins the indoor season at Shanghai (October 11-17). Where, as they're currently making a sculpture of him (pictured above; apparently, former champions get one, including those who won the old Masters Cup event), he might rightfully expect to receive a wildcard to go with it. And it's also clear I think that David will get a wildcard for the last Masters event of the year at Paris-Bercy (November 8-14), where he's of course a former champion.
The two indoors Masters are a safe bet but it will be interesting to see what will happen in the three weeks that lie between them - or rather, how much David will play. Judging by his past appearances at the smaller indoor events that take place during those weeks, the ones he's most likely to play are Stockholm (October 18-24), Vienna (October 25-31) and especially Basel (November 1-7), which is probably another safe bet, given how regularly David has played this event in the past, having gone back there every year between 2002 and 2008.

But the question is whether David will take a week off somewhere in-between, or whether perhaps he'll try to play five weeks in a row (if his health allows it), to try and make the most of the indoor season and to improve his ranking. Looking at his plans for the next few weeks, with the longer pause now, followed by a "block" of several tournaments in a row, I think his schedule for the indoor swing could be similar, i.e. Shanghai, Stockholm, Vienna, Basel and Paris. (And the Davis Cup final in early December, should Argentina manage to beat France.)

Right now, it's all just speculation. But I'll do my best to keep you posted.

Friday, July 16, 2010

In David's own Words...

Okay, apparenty the clip that was supposed to be here didn't work.
But you can watch it here.

It shows David getting interviewed directly after arriving from Russia at the Buenos Aires airport. Here's a little summary...
He's happy about having triumphed in that difficult tie, the whole team played great. Physically, he's feeling very good, not quite as good on Friday as he did on Sunday but he's happy and content with his performance, especially on Sunday. It was a good weekend.
Beating Russia and ending their streak was a surprise, if you look at the the rankings of the players. But they've shown that they're a good team, they gave everything on court and were fortunate enough to win.
After that, David repeats his theory that you're either born to be a Davis Cup player or you're not (pretty much exactly like in the interview in the last post).
About Juan Martin Del Potro and his possible comeback at the semifinal David says that it'll be good for the team - if he's in good form. After all, he's an important player. But if he's not fit it wouldn't be a good idea. And there's still a lot of work until the tie against France. After some rest there will enough time to analyse everything.
But first of all there's the US hardcourt swing and he hopes to have a good US Open - to be well-prepared for the Davis Cup...

That David was asked about Delpo has of course to do with Delpo saying that he'd like to try and make his comeback at the Davis Cup semifinal if he's fully recovered from his wrist surgery by then. Apparently, the latest tests in the US showed good results and a return in September in France seems possible. But whether it will really happen remains to be seen.


(Ramiro Pereyra/MundoD)

And then there's the interview David gave MundoD/La Voz (thanks, tennisace) after arriving back home in Unquillo and which begins with a little scene that sees David visiting a bar, where between "repeated greetings" from the people of his hometown, he's also told by someone, "you didn't play well but I cheered for you, anyway" - a little joke of course that David counters with a "knowing smile".
Here's what he had to say in the interview...
For a long time I've been criticised for the way I am, for the way I live tennis, for the way I live my life. Those have been choices I've made and I think that little by little, people have come to understand them. Obviously, there are some who share [this view] and others who don't. But a lot of people now tell me, 'congratulations, you don't drive yourself crazy like others do.'
Now I tell myself that the choices I've made haven't been too bad because I'm still here, still active. In terms of tennis I'm fine and physically, I'm better. This made people realise that it's not like I don't train but quite the contrary. I train when I have to train and I enjoy myself when I have to enjoy myself. Just like a clerk, a student or a businessman. It's part of my life.
About being on a team with much younger players
They've asked me about the differences I see between this new generation and previous ones and I told them that we used to play cards and now we play PlayStation. It's a very different generation... [He said wryly.]
What gives me confidence is that the generations keep coming and going and I still continue to do a lot for the country and for the boys, who ask me for advice and who listen to me. That's what's important in an athlete's career, to stay at the top for as long as possible. And that's why they always say that in tennis, it's much easier to get to the top than it is to remain there.
Dealing with people's reactions and expectations
Thank God, things went well for me this time but there's going to be a moment in my sports career where things will go downhill and I'm going to lose. I have a certain track record in Davis Cup but I need to play much more and these days, every match that I'll play is going to be more difficult because of the change of generations. That's why today, I shouldn't be as much of an idol, nor tomorrow, if I lose, should I be as much of a bad guy.
What I want is for people to stay calm because I'm always going to give the best that I have. Today it's enough and maybe tomorrow it won't be and we're going to lose.
About top players, rising stars, the new generation - and a change of perception
Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Murray are still a small step ahead of the rest. Federer will come back, he's very good, very good. And he only lost to top players, recently. He'll keep it up and not drop down to #50, unless he gets injured.
Tennis is very even, the others are no longer far away. There's the Swede Söderling and the Czech Berdych. Söderling has a good game, he plays very well. At this level, it's the head that makes the difference. They all hit the ball well, so the difference there is minimal.
[The new generation] could be Cilic, Del Potro, who's also part of it, Gulbis - when I get into the ring with those 'treetops', it's going to be difficult.
The only one that plays our kind of rhythm is Murray, he plays slower. The others play very fast and hit the ball harder every time. When we appeared on the scene, the top players thought that we were hitting the ball much harder. And today, the same thing is happening to me with those guys.
Concerning France...
I think it will be very tough against France, very similar to playing against Russia but what makes it worse is that they have a better doubles team with Llodra and whoever is going to play together with him. A very tough and complicated opponent.
This team has Tsonga, Monfils, Simon, Benneteau, all very evenly matched in terms of their ranking. The two singles matches are going to be very tough, you can win or lose. It's the same like with going to Russia, we were fortunate enough to win but we could've also lost easily. And we can also lose to France because of the quality of their players. It's a team you have to respect.
About the road ahead...
Apart from the ranking I have to have, due to my absence, I think that the level I was able to display shows that I'm still a top player.
If I can keep up on a day-to-day basis the kind of level I showed during the weekend then I believe I can [get inside the Top10 again].
I think that I've left my mark on an era but I can still continue to give more. What I've done, I've done but I think that I can go on doing important things.

