Thursday, September 30, 2010

Official: David out of Tokyo and Shanghai

It may still be hard to believe but by now it's official: The Asian swing will once more take place without David. He has pulled out of the 500 event in Tokyo and the Masters 1000 in Shanghai.
David's next tournament will be the indoor event at Stockholm where, being a former champion, he has apparently received a wildcard.
I'll quote from two new articles...
Clarin.com has received confirmation from the player's camp that David has officially withdrawn from both tournaments. (...)
Nalbandian reportedly prefers to avoid the strain of the Asian swing in order to be well prepared for the indoor part of the season, where has had good results.

According to Canch Llena, David's spokesman Ballero cites "exhaustion" as the reason for pulling out...
His spokesman told canchallena.com that Nalbandian grew physically more and more exhausted during the US swing (Washington, Toronto and Cincinnati) and that he intends to get into top form for the part of the season that's his best: the European indoor swing, where he won four of the 11 titles in his career.
Just to put this into perspective - David has played only 8 tournaments this season (and 3 Davis Cup ties), the rest of the time he was either out with muscular problems or pausing. You should think that he'd want to play, now that he's fit again and free from injuries... But apparently not really.

Update
Here's David's first and so far only statement (from the official site):
I'm going to concentrate on the European indoor swing, which culminates in the Paris Masters in mid-November.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Asian Swing - may or may not take Place without David

UpdateIII (30/09)
Danny Miche says on his Twitter he can confirm that:
David has pulled out of both Tokyo and Shanghai.
But he will play Stockholm, Basel and the Masters in Paris.


Update II (30/09)
David's name is no longer on the entry list for Tokyo.
No news about Shanghai.
Also no statement, no press release or news article in the Argentine press yet.


A few hours after I posted the "Preview" entry (that was here before and to which the first few of the comments refer), it began with some alarming tweets from Argentine sports journalists. About how it still wasn't clear when David would actually travel to Tokyo (Quique Cano) and about David not wanting to play in Asia and having a meeting with his team to decide whether or not to go (Danny Miche). Miche also wrote that David is neither injured nor suffering from any other problems of the sort.

Then the news came via MundoD that David had already made up his mind not to travel to Asia, citing a source from David's camp.

Which was then taken back with this revamped version of the same article, saying the decision whether or not to go hasn't been made yet and David will decide on Thursday, i.e. tomorrow.

According to the this article David will, in case he won't travel to Asia, return at Basel.

- That is all I know at the moment. I guess we'll have to wait for tomorrow and see what David's decision will be.


Update (30/09)
There's nothing definitive yet but here are some quotes from David's spokesman Bernardo Ballero (from yesterday)...
"The idea is to try and withdraw. David and his team are analysing the possibility of not going [to Asia], but for that we have to talk to the organisers of the different tournaments, a situation that is not simple. But ultimately, the idea is not to travel to Asia," said Ballero, who added that in the coming hours the decision will be made, since yesterday the time difference was complicating the communication [with the organisers in Asia].

Asked to explain the reasons for Nalbandian's refusal to travel to Asia, the spokesman said, "he was thinking about and pondering the situation and came to the conclusion that it would be a very long and exhausting trip for only two tournaments... that's food for thought. We must not only take into account the distance but also the time difference to which he'd be be exposed."

When asked about a return date for Nalbandian, Ballero said: "If he decides to withdraw then it's to save himself [the hassle - apparently...] and to focus directly on what will be the European indoor tour. At this point we can confirm his intention not to travel to Japan."
(Source: La Mañana de Córdoba)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A brief Update and some Davis Cup Musings...

Update (28/09)
According to this article (Google-translated from Vietnamese), David has pulled out of the Heineken Stars exhibition in Ho Chih Minh City he was scheduled to play this Friday and Saturday. In a letter to the organisers, David cites an undefined injury picked up at Lyon as the reason for his withdrawal. Still, I think we'll get to see him at Tokyo...


While David is back on the practice court, preparing for the Asian tournaments, there's still no further news about where he'll be heading after Tokyo and Shanghai. On the official site, only a general statement from David about the European indoor swing is to be found: "I'm very excited about being able to play it as I feel very comfortable on that surface." According to the official site, David also thinks he's in very good shape, both physically and in terms of his tennis.

Meanwhile, already during the Davis Cup semifinal to be precise, the Fundación Konex named David one of the 100 most important Argentine athletes of the last decade. An honour he shares with Gaston Gaudio, Guillermo Coria and Juan Martin Del Potro.
Apart from that, David has joined "Dar+" ("give more"), an initiative by Argentine athletes, meant to constitute a "space" where they can "join forces to support various charity projects, aimed at helping the less fortunate".
There's a Dar+ webpage about David, including a video message, in which he talks about his foundation. The page also has some photos and wallpapers and as it is hosted by ESPN radio, a list of ten songs, chosen by David, that you can listen to.

Finally, allow me a few more words in connection with next year's Davis Cup draw. The "positive draw!!!" as the AAT called it on their Twitter. And the first-round tie against Romania. - Thirty years after the last tie between these two nations.
Back in 1981, they played in Romania and the Argentine team was the overwhelming favourite with its big stars Guillermo Vilas and José Luis Clerc. But the two of them were on non-speaking terms and that proved not exactly helpful, especially for the doubles, which they played "together". Without talking and refusing to even sit down on the same bench during changeovers. In the end, they won the tie 3-2. Despite losing the doubles. But Argentina didn't win the title - the two stars were too busy fighting each other.
The feud between Vilas and Clerc was of a different caliber than the differences between David and Delpo, which date back to the lost final of 2008. Three months later, David and Delpo played doubles at Indian Wells. But although they talked and laughed together (and shared a bench during changeovers), that gesture of goodwill, initiated by their coaches, apparently merely established some sort of truce. And in Davis Cup they haven't met since Mar del Plata.
But they will again, next year. And it's up to the two of them whether that will mean more of the same old drama - or making a new start. Maybe playing the first tie against Romania will remind them of Vilas and Clerc. Silent, and on their separate benches. And maybe, hopefully, they'll decide that they're not as silly as that.


(Getty Images)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Davis Cup 2011 Draw

With the dust only just starting to settle after last weekend's semifinal, the draw for next year's Davis Cup was pulled in Brussels today.
Argentina has been drawn into the top half of the 16-nation field, which looks like this (*= home team):

Serbia* - India

Russia - Sweden*

Czech Republic* - Kazakhstan

Argentina* - Romania


David was hoping for home ties next year and now that's exactly what the Argentine team will get, playing their first-round tie against Romania at home. Should Argentina meet the Czech Republic after that, the quarterfinal would be a home tie for Argentina, as well. (Update: The Argentine team won't get to play an away tie until a hypothetical semifinal against Serbia. Against all other countries in this half of the draw, Argentina would play at home. Source.)
Romania, led by Victor Hanescu, beat Ecuador 5-0 to qualify for the World Group. And they're a team that feels comfortable, playing on clay. Whether that will play a role in determining the venue for this tie remains to be seen. Though I'd still expect the AAT to pick the Parque Roca. - We'll see.
The first-round tie will take place March 4-6, 2011.