And why not start in the US...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Look back - and ahead...


(Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images)

Last weekend, David proved once again that there are basically two versions of the tennis player David Nalbandian. The one we know from the ATP Tour and the Slams, unpredictable in terms of his form and often enough struggling when it comes to closing out sets or matches. And the other one, the one we get to see in Davis Cup. The one with confidence and strong nerves. The one his team can always rely on - even if by all rights he shouldn't be able to play well and win matches...
A special phenomenon that even David himself has his difficulties to explain.
"It's very difficult [to explain]. I think you're either born to play Davis Cup or you're not. There are some players who struggle, playing Davis Cup and there are others who don't, and it's like that everywhere... It's nothing new. I've been asked about this several times and I still can't explain it. It's not something you can train, it's something that lies in the personality and motivation of each player."
As mentioned before, despite winning on Friday, David was not at all happy with his performance against Davydenko. He knew that against Youzhny, he would have to play better. And that's exactly what he managed to do.
"On Friday, I didn't feel good on court. I think my lack of rhythm was noticeable and I was also a little nervous, which is logical. Luckily enough, I was able to win anyway. But I knew that if I played the same way on Sunday I was going to lose. Youzhny was better than Davydenko. And then I felt much better with my tennis."

"I won, playing great tennis and that makes me happy. I played very well. I had my doubts. I had trained well and I was nervous. But if I compare this match to the one on Friday then I think I can say that I improved in all of the statistics."
Helped also by the fact that this time, he did not play the doubles and had a day of rest in-between his matches.
"There was a moment where I thought I would like to play the doubles but then I saw Schwank doing well and I thought it was better to have him play and be rested for today."
Argentina now face France in the Davis Cup semis. The tie will take place September 17-19, on the weekend after the US Open. The French team haven't decided yet where, and on what kind of surface it will be held. At the moment, even playing the tie at Roland Garros seems to be one of the possible options. But it remains to be seen what the final decision will be.
Here's what David had to say, asked about France and the semifinal.
"Against France, anything can happen. There's still a lot to do until then. I hope I'll be playing more regularly by that time. I need to play more matches."

"Difficult, obviously. They'll probably have Tsonga, playing at a good level. They have singles players of a level and quality similar to the Russians. Tsonga and Monfils have similar characteristics like Youzhny and Davydenko. But in the doubles, they're a little more solid than the Russian team. That's how you could describe it. But now we want to rest, we only just finished playing. There will be time to analyse France. First we have to think about playing a good US swing and having a good US Open."
The good news here is that he doesn't just think about the Davis Cup semi but also about what's going to happen until then. Now that it's time for "the other David" to take over again and play ATP tournaments...
"Playing Washington, Toronto and Cincinnati is what I have in mind. It was a tough weekend and I have to recover now to start on the circuit again at my best." (Sources: Olé1, Olé2, Clarin)
Three weeks between last weekend's tie and the tournament in Washington means plenty of time to recover and then prepare for the US hardcourt events. And for us it means waiting again now. But come August, David will play Washington, Toronto and Cincinnati back-to-back. Followed by one week off and then the US Open. And the Davis Cup semifinal. Plenty of tennis ahead...