(Olé)

In the meantime, David arrived back at Córdoba on Monday and was welcomed not only by his girlfriend but also by the cameras and microphones of the press. Asked by one of the reporters about his relationship with Vázquez, David replied, "Good, as always. But that's it. We'll talk later," before heading on, back home to Unquillo.
After two days of rest, David will take up training with Luis Lobo in Córdoba again tomorrow, preparing for the upcoming tournaments in Tokyo and Shanghai. (Source.)

Apart from that, the entry list for Basel is out now and not surprisingly, David's name is on it (thanks, Tennisace).

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Davis Cup SF vs France - Epilogue


(EFE)

At 7-5, 5-0 for Arnaud Clement in the fifth rubber today, umpire Carlos Ramos had to ask Horacio Zeballos for help. In the stands behind his chair, there was a noisy party going on, the Argentine fans singing and celebrating, with Michael Llodra right there with them. On court, Tito Vázquez was moved to tears by this last display of support. Minutes later, Clement sealed the fifth victory for France of this weekend and the whitewash for Argentina. Still, both teams parted on very amiable terms, with lots of hugs and the exchange of many nice words. The only one who missed both the party in the stands and the friendly end of this tie was David. He left after the fourth rubber to get on the way back home.

On Friday, after the defeat against Monfils, David's criticism of Tito Vázquez sent a shock wave through the Argentine press and public, big enough to put Argentina's captain into question. David's criticism concerned Tito's choice of Juan Monaco as singles player and not Eduardo Schwank, which would've granted David the #1 position and a first match against Llodra instead of Monfils. However, before the match David seemed quite confident that he would beat Monfils, saying his negative record against him wouldn't stay like that for much longer. After the lost match however, David thought that a first-day encounter between him and Monfils should've been avoided at any price, basically saying that Vázquez was to blame for his defeat, for "not having had the guts" to play Schwank instead of Monaco. A dubious statement to say the least but in any case one that should've remained behind closed doors.

Before leaving for Argentina today, David took a moment to do some major back-pedalling...
There are no problems between Tito and me, my words have been misinterpreted, everything is perfect and the dream is to win the Davis Cup.
I talked about what we talked about on Wednesday. There was nothing fixed, it was all uncertain, so the risk could've been taken [of playing Schwank] but Tito didn't want to. It could've worked out but it didn't. I'm not unhappy with Tito, on Wednesday he told us that he wouldn't take that risk.
The tie was even, bad luck, have to wait for another year. We had a good year, if you look at the team, we made it in Sweden, we made it in Russia and with injured players, Pico, Delpo and also myself. It's been a good year in terms of the results, it's not all bad now because we've lost. We didn't make it, although we prepared well for this tie. I'm hoping for a good draw and that we'll get to play at home. We have a very good team and hopefully, we'll also have a bit of luck.
(Source.)
But is everything perfect now? Or has it ever been - after all, David wasn't too happy when the AAT appointed Vázquez as Mancini's successor, as David (and a couple of others) wanted David's former coach Martin Jaite for the job. Later, there was the meeting between David and Delpo that Vázquez promised but failed to set up, which prompted David to say that "Tito should stop talking crap" (see post). Back then, the AAT considered sanctions against David but Vázquez spoke against it.

Perhaps, this Davis Cup season with the great victories at Stockholm and Moscow would've deserved a better end than this - and not just in terms of the score. David's obsession with his beloved Copa Davis will, as always, remain unchanged. That much is certain. But what the next year will bring, when Delpo returns to the team - and with him the apparently still unresolved problems between David and him - who knows.
The Davis Cup madness continues next March.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Davis Cup SF vs France - Day 2


(Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images)

Update
They gave their best but it wasn't enough - Eduardo Schwank and Horacio Zeballos have lost the doubles against Llodra and Clement 6-4, 7-5, 6-3. So the French team is through to the final. And Argentina's Davis Cup campaign is over - for this season.


Today, the fate of the Argentine team lies in the hands of Eduardo 'El Gordito' Schwank and Horacio 'Cebolla' Zeballos. The Argentine doubles that went from playing together only occasionally to winning a point for the team against Russia and then making the semifinal at this year's US Open, beating a couple of seeded doubles teams along the way. Still, it's a big challenge that's awaiting them today.

When Julien Benneteau injured his wrist at the US Open, it was clear that the French team wouldn't be able to rely on its star doubles - Benneteau and Llodra.
But before forming a team with Benneteau, Llodra was already successful with another French partner, Arnaud Clement. An old and experienced alliance that's now being revived for the sake of this tie.

So Schwank and Zeballos will not only find themselves up against some old hands in the doubles business, they'll also carry the weight of Argentina's expectations on their shoulders. And I can only hope that it won't prove to be too much for them.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Davis Cup SF vs France - Day 1 Review


(Highlights by Andvari, recording by Krystle - thanks; download via David on Screen.)

After the first day and the worst possible start, the Argentine team finds itself down 2-0 - dangerously close to the end of this year's Davis Cup campaign. And while the victories over Sweden and Russia seemed like little miracles, it will now need nothing short of a big, full-blown miracle for Argentina to reach the final. Tomorrow (at 3pm local time), Eduardo Schwank and Horacio Zeballos will try to win the first point for the Argentine team in the doubles. Should they lose to Michael Llodra and Arnaud Clement, David will have to wait for another year and another chance to fulfill his Davis Cup dream.

Perhaps, it was to be expected that Argentina's chances of taking the first rubber would be rather slim. And for my part, I thought Juan Monaco would go down in straights. In the end, Pico played and fought well - but it was only enough to take one set off Llodra. And after the first rubber was lost, the pressure and the burden of having to win the second one were, once more, on David's shoulders.
Asked about what went wrong in his match against Monfils, David blamed his poor serving (and the fact that Monfils served very well). But he also identified another reason why things went wrong - Tito Vázquez...
I think that he couldn't bring himself to make the changes, necessary for me to play against Llodra today. I should've played Llodra today, that the match-ups were what they were like today was the captain's decision.
Pico and I gave our best but sometimes that's not enough. The difference against Monfils was that he served better and I served poorly throughout match.
I don't like to lose and even less so in Davis Cup. It's a mixture of pain and anger. For me, it would be much easier to get up and walk away from here [the press conference].
Confronted with these remarks, Vázquez said that he made that decision but that they talked about it among the team on Wednesday. Apart from that he admitted that he expected Simon to play, and not Llodra. The article I've taken these quotes from also mentions that Vázquez showed "clear signs of irritation" and refused to talk about David, directly. In other words, apparently all is not well right now on the Argentine team. And already during the match, the two of them could be seen, arguing.


(Juan Foglia/EFE)

Still, in the end David only has himself to blame for this defeat. Before the match, he said that he'd have to attack and yet stay patient. Not allowing himself to feel tempted to go for too much with his shots, trying to play too close to the lines. Something that can easily happen, given Monfils' ability to get shots back into play enough other players wouldn't even try to retrieve. During the match, there were phases when David fell into this "trap" but also phases where he showed how even the fastest legs won't help if only the point is set up smartly enough. But unfortunately, those came and went and in the end, it was not enough to win.

Catching a horrible start (and obviously shocked by how well Monfils was serving and playing), David immediately went down a double break right at the beginning. Slowly finding his way into the match afterwards, David managed to get one of the breaks back but couldn't keep Monfils from taking the first 6-4, as the Frenchman's serve was simply too strong and consistent.
In the second set, however, Monfils first serve percentage went down, granting David more chances in his return games. He broke serve twice in this set, the second time when Monfils was serving to stay in it, and played his best tennis of the match at this stage, attacking at the net and using drop-shots to set up winners. 6-2.
But this phase came to an end at 1-1 in the third set when David gifted Monfils a break with a catastrophic service game. After that, the momentum shifted, Monfils served much better again and although David got through his service games without much difficulty, he couldn't get the break back and Monfils won the third set 6-4.
At the beginning of the fourth, David went up a break and, after some struggling managed to consolidate his break for a 3-0 lead. At this point in the match, anything seemed possible. David winning the fourth, the match going to a fifth, David battling through... No one could know that this would be the last game David would win. Towards the end, the match became more and more like it had been at the start. With David making tons of unforced errors, trying to go for too much with shots, also, increasingly, out of desperation. Rushing to the net, only to get passed. David took out his frustration on the umpire, Tito Vázquez and his racquet but nothing helped. In the end, Monfils won 6 games in a row, breaking David's serve one last time when he was serving to stay in the match.

Afterwards, David was asked whether he'll be playing doubles...
I'm not going to play the doubles tomorrow. That's for the captain to decide, but logically, no, I won't play. (Source.)

Davis Cup SF vs France - Day 1

UpdateII
For the first time this season, David has lost a Davis Cup match - in the end, it was Gael Monfils who prevailed 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3. Down 2-0 after the first day, Argentina's chances of making the final have been dealt a huge blow.
Tomorrow, it will now fall to Eduardo Schwank and Horacio Zeballos to try and keep the Argentine team in this tie.

Photos from the match on the new photo page.

More soon...


Update
Michael Llodra has defeated Juan Monaco 7-5, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 to give France a 1-0 lead. David's match is now on.

On this first day of play in Lyon, Juan Monaco and Michael Llodra will get the tie under way with the first rubber at 1.30pm local. A match that will see a contrast of styles, as Llodra is one of the few serve-and-volley players left on the Tour. Or, in Pico's words:
"Llodra puts you under pressure all the time, he tries to attack whenever he can and plays serve and volley a lot. I have to be very alert because the rallies are over very quickly." (Source.)
Another contrast is the current form - I think that Llodra is the clear favourite in this match.

Afterwards, it'll be David's turn against Gael Monfils.

Asked about his negative record against Monfils yesterday, David's reply was - "the record won't be like that for much longer". While Monfils himself agreed that "the statistics don't count here, this match will be much tougher than the previous ones because he plays better when he's playing for his country"(source). Apart from that it's true that their last two matches (which Monfils won) took place at the time when David had his hip injury. Still, I think that Monfils can cause David trouble, both with his serve and his defensive play, which can also quickly turn into attack. Asked what he'll need to do to beat Monfils, David said that he'll have to return well and that he'll "have to attack and yet stay patient at the same time".

As David told the Argentine journalists yesterday - "this isn't rocket science, my friends. You have to win three matches out of five". (Source.)
Let's hope that the Argentine team gets on track to achieving that goal today.

(photos: Getty Images & EFE)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Davis Cup Draw


(Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images)

Update
David's latest audio interview for the Davis Cup website you'll find here.

In Lyon, the draw for the semifinal tie was made ealier today and this time, the ceremony did not take place on the court at the venue (like in Moscow) but at the city hall. There, the order of play was determined and some of the questions about the line-ups of both teams were answered.
With Juan Monaco taking the place as Argentina's #1 singles player, David is the #2 and now scheduled to play the second match on Friday against the French #1 Gael Monfils. The #2 position also means that David could play what might be the decisive fifth rubber on Sunday.
On the French side, Guy Forget has decided on Michael Llodra as the #2 singles player. The doubles Llodra will play together with Arnaud Clement. Leaving Richard Gasquet out of the team and Gilles Simon sidelined - for the moment at least.
Here's a look at the semifinal weekend ahead.

Friday
Juan Monaco vs Michael Llodra
Pico has won two of their three matches so far (coming back from two sets down to beat Llodra in five at this year's Australian Open). But the great unknown going into this match is Pico's form. After having been out with a wrist injury for three months after Roland Garros, he has played only four matches since then, losing in the first round at Cincy and the US Open and in the second round of qualifying at New Haven. How much catching-up he's been able to do in training since then - we'll see.

David vs Gael Monfils
They've played three times so far. David won their first encounter (Roland Garros 2007) but the on the last two occasions (Beijing Olympics and US Open 2008), it was Monfils who prevailed and both times in straights. Having watched those last two matches, I'd say that Monfils is not an easy match-up for David, mostly because of his athleticism and his defensive skills. Getting as many balls back into play as possible, he'll make it difficult for David to finish off points and increase the risk of David committing unforced errors. Also important will be the serve. Both David's ability to hold his own and Monfils' first serve percentage - as David has had his difficulties with his first serve in the past. And there's another factor, Monfils will have the crowd behind him and he's one of those players where this really can make a difference. In other words - not an easy match for David.