For the record (and as joyce63 already mentioned in the comments), as of this week, David is ranked #111, having gone up 42 positions thanks to the points he got for his Davis Cup victories.

(Note: For those who haven't seen it yet - more photos from Sunday have been added on the photo page.)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

David vs Youzhny - Review


(Highlights by Andvari - thanks! The match is now available on the David on Screen page, thanks to Krystle for the recording.)

Before the start of this quarterfinal, Tito Vázquez said that the way to win this tie would be to win the doubles - and David winning his two singles. And I will admit that I had my doubts about this, not knowing what kind of level to expect from David, after nearly three months away from the Tour. It's not that I ever doubted his commitment to the Davis Cup. No one who takes any kind of interest in the tennis player David Nalbandian can. But I wasn't sure whether he would be able to play as well as would be needed. Or as well as he was expecting it from himself. But by now, all of these doubts are forgotten, as David has once again shown that whenever he's playing Davis Cup - nothing is impossible...
Not even ending Russia's fifteen-year streak of winning home ties.

Here's what David had to say after the match. (Davis Cup website; in English, mp3)
And here's the link to a video of a slightly bemused David, facing the Russian press together with Tito Vázquez at the post-match press conference (thanks, Anonymous).

An attempt at a summary...
Once more, it was a bit of a nervy start from David, and understandably so, given the importance of the match. Whereas against Davydenko David had played very aggressively from the start, this time he didn't take as much risk at first. Which led to longer rallies, during which David initially often found himself under pressure, due to the depth of Youzhny's groundstrokes. In the early stages of the match, it was indeed the Russian who dictated most of the rallies. And at 2-2 and on David's serve, he held the first break points of the match. But David saved both and managed to hold in the end and make it 3-2. At this stage of the match, David was visibly frustrated with his performance. Between points, he kept berating either himself or the chair umpire Louise Engzell, as there were quite a few linecalls David disagreed with. Still, they remained on serve, without any further break points, although Youzhny seemed to have less trouble than David, holding serve. - Until at 6-5, with Youzhny serving again to stay in the set, an amazing angled backhand earned David his first two break points of the match - and at this stage, set points. What happened next I can't say because that was the exact moment my stream froze on me. By the time it was working again, the two set points were gone and evntually, Youzhny managed to scrape through to take the set to a tiebreak.
David went up a mini-break early on and led 3-1 before losing three points in a row. At 4-4, he managed to get back on track again with a service winner before one of his many great returns today drew the error from Youzhny and at 6-4 gave David 2 further set points. He took the second one, on his own serve, as a forehand from Youzhny found the net. 7-6(5)

But despite winning the first set, David wasn't able to carry the momentum over to the second set. His first service game turned into a lengthy deuce battle that included two further break points for Youzhny. But once again David managed to save both and hold serve. After this tight game (for 1-1) there followed a series of very quick service games, with both players unable to make much of an impact, returning serve. David was serving well, very consistent, but at the same time couldn't seem to do much on return. Again, the set seemed to be heading towards another tiebreak - until at 4-4 and with Youzhny serving, David suddenly managed to raise his level. Throughout this set, he had never managed to win more than a single point per return game. But from 15-15 on, first another great, deep return and then an angled backhand gave him two break points. On the first, he went for too much with his return but on the second, Youzhny made the unforced error. Now up a break and 5-4, David served for the set. The kind of situation where often enough it's time for drama with David... But not this time. A volley winner, a great forehand cross and an ace later, David had 3 set points. And this time, he took the first, playing serve and volley. 6-4

And now, the momentum firmly was on David's side. Leading by two sets now, he showed his best tennis of this weekend. Playing with confidence and therefore able to play with variety, to construct points and finish them at the net. While at the same time still continuing to serve well, never really getting under any pressure on serve. David began the third set by immediately breaking Youzhny's serve and then consolidating his break to love for a 2-0 lead. At 3-1, he managed to take Youzhny to deuce but couldn't find a way of creating more break point opportunities. David's service game at 4-3 was the only one in this set that was a little more tight but David held to 30 and went up 5-3. Serving to stay in the match, at 15-30 Youzhny hit a double fault (David didn't make a single one today), granting David 2 match points. The first one Youzhny was able to save but on the second match point, David's last great return of the day was enough to draw the error from Youzhny. 6-3.

After Friday's match against Davydenko, David was unhappy with his performance. Calling it a "disaster", despite the fact that he won. Today, he should be happy. Not only because he secured Argentina's place in the semifinal. But also because of the way he played, how he was able to take control of the match as it went on and the level of tennis he displayed after such a long pause. And maybe, this tie marks a new beginning for this season.


(Reuters Pictures)

Davis Cup vs Russia Day 3 - David wins decisive fifth Rubber

He did it in Stockholm and now he has done it again in Moscow - David has sealed the victory for Argentina by winning the decisive fifth rubber, beating Mikhail Youzhny 7-6(5), 6-4, 6-3.

This victory grants Argentina a place in the Davis Cup semifinal (September 17-19) where they will meet France, after the French team pulled off a surprise win over defending champions Spain.
Once more, it will be an away tie for Argentina.

Apart from that, David's two wins on this weekend have earned him 130 ranking points that should see him move up to around forty places in the ranking next week (to around #110).

More soon...
Photos on the photo page now.

(Reuters Pictures)


Update
Nikolay Davydenko has defeated Eduardo Schwank 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4.
With Argentina and Russia tied at 2-2, David now has to play the decisive fifth rubber. Against Mikhail Youzhny.


- That depends on Eduardo Schwank, who is now playing the fourth rubber against Nikolay Davydenko. After Leonardo Mayer was virtually chanceless against Youzhny on Friday (and is apparently struggling with the conditions at the Olimpijski), Tito Vázquez has decided to replace Mayer with Schwank who seems to be in good shape at the moment.

With Argentina currently leading 2-1, Schwank now has the chance to clinch the tie for Argentina already in the fourth rubber. If he does, the fifth rubber will be a dead one and David will perhaps not play it.
But if Schwank loses, it will once again fall to David to try and clinch the tie for Argentina in the fifth rubber against Mikhail Youzhny.

In the meantime, what has already been decided is the next opponent, should Argentina win today. France defeated reigning champions Spain 3-0 already after the doubles yesterday and would be Argentina's opponent in the semis.

But first of all - Eduardo Schwank against Nikolay Davydenko.
And then we'll see what happens with the fifth rubber...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Davis Cup vs Russia Day 2 - The Doubles

As reported by the press (for example canchallena.com) and several Argentine journalists on their Twitters (like Guillermo Salatino, Enrique Cano and Claudio Cerviño), David is not going to play the doubles today. Instead, Eduardo Schwank will play together with Horacio Zeballos.

Update
Schwank and Zeballos now officially confirmed for the doubles by the AAT.

Friday, July 9, 2010

David's Comeback Match - Review


(Highlights courtesy of Andvari, match recording by Krystle - thanks.
Update: The match is now available on the David on Screen page.)

Playing his first match in nearly three months, David defeated Nikolay Davydenko 6-4, 7-6(5), 7-6(6) today in what was the first rubber of this weekend's quarterfinal tie against Russia. In the meantime, Russia have levelled the score as Mikhail Youzhny beat Leonardo Mayer in straight sets. After the first day, Argentina and Russia are now tied at 1-1.

Perhaps, it was the kind of match you had to expect with two players meeting who both have little to no match practice. And if you add to it that this match took place as part of a Davis Cup quarterfinal tie then it's probably understandable that it seemed a bit chaotic at times, with its ups and downs and mixture of great winners and horrible errors. But considering the circumstances, it was a fantastic performance from David. And for someone without any match practice he held his nerve extremely well in the important moments.



The beginning of the match saw a very nervous start from both players. Before the match, David had talked about the difficult and unusual surface at the Olimpijski and early on in the match, both David and Davydenko seemed to struggle with controlling the ball. Still, from the first rally on, David went for his shots, played aggressively and with a lot of risk, showing that he meant to stick to his plan of taking the initiative. But playing with a lot of risk of course also meant a higher risk of committing unforced errors. And a couple of those in the third game meant an early break and the 2-1 lead for Davydenko. It was the first break of the match but it should not be the last one. In fact, David broke back immediately and he did so to love. After the nervy start and this early exchange of breaks, they remained on serve though both David and Davydenko faced break points in almost all of their service games. At 5-4 David, Davydenko served to stay in the set and went up 40-15 before David managed to get him back to deuce, helped by one of Davydenko's six double daults today. Earning himself a first set point with a great return winner, David immediately converted it as a backhand cross from Davydenko landed wide. 6-4.