Saturday
Eduardo Schwank & Horacio Zeballos vs Michael Llodra & Arnaud Clement
This is the first time for as long as I can remember that Argentina goes into a Davis Cup tie with a fixed, as well as successful doubles. Schwank and Zeballos contributed one point to Argentina's victory over Russia in the quarterfinal. But what's more important, they can now approach this match with a US Open doubles semifinal under their belts. Which should give them a lot of confidence. But although the French team won't be able to rely on their best doubles (since Julien Benneteau is out with a wrist injury), they still have an excellent and very experienced doubles in Llodra and Clement, who used to play on the Tour together and won seven titles, inculding Wimbledon (2007). Who will win this battle between new confidence and old experience could prove decisive for the outcome of this tie.


Sunday
Juan Monaco vs Gael Monfils
Their match record is tied at 2-2 but again, there's that big question mark concerning Pico's current form. Apart from that, Tito Vázquez could still decide to replace him with Eduardo Schwank for this match.

David vs Michael Llodra
That's the line-up for the fifth rubber - for now. France's captain Guy Forget still has the chance to replace Llodra (who might by tired after two matches and also lost his only match against David rather convincingly at Sydney 2009), for example with Gilles Simon.

Who will really get to play the last two rubbers on Sunday will depend on what happens on the two previous days, so it's not yet possible to say much about these matches, with the team captains able to exchange players basically up until the last minute.

But first things first, Pico against Llodra and then David against Monfils at the Palais des Sports de Gerland in Lyon, tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Semifinal - Facts and Fiction...


(Laurent Cipriani/AP Photo)

At the Palais Gerland, Argentina secured the first victory over France today: David and Eduardo Schwank beat Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon in football-tennis (you can watch a clip of it here). And perhaps, it was the last opportunity to have a bit of fun before things will start to get more serious tomorrow with the draw ceremony, which will not only determine the order in which the matches will be played - but also who is going to play them.

In Argentina's case, it's clear that David will play singles (and Schwank & Zeballos doubles) but whether he'll be the team's #1 or #2 has yet to be decided as that depends on who Tito Vázquez will pick to be the other singles player. In Davis Cup, the position of the singles players is determined by their ranking on the day the team nominations were made. David has the highest ranking on the team now but at the time of the nominations, he was still ranked #33 - and Juan Monaco #32. So if Monaco gets to play singles, he'll be the #1 and David the #2. (Whereas should Schwank play singles, David would be the #1 and Schwank the #2.) If David is the #2, he'll face France's #1 Gael Monfils on Friday.

On the other hand, who will play for France is even more of a mystery. Gael Monfils is fit, he will be their #1 in singles and would, according to France's captain Forget, like to play his first match against David, thinking he has a good chance against him on this slower surface (source). But who will be the other singles player and also who's going to play doubles with Michael Llodra - that remains to be seen. Although Llodra has declared that he'd prefer to play doubles with his former partner Arnaud Clement (source).
- Tomorrow's draw ceremony will give the answers.

But what's already known is the general schedule of events, which looks like this:

Friday, September 17
First match: 1.30pm local (12.30pm GMT, 7.30am EST, 8.30am Argentina)

Saturday, September 18
Doubles: 3pm local (2pm GMT, 9am EST, 10am Argentina)

Sunday, September 19
First match: 1pm local (12pm GMT, 7am EST, 8am Argentina)

The tie will be televised in France and Argentina but there will also be streams. As always, I'll post stream links in the sidebar, in time for the matches.

Finally, we've had a quote about David from Juan Monaco. But what does the other side think about David in Davis Cup and as a player in general? Here's what France's captain Guy Forget had to say.
David is a special player anywhere, not only in Davis Cup. He can play really well... On a good day and if he's good shape physically, he can beat anybody. I've seen him play many times, he has a great game, impressive. He's one of those guys who make a difference. To beat him you have to give your best and fight hard. If he's not playing well, it's possible to beat him. But if he plays his best tennis he is almost unbeatable.
(Cancha Llena)


(Clarin)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Press Conference Day in Lyon


(Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images)

Between morning and afternoon training today, it was time for the Argentine team and its captain to face the press and talk about their expectations, the surface, the opponent and the upcoming tie in general. Although the answer to the most interesting question got postponed until Thursday - until the draw ceremony, Tito Vázquez will not reveal who will be the other singles player for Argentina, whether Monaco or Schwank.
But Argentina's captain, like his players, is content with the surface chosen by the French, saying that the players are doing a very good job of adjusting to the surface. (Cancha Llena)

Update
You can listen to an audio interview with David for the Davis Cup website here (in English, mp3 format).

David for his part said that his ankle is okay and that he's planning to enjoy his matches, trying to play as best as he can. (Quique Cano's Twitter.)

About whether he might play doubles after all, David said the following:
I'm more relaxed. After training, I now no longer have to worry about the doubles. I know that Saturday is for resting.

This tie looks very tough, tougher than the ones against Sweden and Russia. We're going to face players with a good level and a good ranking.
(Olé)

But although it's indeed another difficult away tie awaits David and the Argentine team on the weekend, the memory of the victories that got Argentina to this semifinal is still fresh...
We got it done in Stockholm, we got it done in Moscow. We'll see what happens.

[About the surface]
It's not as fast as we were expecting. I'm not saying it's like clay but it's playable. I like it.

It's a difficult tie. France has players of the same quality as Russia but they have a better doubles. You have to play five matches. We think that we have a tiny chance.

[Impossible to win this tie?]
All of the previous ones seemed difficult and we got it done.
(Clarin)

UpdateII
It's going to be a tough tie. You could play against anybody. Are they afraid when they look at my Davis Cup record? I don't know, I don't think about that. I only focus on preparing well, to give my best and to have a good time on court.
(AAT)

Finally, yesterday an interview with Juan Monaco appeared during which he had this to say about David:
Thank God David is Argentinean. He's a born leader and we realise that. We are proud to have him as our teammate, he's a winner, he encourages us and makes us get better. He loves playing Davis Cup, loves playing for his country. And that makes us grow as players. People don't quite realise how important the Davis Cup is for him. He pushes us on to fulfill this dream that he has and that we all have. (Cancha Llena)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Welcome to the Palais des Sports de Gerland



So this is what it looks like, the court that the Davis Cup semifinal between France and Argentina will be played on, this weekend. Green and pink...
You can take a look around the venue (and see a bit of David practicing) by watching this clip.

Today, David (ranked #28 as of this week) and the rest of the Argentine team had their first two practice sessions at the venue, one in the morning and another one in the afternoon. These first practices apparently revealed that the surface is not as fast as expected, which is good news for the rest of the team, though not necessarily for David.