Perhaps, David had some difficulty believing that he had won the first set and relatively easily at that. In any case, he completely missed the start of the second set and before he even knew what was happening, he found himself down a double break and 3-0. Davydenko's next service game saw a deuce battle, with David wasting two break points before an unforced error by Davydenko gave David one break back. But Davydenko was still up a break. And at 5-4, it was his turn to serve for the set. This time, it was David who profited from Davydenko's errors, though these were also the result of the pressure David kept putting on his opponent, still taking risks, still playing aggressively, whether with his returns, from the baseline or occasionally coming to the net. Davydenko gifted David the re-break and the 5-5 and eventually, the set went to a tiebreak.
After initially going up a mini-break and 2-0, David lost five points in a row before steadying the ship by winning two points on his own serve to make it 4-5. Which he then followed up with a great backhand cross/drop volley combination to level the score at 5-5. Still on Davydenko's serve David then hit what was perhas his greatest return winner today. Once more, it earned him a set point. And once more he immediately converted it with a backhand winner off a weak return by Davydenko. 7-6(5)

This time, David didn't miss the start of the next set. Taking the second set obviously did his confidence a lot of good and he was able to carry the momentum on into the third set, breaking Davydenko right at the beginning of it. Until halfway through the set it looked like David might be able to carry this one break through the set, as held serve more easily than at any other stage of the match. But then at 4-3, a couple of errors gave Davydenko a break point and David's attempt to play serve & volley on second serve misfired. Re-Break 4-4. Once again, David broke back straight away and at 5-4 had the chance to serve for the match. But an untimely double fault at 30-30 gifted Dvaydenko a break point and he took it as volley by David, who was still trying to attack, found the net. 5-5.
And in the end - tiebreak. Again David led by a mini-break at first, only to then find himself down a mini-break at the crucial stage of the tiebreak, with Davydenko holding two set points at 6-4. The first (on David's serve) he saved with a good serve that Deavydenko failed to get into play. The second set point, however, came on Davydenko's serve and he looked sure to make it when David barely managed to keep the ball in play, sending it high into the air. Davydenko smashed - long. 6-6. Maybe, it's no surprise that Davydenko seemed to have lost his focus after that. Setting up a match point for David with an unforced error. And then allowing David to convert his first match point with another one. 7-6(5)

Update II
Now, from the fan perspective, it may have been a fantastic performance, given the circumstances. David's own take on the match, however, is a different one...
"I would've liked to play better but the important thing was to win. I'm not happy with the match because we both made a lot of errors. But I won."
"Both of us had many ups and downs. It was not a good match but we got the victory and that's what matters." (ESPN)
"I won, playing badly."
"It was no walk in the park but I thought the match would be a little more tough. He didn't play well and that helped me a lot. The important thing was to win. And better to win in three sets."
"Me? A disaster... There's a lot I need to improve. I can still give much more."
"I would prefer to play on Sunday but that's a decision Tito Vázquez will have to make at the end of the day." (Olé)


(photos: Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images)

Davis Cup vs Russia Day 1 - David's Comeback Match

Update
David has won not only his comeback match but also the first point for Argentina in the Davis Cup quarterfinal, defeating Russia's #1 Nikolay Davydenko 6-4, 7-6(5), 7-6(6) in 2 hours and 47 minutes.


(AP Photo)

More soon...
Photos from the match now on the photo page.
David's post-match interview (Davis Cup website, in English, mp3 format).


Only about an hour left now until David will play his first match since the quarterfinal defeat against Djokovic at Monte Carlo. Back at the very beginning of the clay-court season. Since then, a lot has happened in the world of tennis. Roland Garros and also Wimbledon have come and gone - without David. Now he's back to play his first match in almost three months. And it's going to be a best-of-five match against Nikolay Davydenko.
Normally, I would write something like a pre-match analysis, about what to expect from the match. But in this special case, I don't think that I can. There are simply too many unknowns, going into this match. And the biggest one of them all is of course how well David will be able to play, after a long pause and against such a difficult opponent. What is clear is that David and Davydenko know each other well enough, this being their twelfth encounter and the fourth in Davis Cup. And both apparently expect this to be a very tough match, just like most of their previous ones. Still, it remains to be seen if David will be able to keep up with Davydenko.

In one of the two interview clips from yesterday, David said that he will have to try and take the initiative in the rallies. To play aggressively and keep the rallies short. We'll see if can implement this strategy on court. And whether "seven points out of ten", David's own assessment of his fitness yesterday, will be enough to beat Davydenko.

Right now, there's nothing but questions.
The answers only David can give. In about an hour at the Olimpijski.


(Olé)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Davis Cup Draw


(Russian Davis Cup website)

Update II
Two new interview clips from today (with summaries) you'll find here.

Update
Here's David's first audio interview for the Davis Cup website.
(In English; mp3 format.)

At the Olimpijski today, not only training sessions took place but also the draw ceremony - on the court. Here's what the draw looks like, as well as the general schedule for the weekend.

Friday, July 9
First match: 3pm local (noon GMT, 7am EST, 8am Argentina)
Nikolay Davydenko vs David Nalbandian
Mikhail Youzhny vs Leonardo Mayer

Saturday, July 10
Doubles: 2pm local (11am GMT, 6am EST, 7am Argentina)
Teimuraz Gabashvili & Igor Kunitsyn vs David Nalbandian & Horacio Zeballos

Sunday, July 11
First match: 1pm local (10am GMT, 5am EST, 6am Argentina)
Nikolay Davydenko vs Leonardo Mayer
Mikhail Youzhny vs David Nalbandian

According to the draw, David is scheduled to play on all three days. But that doesn't mean he will actually play on all three days, as the combination of players for the doubles for example can be changed up until an hour before the start of the match.
What the draw does determine, however, is the line-up for the first two singles rubbers, so David's first match after almost three months will indeed be against Davydenko.


(Misha Japaridze/AP Photo)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

More Training and a new Interview

Update
David will play the 500 tournament in Washington (first week of August), having received a wildcard from the organisers.

First of all, the latest video from Moscow, a brief look at David's afternoon training session with Eduardo Schwank. After two practice sessions during the day, the Argentine team should by now be attending the official dinner.
In suits but without ties. (Evidence on the photo page.)






And then there's the following interview that appeared on Clarin.com today and from which the photo above has been taken. In the interview, David talks not only about the tie and Davis Cup in general but also about how he sees his current state - and his future in terms of tennis.
Q: What are the certainties and what are the doubts you have about your fitness and the time you spent away from the Tour?

David: I feel good, I don't have many doubts. The only one maybe is how little match rhythm I have, going in to this. Physically, I'm fine. As I didn't play Wimbledon, I did a pre-season of fifteen days and we were happy with that. But I need to play matches to get to the kind of level I want to be at.

Q: Those who follow tennis in Argentina [and not only there, I might add] ask themselves if you're ready to play five sets.

David: Yes, yes. No problem. I'm not going to play on all three days, that has been ruled out. Something else the captain has to analyse is what kind of strategy we will go for with the team. Whether I play two singles, a singles and the doubles, against whom, for what's best for us. Tito will have to really think about these things and what he decides, we'll do. Their worst singles player is Youzhny, ranked 12 [14 this week]. It's a very difficult tie but we have the weapons to do battle and make it close. But - matches are matches.

Q: If you play on the first day against Davydenko, it seems that this is going to be a crucial match. If it's 1-1 after Friday, Saturday could be a different matter.

David: Actually, it's relative. Because if the strategy is to make it 1-1, what does it matter who wins and who doesn't. It's about winning the three points. With who and how, that's the question. We know we have to find a way of taking two singles from them and the doubles, their "weakest" rubber. The truth is that it's very difficult to make predictions about this tie.

Q: What would you like to do? Which strategy would you prefer?

David: I will play on two days and we'll have to see what's needed. I feel good, Schwank has been playing very well in doubles and he's an alternative for that. What we have to achieve is that everyone of us plays an important role and will do their best to win this tie.

Q: You've mentioned Tito. In Sweden, there was not a lot of communication between you and him on court. Has your relationship with him improved?

David: I never had a bad relationship with him. In Sweden, I arrived in time to play but I've been here since Sunday. You spend more time together, on and also off the court and that makes you talk more. During the matches there are tense moments and then it's better not to talk. But in training, opinions change for the good of the team.

Q: What's good about Tito? That he's open and sincere, talking about things, whether they're good or bad ones? He doesn't turn on you. You're a generation ahead of your teammates.

David: (interrupts) I'm getting old. (laughs)

Q: And that makes you the one the others come to for advice, and you give it without them having to ask for it. Do you like to be in that position?

David: That I'm getting old is one thing. That I'm valuable for the team is another. I try to share my experience so that they can take from it what's of help to them. But these are guys who are mature, though they're all just over twenty. The reality is that in the difficult moments during a match when the nerves come, it's very difficult to help.

Q: What kind of feelings do you have, returning to the place where you had your Davis Cup debut [2002] and lost a final [2006]?

David: Nothing unusual. Obviously you're going to remember things because you're playing at the same stadium. But we are two different teams and it's a very different tie. I have some good memories but bad ones about the results. I don't know if we learned anything form that because I don't know what what it could teach us.

Q: In Sweden, you pulled off the surprise. What do you have in store for us, this time?

David: For that, I would have to leave and make another surprise appearance. (laughs) Those are different matters, I was the hero because it went well but I would've been the villain had it not gone well. Here, everything is different. I want to play the best role I can. Back then I went and won the two points. Hopefully, the same thing will happen again now, having done things better from the start.