Meanwhile, Gilles Simon has voiced his opinion that David is a "very good player, especially on the kind of surface like in Lyon" but adding that he is "far from being unbeatable". In the French press, the predominant theory right now is that it will be Simon who will play singles along with Monfils, while Llodra and Clement could play doubles. (Source: Clarin.)
Note: Gael Monfils apparently twisted his ankle during training today. It's not clear yet whether there's an injury and if this might affect his chances to play the tie.
Update (14/09): Gael Monfils has been training today, apparently he's not injured.

On the Argentine side, both David for singles and Schwank & Zeballos for the doubles have been confirmed by Tito Vázquez now. The only question that still remains is who will be the other singles player. It could be Juan Monaco but at the moment, Vázquez doesn't rule out Eduardo Schwank for that position. (ESPN.)
Vázquez also said that the atmosphere among the Argentine players is "very good" and that David has been training with more intensity now and hasn't experienced any problems with his ankle, which is "nothing serious at all". (Cancha Llena.)

While David himself had the following to say (via his official site's Twitter):
I'm excited to play, representing Argentina. Actually, it motivates me even more than playing on the ATP Tour.
So it's Davis Cup week again.
More info about the tie in the next few days.

And more photos on the new photo page.


(photos: Juan Foglia E/E)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Training - The last Day at the Club de Lyon



Here's the latest video and photo of David at the Club de Lyon where the Argentine team had its last practice session today. From tomorrow on, the team will be training at the venue for the tie, the Palais des Sports de Gerland.


(Source: AAT)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Training in Lyon - Day 2

Today, after having lunch with the whole team at the Club de Lyon (a look around the club and glimpse of that lunch here), David joined the others for the afternoon training session (the rest already put in a first shift in the morning). Together with Federico Delbonis, David took on Schwank and Zeballos for some doubles practice - in tennis as well as football-tennis. Here's a brief clip showing the tennis part of the doubles training:



Two new photos of David you'll find on the photo page.

After training, the team went to watch the football match between Olympique Lyon and Valenciennes (French Ligue 1), which ended in a 1-1 draw. Tomorrow, the players get to sleep late as there's only one training session scheduled for the afternoon.
(Source, video and photos: AAT)

Friday, September 10, 2010

First Training in Lyon

Update
Here's another short clip of David, hitting with Horacio Zeballos.






This evening at 6pm (CET), the first training session took place at the Club de Lyon, where the Argentine team will be practising over the weekend until the Palais Gerland will be available for training from Monday on.


(Video and Photo: AAT)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Davis Cup Update: The Journey to France begins

Later today, the journey of the Argentine Davis Cup team to France will begin. With Tito Vázquez and Juan Monaco (and perhaps also Eduardo Schwank and Horacio Zeballos) leaving for Europe tonight. David will meet up with the others at Madrid and together they will then head on to Lyon.

Meanwhile, back home in Argentina, the excitement levels are already on the rise, even though the tie is still eight days away. And the press is full of speculations. With David and Monaco training for the tie and Schwank and Zeballos in the US Open doubles competition until yesterday (they lost their semifinal against Bopanna/Qureshi), it fell to Argentina's captain Tito Vázquez to face the questions of the media before leaving for France. Here are some of those questions and the answers he gave, first from the interview with Maximiliano Boso for La Nacion (thanks, tennisace for the link):
First of all, I thought about the players who were going to be part of the team. Leo is going through a rough patch but he was frank enough with me to tell me that he wasn't ready mentally to play the tie, and that wouldn't have been good for the team. Chela is focusing more on the Tour than on playing best-of-five matches in Davis Cup but he was one of the few players I considered for a place on the team up until the last minute. Pico has his merits, his performance was the important factor, those times when he played. He played a good match against Berdych in Ostrava, he was up two sets to one and 2-1 in the fourth.

Q: But what if it comes down to the fifth rubber?

Vázquez: Don't talk to me about speculations. I hope we'll get to that fifth rubber and then we'll see who plays. Sometimes, who plays the second singles can change. We'll see how we are by then, who is the best [for that task] and what happens. It doesn't matter who is number one and number two, what matters is who can beat who. The team has been decided, after that I'll now go day by day. Those are five difficult rubbers and each player has to play his best so we can pull it off together.

Q: The logical thing would be for Nalbandian to be the second singles player as that has worked well, before.

Vázquez: Mayer won a singles rubber at Stockholm and the doubles won in Russia. Where's the logic?

Q: Do you feel you got a bit lucky? Tsonga and Benneteau won't be there.

Vázquez: That they won't be there is important, without a doubt. But it's also difficult to say something now because we have to see what happens. For us it's important that Schwank and Zeballos have been winning matches at the US Open. Hopefully, they're on the way to becoming a good doubles team because doubles is a team sport and you have to play as many matches as possible together so that you know what your partner is doing, even with your eyes closed. Those five matches can all be lost or won. France definitely are the favourites. That's what the statistics say, they have beaten us on all four times [that France and Argentina have met in Davis Cup]. We should approach this tie as humble as always and then talk about what happened at the end of the day, and work, and not analyse beforehand who will win this or that. That's what I think but the team is what's most important. And the good thing is that we'll be together for several days before the tie, like in Ostrava.

Q: Is this tie anything like the one against Russia? It seems more achievable.

Vázquez: No, France has more depth than Russia. They have a stronger doubles and a much better alternative [I suppose he means for singles]. Together with Spain, those are the two countries with the most players at a certain level. I think it's going to be more difficult than against Russia.

Tito Vázquez also took part in a live discussion with journalists from Cancha Llena and La Nacion Deportiva for the show "En La Red". During this discussion, Vázquez came up with a new way of praising David's Davis Cup achievements.
"In the history of Argentine tennis, David Nalbandian exceeds Guillermo Vilas in terms of the Davis Cup record." That was the verdict from Modesto "Tito" Vázquez, captain of the Argentine Davis Cup team. "For David, playing in Russia and winning those two best-of-five matches meant an advantage, facing what then came in the season."

"France will be very tough to beat in all five matches and because they're the home team, they're the favourites. Monfils and Llodra are the key players and the backbone [of the French team]. They beat Spain 5-0 at home, with players like Verdasco, Ferrer and Feliciano Lopez. That speaks of the quality of the French team. It saddens me that there are two players I don't have for this tie [Delpo and Mayer]. Hopefully, Del Potro is recovering. It's a shame that he hasn't been able to play since January 24th. I wouldn't wish that on anyone."

With some key players missing, the doubles with Horacio Zeballos and Eduardo Schwank has become a decisive factor for the tie against France. "When we started, our aim was to promote a competitive doubles. Schwank and Zeballos have the opportunity to play two competitive ties. It's important to have the kind of ranking that allows you to play tournaments like the US Open, where they've done really well."

"We've been training with Pico these last three days and I'm glad that we got to start early. We hope that he'll show what he's capable of in this tie. He has always been characterised by his dedication and his fitness and that's a plus for playing five sets. Not playing, the way it happened to Davydenko, can influence [your performance] but training now and gaining the necessary confidence, he can put in an outstanding performance."
To understand the scale of the compliment Vázquez paid David there, you have to keep in mind that Vilas is of course the absolute icon and benchmark of Argentine tennis. Therefore, putting David ahead of him is about as big as it gets.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Davis Cup Update: Team Nominations

The teams for the upcoming Davis Cup semifinals were announced by the team captains today. With Tito Vázquez revealing his line-up at a press conference in Buenos Aires. So this is what Argentina's team will look like:

David Nalbandian
Juan Monaco
Eduardo Schwank
Horacio Zeballos

David, the "undisputed leader of the team" as he's being called in the Argentine press, will be joined by Juan "Pico" Monaco, playing the singles rubbers. With Schwank and Zeballos, who have by now reached the doubles semifinal at the US Open, playing the doubles. Apart from these four, Federico Delbonis will once more join the team to function as a hitting partner.
Apparently, Leonardo Mayer talked to Vázquez and told him that he's currently not in the best of states. Still, replacing him with Monaco also means taking a risk as Pico has contested merely four matches since his injury pause and lost three of them.

France on the other hand will go into the semifinal with this team:
(Note: this part has been updated/corrected. Thanks, tennisace.)

Gael Monfils
Richard Gasquet
Michael Llodra
Gilles Simon
Arnaud Clement

The official Davis Cup site lists only four players per team but it's possible to nominate five and that's what France's captain Guy Forget has opted for, as it's apparently not yet clear whether Gasquet or Simon will play singles alongside Monfils. (And I don't think Forget will want Gasquet to play against David.) For the doubles, the injured Julien Benneteau will be probably be replaced by Llodra's former partner Clement.

As mentioned before, David is still in the US. He'll join Monaco, Vázquez and vice-captain Rivera in Lyon on Friday. Schwank and Zeballos will probably arrive later. (Sources: Telam and Cancha Llena.)

More about the semifinal tie soon.

Update
A mini-update concerning David's schedule for the indoor season - his name is not on the entry list for Stockholm (or Moscow for that matter, which takes place the same week). So right now, it looks like he'll take a week off after Tokyo and Shanghai to then play what could be Vienna, Basel and Paris. - I'll keep you posted.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Defeat against Verdasco in David's Words


(Rob Loud/usopen.org)

On the day after David's third-round exit at the US Open, here's now what David had to say about the match and what he thinks were the reasons for his defeat...
Q: Why did you lose?

David: Because Verdasco played well, much better than me in the important moments. It was a bit windy and that pissed me off, I couldn't hit the ball well. I served poorly, too. He was a lot more comfortable out there. I couldn't play the way I wanted to. I would've been more content and less pissed off had I played any better.

Q: Was your performance affected by your right ankle injury?

David: No. The discomfort I felt was minimal, mostly moving to hit the ball, but nothing to worry about. Having a sprain makes you think more than normal when it comes to seeing how you play. Anyway, I didn't lose because of the ankle. I lost because of what I said before.

Q: Do you forget about the US Open now and move on to the Davis Cup?

David: No, I just finished here. I'm not yet thinking about the Davis Cup.

Q: Monfils, Simon and Llodra have been confirmed [as being part of the French team]. Gasquet and Clement are now competing for a place on the team and they'll nominate Benneteau as fifth player, to see if he recovers from his wrist injury. What do you think?

David: Makes no difference to me. I'm going to play who I'm going to play. France has a very even team. The important thing is that we get there, well-prepared.

Q: You're going to be #29 or #30 now in the ranking.

David: That was the goal I set for myself for the end of this year. Now I've already achieved that... That's what's positive.
(Clarin)

And some more quotes from AFP (via Infobae.com).
I think he played very well, better than me. I would've been more content had I played better. I was pissed off at not being able to play at a better level.

It pissed me off that I didn't manage to hit the ball well, all match. There was a bit of wind and that affected my serve but the main problem was that I never felt I was able to play my game.

The ankle bothered me a little but I don't think that it was the reason I lost. Obviously the strain makes you think a bit more than usual. [But] winning or losing is the consequence of the tennis [you play] and what troubled me today was not being able to find my game.

Apart from the defeat, which is never good, I think that the goal I wanted to achieve before the end of the year I've now already achieved, which was to be at least inside the Top 50.

Overall, the balance isn't too bad because I only played seven tournaments [eight including the US Open] and in the course of three or four weeks I moved up a lot of places [in the ranking]. The only thing that I've shown with my matches at this US Open is that if I play well, I can beat a lot of players and if I play badly, then I can lose to a lot of players.

I'll now see my kinesiologist to get treatment for the ankle. But I don't think it's going to cause me any problems.

But of course, and despite what he told Clarin, David is already thinking about the Davis Cup semifinal. Telling Olé that "this is where you have to give everything". And having the following statement posted on his official site's Twitter:
The Davis Cup semifinal is extremely important. We'll have to fight with our hearts and souls and give everything to get the win at Lyon.
And at least one thing is clear, there will be no wind at the Palais Gerland in Lyon...


Update
Quotes from the latest press release on the official site:
I'm very satisfied with my performance during this part of the season. I've achieved my main goal, which was to gain match practice to get back my level [of playing]. I'm very happy to be back on the Tour and to feel very good, physically as well as in terms of my tennis.

The semifinal against France is extremely important and I'm going to prepare for it the best possible way to be able to give my best in those matches I get to play. I think that if we do well we have a good chance of remaining in the competition.
The press release also mentions that David won't fly back home but that for now, he will continue training and preparing for the Davis Cup in the US.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

US Open R3 - David bows out to Fernando Verdasco


(Reuters) Video available for download now on David on Screen.

In a disappointing performance, David was convincingly defeated by Fernando Verdasco 6-2 3-6 6-3 6-2. There are not a lot of positives to take out of this match, except that I thought his injury wasn't a noticeable factor in this match. In fact, in the early stages, he moved better than I thought he would, and after that, it was more to do with tiredness and sluggishness.

David seemed frustrated to start with for no apparent reason, and he continued that way the entire match. In the first game of the match, he already started to have a long conversation with the chair umpire Carlos Bernardes, and I'm not really sure why because there seemed to be nothing that provoked it. The first four games were easily the best part of the match, in terms of drama and entertainment, lasting around half an hour with the majority of it being on David's serve. David held serve in the first game with a backhand down-the-line that was called out, and I remember all the fuss the commentators made about David asking Verdasco what he thought of the shot. The call ended up being overturned, having just tipped the line, though Verdasco had signalled out.