Q: If you play and win the doubles, you'll tie Vilas' record for Davis Cup doubles. Do you care much about records?

David: Not at all. Vilas was a great Argentine tennis player and the records set by him are almost unparelleled, worldwide. Federer is the one who's much closer but still hasn't quite reached him. I don't see much of a chance that another player can come and match those kinds of records. What matters to me is that Argentina wins. If I have to play, I play. If not, then I won't. I'm not going to walk on court to say that I beat some record. If that's what happens, great. But it's always about what's good for the team.

Q: A couple of years ago, you said that you were playing for the glory and not for the money. What do you play for now, your ego?

David: For the same reasons. For the satisfaction, for the glory, for the important results. For trying to win the Davis Cup, the only title we've never won in terms of sports. I still love tennis, I enjoy it and I feel good. I'm looking forward to playing and having a couple more good years.


(tenisespanol.com)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

David interviewed and more from Moscow...



This clip shows David getting interviewed by Guillermo Salatino and Enrique Cano after the official press conference today. Here's a summary.

About the court surface, David calls it a little strange and neither fast, nor slow but adds that you have to live with it and that for him, it's okay. Asked if there's still any pain or discomfort, his answer is clear - no. No pain, at all. Still, it seemed to be the better idea to be a bit careful, pull out of Wimbledon and focus on playing in the USA (the upcoming US hardcourt swing). He knows he has some catching up to do, he lacks rhythm and match practice but he has trained and he feels good. Asked about the tie, David says it'll be a difficult one and that Tito Vázquez will decide who plays which rubber but nothing has been decided yet. Adding that the doubles ruber may seem easier than the singles but that it's not. He's aware of all the speculations about who's going to play against who. But at this moment, he can't really say anything about that. He feels good, ready for anything though he's not sure about playing on all three days. And who knows, he could have a very tough match on Friday. The important thing will be to find a way of making it possible for him to win two rubbers for the team. That's what counts. But whether it means he'll be playing on Friday and Sunday or Saturday and Sunday - he doesn't know.
Not yet.

So the practice sessions at the venue continued today and the Argentine team held its first press conference. But there are some big questions, there won't be any answers to until the tie begins on Friday. How fit is David really, can he last five sets if he has to and how well will he be able to play?

As David says in the clip above, right now, he doesn't know himself which rubbers he's going to contest. At the press conference, Tito Vázquez repeated that "ideally, he'll play two singles and rest on Saturday". But nothing seems to have been decided yet. Or in David's words: "I feel ready to play anything. I don't know about all three days, but I feel good." (Quotes: canchallena.com; photo: TyC Sports)

However, there is someone, who is convinced that David is not only in great shape but also, despite his lack of match practice, playing great tennis at the moment. That someone is Leonardo Mayer, who trained together with David in Buenos Aires before travelling to Moscow.
I did full training with David. We played eight sets in three days. And since I didn't win a single set, rest assured that David's tennis is fine. He hasn't played [matches] in a while, but as soon as he finds his rhythm, he'll be like he was before.
Leo Mayer on David's role on the team...
It's obvious that David is the one who keeps the team going, an important role, and he likes that. I think that this is what you have to do, being the great player that he his. Apart from that, he gives us a lot of advice. In Stockholm, he kept telling us little things that all turned out to be true. About the team, the opponent, the crowd, everything. It's great to have someone who has seen it all and can tell you about it. (Source: Olé.)

But it's not just tough practice sessions for David and the rest of the team at the Olimpijski. There's also alywas room for having a bit of fun, for example with a game of football-tennis...



Finally, a little anecdote (from the AAT Twitter) about a brief exchange between Marat Safin and David at the venue today...
Safin: "Argentina played well at the World Cup..."
David: "At least, we qualified."
(Russia did not.)

A first Glimpse of David on Court...

Update
The first photos from today's press conference now on the photo page.
- More photos added.

Here are two short clips of David, training at the Olimpijski yesterday (thanks, Andvari)...




Monday, July 5, 2010

Davis Cup Preview


(taken during the final 2006; from the Russian Davis Cup website)

Update
As news agency Telam reports (via LaNueva.com), the Argentine team did have its first practice (in two shifts) at the venue today. In the morning, David played against Schwank, in the afternoon against Mayer, as the training session apparently included playing "games and tiebreaks".
On the Russian side, Marat Safin was training with Davydenko. The article raises the question whether he might be a surprise addition to the Russian team. To be honest, I have no idea whether or not that's even possible.
Edit: Apparently, it would be.