There was a good contrast of styles in the first four games – David constructing points and slowly building up points in his favour, compared to Verdasco's sudden explosiveness. When David won points, they were quite good, and that's because it was difficult for him to win points. He struggled more than normal trying to generate pace on the groundstrokes. He usually finds it much easier to control points than that. I don't know whether he was tired, or whether he wasn't fired up enough. I've been disappointed this US Open with how David hasn't really played any of the matches with any kind of adrenaline or excitement (apart from the end of the fifth set against De Voest possibly). Considering that this is his first Grand Slam in a long time, I would have liked David to act like it was more of a big deal.

Verdasco hit some very impressive forehand down-the-line shots, and the pace on his shots was much better than David's. He was easily the more spectacular player in the first set, but he also often made silly errors, going for that flashy down-the-line forehand that he likes so much. Verdasco needed 8 break points until he’d finally manage to break David's serve to go up 3-2. Having battled so much in his first two service games, David was spent mentally after that, quickly conceding the rest of the set.

His serve was a problem the entire match, and a concerning issue considering that it's been a problem for him on many occasions now. What is most concerning is that even when David managed to find a first serve, his winning percentage was still terrible. The commentators often mentioned it during the match as being around the 53% win mark, maybe worse after the fourth set. Verdasco is definitely not considered a good returner compared to many other players on tour, so this is something David will need to improve. It was remarkable that in the entire match, David must have only won two or three service games without being extended to deuce. Something you don't often see in men's tennis (unless if that player barely won any games in the match). He also had a lot of trouble returning Verdasco's serve, and didn't really have an aggressive mindset on it.

The last three sets of the match were not a good spectacle from either side, with hardly any impressive shots and most points being decided by errors. Probably the only difference in David winning the second set was that he got a few more cheap points on his first serve, but there wasn't a significant increase. Verdasco's groundstrokes started to hit the net much more often. But as the commentators mentioned, he was more mentally stable than David and calmer.

There was not much in the third set, very few protracted rallies and more free points. In the end, David conceded a break of serve with a string of errors. Then Verdasco played a solid fourth set, mostly just focusing on consistency letting David pile up the errors. David finished up the match with 24 winners, 63 unforced errors and 9 double faults.  David hardly put in any effort in the fourth set, but I think that was reflective of his attitude the whole match. Playing well requires a certain amount of energy, and since he didn’t show it, he was thoroughly outplayed.

US Open R3 - David vs Fernando Verdasco


(Reuters, montage VD)

It's been a long time since David has made it past the third round of any Grand Slam, not since Roland Garros 2006 when he had his career high ranking of number 3. In the past, I had always found this streak remarkable, and extremely difficult to understand. I'm sure this will be on the back of our minds, as David attempts yet again to try to break this streak.

David plays Fernando Verdasco today, in a match which I think is very evenly matched with no clear favourite. A battle between two unpredictable players, where just about anything could happen. But I don't think we will see either player playing their best tennis, maybe it will be a somewhat streaky affair. Verdasco's form has been average lately, but his weapons are still intact, and he can still play good matches.  Though I think his mental attitude has dropped a level this year.

The two have only met once before at the ATP level, and that was in Wimbledon 2006 where Verdasco prevailed in three sets 7-6(9) 7-6(9) 6-2. I didn't watch that match, but I think that was very much a legitimate result, despite all the press surrounding it at the time about how David asked for an earlier match to watch the World Cup. In the end, it doesn't matter though. Both Verdasco and David are in completely different stages of their career, and Verdasco is a much bigger threat than he used to be.

Verdasco should be able to cause David some trouble with his ability to take his opponents outside of the sidelines (on serve and from the baseline mostly on the forehand side). This will be especially relevant today as David doesn't seem to be moving wide that well lately and even less so with the ankle problem. David will need to try to control the baseline rallies, to avoid this from happening.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

US Open R2 - Questions Answered


(Highlights by Andvari - thanks; the match is available on David on Screen.)

There were many questions before this match but on court, David gave the answers. Putting in a better and much more solid performance, it took David less than two hours to defeat Florent Serra 7-5, 6-4, 6-2. In the third round on Sunday, his opponent will now be Fernando Verdaso (who won their only meeting so far, back in 2006).

The biggest question mark going into this match was David's ankle and how it would hold up during the match. Asked about it afterwards, David, who was "not content" with his performance, had the following to say.
"I still have stabs of pain because of the sprain. So today it was all more about the head and the fear about the ankle. But I won in three sets, which is important in a tournament like this. And I served well."
(David's quotes: source.)
Once more, David caught a bit of a sluggish start. Though talking to Fue Buena after the match, he put that down to having to adjust to the surface on Grandstand, which apparently plays a lot faster than on Court 11. In any case, David got broken in his first service game (for 2-0) but he managed to break right back and didn't lose his serve again throughout the rest of the match. In the first set, David was still trying to find his game and adjusting to the situation, mixing up great winners with plenty of unforced errors, but without being as erratic as against De Voest. Instead, he gradually found his way into the match. After breaking Serra to go up 6-5, David took the first set with a service game that consisted of two aces and two service winners (and a double fault), 7-5.

The second set saw David breaking Serra early on (for 2-1) and then missing several opportunities to go up a double break afterwards. And in the end converting only 5 of the altogether 14 break points he had in this match. At 3-1, David got wrong-footed by Serra during a rally and was visibly in pain for a moment. But apparently, the moment passed relatively quickly as he held serve without problems afterwards. With David unable to get another break, but easily carrying the one from early on through the set, he eventually served for it at 5-4. At 30-30, a shot from David clipped the net and landed wide, granting Serra a break point. But David saved it with a great backhand before converting his first set point as Serra's return landed in the net. 6-4

In the third, David was in control of the match, with Serra seemingly offering less and less resistance. David now dominated the majority ofthe rallies, whether from the baseline or at the net. After scraping through to 2-1, Serra didn't win another game in this match, with David now getting the double break and finally serving for the match at 5-2. Quickly going up 40-0, David double-faulted on his first match point before converting his second as Serra missed the return.

A very solid and much better match from David, which is remarkable, given the circumstances. Despite the pain his ankle is still causing him, he moved much better and managed to clean up his game (46 winner, 35 unforced errors). With his serve also very stable and effective. Hopefully this positive development will continue and David's ankle will stop troubling him.
"It's going to get better, day by day...." That's what David says. But already with something else on his mind: "...there'll be no problem for the Davis Cup."

Friday, September 3, 2010

US Open R2 - David vs Florent Serra

UpdateII

After a bit of a shaky start, David has defeated Florent Serra 7-5, 6-4, 6-2 in one hour and 52 minutes.


Apart from a brief moment halfway through the second set, David showed no signs of having problems with his ankle and he played a lot better than he did in his first match against De Voest.

David will now face Fernando Verdasco, who advanced to the third round today with an easy 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 over Adrian Mannarino.


More soon...


(Photo: Reuters)






(usopen.org/Getty Images; montage by VD)

Update
5.49pm. Schiavone wins. Next up now - David.

4.55pm. Francesca Schiavone (who David likes to watch play) takes the first set. After this match, it's David's turn on Grandstand.
4.05pm. Stakhovsky beats Harrison in a fifth set tiebreak. One more match to go now.
3.06pm. After only a short rain delay, play now continues on Grandstand.
2.31pm. The rain has started. And play is suspended.
2.10pm. Stakhovsky and Harrison go into a fifth set.
1.30pm. So far, the weather is holding up. With the first match on Grandstand (Harrison vs Stakhovsky) now going into the fourth set.
11.20am local. Play at the US Open is under way.

Normally, asked about this match-up, on this particular surface, I'd say that no matter how unpredictable David can be - he should beat Serra on hardcourt. And I'm always extremely careful with making any predictions concerning David.
But under these special circumstances, with David's ankle and therefore his movement still in doubt (and maybe also his current form, judging by his erratic play against De Voest, also before twisting his ankle), I don't really know what to expect, neither from David, nor from this match.

What's certain is that this is the first encounter between David and Florent Serra, currently ranked #66. Although of a similar age (Serra is 29) and having both turned pro back in 2000, their paths never crossed - until now. Serra's best result this season has been reaching semis at Casablanca (on clay), not making it past the third round anywhere else. Recently, he lost in qualifying at Toronto and Cincy and then in the first round at New Haven (to Lacko). Serra's best surface is clay and although he may lack any big weapons and doesn't have a huge serve, he can defend well and make use of the whole court to exploit weaknesses in David's movement.
Normally, I'd expect David to find a way of dealing with Serra's serve fairly quickly and to take control of the rallies. And I still hope that this is what's going to happen. But it will need a much more solid display from David, with less unforced errors - and that will also depend on his movement.

Another uncertainty factor today will be the weather. From the US Open's latest weather advisory:
Based on the latest official weather report from the US Open Meteorologist at 6am, intermittent showers are anticipated for this afternoon. We will begin today's session as scheduled at 11am.
Whether play can start at 11am, how much tennis can be played at Flushing Meadows today and what will be the consequences for David's match - we'll have to wait and see.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

US Open R1 - The Battle was won but the Questions remain...


(Fue Buena)

Update III (02/09)
Just in from Fue Buena: "David practiced without any bigger problems. He's still feeling pain today but he'll be okay to play against Serra. There's no injury."




(Note: The match is now available via the David on Screen page.)

Update II (02/09)
The training session has been confirmed by Fue Buena. It'll start around 6pm local.

Argentine journalist Quique Cano writes that David will train this afternoon.
And Guillermo Salatino has heard from someone who "knows David" that there's no reason to worry about the ankle.
- At the moment, it's basically just hearsay. It could indicate that David's ankle isn't so bad after all. But if there's a training session in the afternoon then it's probably also a test. We'll see.

Update
According to this ESPN article, David woke up today with his ankle still hurting and now also swollen. Therefore he has spent the day resting and receiving treatment (Fue Buena). There's apparently no ligament damage but a mild sprain of his right ankle. How things will develop now and how this will affect David's chances in his next match on Friday remains to be seen.
(Thanks Tamar for the links.)


Sometimes, it's a brief moment, or a second only that can make a huge difference in a match. In David's first-round battle against Rik De Voest, that moment came fairly early on, around maybe 35 minutes into what would eventually become an almost four-hour match. And though it didn't look like much at first, that moment did have its consequences. At 5-5 in the first set, moving away from a ball from De Voest that went out, David tripped slightly and twisted his right ankle (it was the right one, after all). He had it taped up and went on to play for a few more hours but - "It happened during the first set and so I had to play the whole match, being in pain."

What exactly is wrong with his ankle (probably a sprain, I guess) isn't clear yet. But the good news is that apparently, David can continue playing and now has two days to recover as his second-round match will take place on Friday. Hopefully, his ankle will be okay by then.

But what to make of David's 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-4 over De Voest, under these circumstances? "I was a little limited in my movement, put simply, but it did bother me a lot." And the limited movement surely played its part in the 84 unforced errors David made in the match. But it's not like David moved and played really well before twisting his ankle, although I like to think that this match would've looked very differently without that incident.
Still, and from the very beginning, David seemed to struggle with the simple but effective strategy De Voest used in this match, to keep the ball in play and to use lots of slice to prevent David from playing aggressively, making him hit as many shots as possible. David on the other hand tried his best to play aggressively and take control of the rallies. And whenever he managed to hit a couple of aggressive groundstrokes or a deep approach shot without making an error, then De Voest couldn't keep up with him. - But that happened far too infrequently. Instead, De Voest's excellent retrieving and his very solid serving throughout the match meant a lot more trouble than David was probably expecting. And so, this easy match on paper turned into a four-hour battle.

After going up a break (4-2) in the first, David once more failed to serve out a set at 5-4 but also once more got his act together again in the tiebreak and after only a slight wobble converted his third set point 7-6(4). In the second set, a poor game at 3-3 with a series of forehand errors saw David going down a break and receiving a code violation for racquet abuse. At 5-3 for the South-African, De Voest broke David's serve again, once more helped by several unforced errors from David, taking the second 6-3. At the start of the third, David began to play better again, immediately broke serve and went up 2-0. This one break he managed to transport through the set, playing better now but still far from good, and eventually serving it out, 6-4. In the fourth set there were no breaks. Serving to stay in the set at 5-4 De Voest, David saved two set points before he had his first match point in the tiebreak - but failed to get a second serve from De Voest back into play. Eventually, De Voest took the set, helped by a lucky netcord, 7-6(6).
In the first game of the fifth set, it was again a series of forehand errors that ended up costing David his service game. But he fought on, obviously tired and now showing more signs of being in pain. Still, David managed to get the break back and level the score at 4-4. Before at 5-4, with De Voest serving to stay in the match, David eventually converted his second match point with a last attack at the net and a drive volley winner.

"Well, we'll see how it goes from here. There's still Wednesday and Thursday, two days to recover..." (David's quotes from an audio clip on Fue Buena.)

Yes, we'll see. On Friday, in Round 2 against Florent Serra.


(AFP)