For tomorrow, again two practice sessions are scheduled. Between them, the Argentine team will talk to the press. (photo: AAT)


This is what the Olimpijski arena looks like, inside. With a tennis court and stands. David and the rest of Argentina's Davis Cup team were supposed to have their first training session at the venue today. So far, there are no photos or any other evidence that this session took place. But I'm sure there will be photos and maybe videos in the next days.

Meanwhile, here's a look ahead at the quarterfinal, David's record-breaking fifth Davis Cup tie against Russia. Or rather, here's an attempt at a preview. Because with this particular tie, maybe more so than ever before, it seems difficult if not impossible to know what to expect.
Only one thing is clear, Russia will be going into this tie as the clear favourites. And not just because they're the home side.

The Singles
Let's assume (for now) that the singles rubbers will see Leo Mayer and David up against Davydenko and Youzhny. In terms of the ranking, the situation is clear - the numbers 58 and 153 (as of this week) against the numbers 6 and 14 in the world. But of course, Davis Cup ties follow their own rules. Therefore, I usually prefer to look at the individual match records and the players' Davis Cup histories.

In Mayer's case, his match record against both Davydenko and Youzhny can be summed up in one word - zero. He has never played against either of them before. So there are no previous results to draw any conclusions from. Now, you could argue that it's a good thing he doesn't possess a losing record against Davydenko, for example. That he's going into these matches without any kind of emotional baggage. But it also means that he won't really know what he's up against - until he's on court.
This quarterfinal will be Mayer's third time of playing Davis Cup and also his third away tie (after Stockholm and Ostrava, last year).

David on the other hand has played already 11 matches against Davydenko, with the match record at 6-5 in David's favour. Three of those matches took place at Davis Cup ties, with David winning two, including their match at the 2006 final in Moscow. Still, whoever prevails in the end, matches David against Davydenko usually don't end in straight sets but more often than not turn into arduous, protracted affairs. As for Youzhny, after losing to him twice six years ago, this year David managed to get his first ever win over Youzhny at Monte Carlo. Though it wasn't easy and the match took place on clay. (Match report here.)
It's no question that David will know exactly what's awaiting him. Being the Davis Cup veteran that he is and also knowing his opponents. But what can be expected from David after not having played competitive tennis for almost three months? Even if his game is intact, even if his timing is on and his groundstrokes are working - will he be able to keep up physically with Davydenko, famous for making his opponents work extremely hard on court? Will he be able to do all the running? Without getting injured again? And it's not like Youzhny is a particularly easy match-up for David, either.

The Doubles
Should theoretically be Horacio Zeballos and Eduardo Schwank against Igor Kunitsyn and Teimuraz Gabashvili. Zeballos together with Schwank would be a first in Davis Cup. And although it wouldn't be the first time they play doubles together, it's been over a year since they last played a tournament (Copa Telmex 2009). Kunitsyn and Gabashvili on the other hand only recently started playing together, at Russia's first-round tie against India in March (where they lost to specialists Bhupathi and Paes). What Argentina's and Russia's doubles have in common is that the players on both sides are relatively inexperienced when it comes to playing Davis Cup (Kunitsyn, as the one with the most ties, has played three). That and the fact they don't usually play together. In my opinion, this maybe is the most open of all five rubbers.

But the big questions concern the singles rubbers.
How will Leo Mayer fare against Davydenko and Youzhny?
And what kind of form is David in, anyway?
The past has shown that nothing is impossible when David is playing Davis Cup. Still, it's the combination of almost three months without competitive tennis and two difficult opponents that makes me wonder if this time, it's fair to expect more "miracles" from David. Although he will certainly expect just that from himself.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

On the Way to Moscow...


(A. Savin)

And this is where the Argentine team is headed, the Olimpijski arena in Moscow, the same venue where the Davis Cup final 2006 took place. On Monday, David and the rest of the team will take up practicing at the arena. The first training session tomorrow will take place on a different court the team has rented for this purpose.

But first of all, everyone has to get to Moscow. Tito Vázquez is flying in from London, together with Eduardo Schwank (after his semi-final exit in the doubles at Wimbledon) and Agustin Velotti. The newly crowned Roland Garros juniors champion will function as hitting partner in training. Horacio Zeballos apparently travelled to Moscow already yesterday, after playing a match in the German tennis league.
David, together with Leo Mayer, vice-captain Rivera and the rest of the Argentine team should be arriving in Moscow today. (La Nacion; thanks, tennisace)

As for David's alleged stopover in London, I think this might be about seeing Dr. Ruiz-Cotorro, who is probably at Wimbledon right now with Rafael Nadal. But that's just my theory.