Friday, January 21, 2011

"I was empty" - David's Australian Open Retirement

(John Donegan/AP Photo)

When David retired yesterday during his second-round match at the Australian Open, it was obvious that he was in no condition to continue the match. And that during the hour he spent on court, he had gone from what could have still passed for very sluggish start to no longer being able to play.
Taking a medical timeout after the second set, David told the trainer that he was feeling dizzy, couldn't really see and react to the ball coming towards him as quickly as he wanted to and that tossing the ball up to serve, the court around him would start to spin. The trainer called one of the tournament doctors, David repeated his problems, adding that moving to the ball during rallies, he didn't feel sure his legs would continue to carry him.
After the timeout, David gave it another try and went back on court before finally retiring two and half games later. Having to accept that it was indeed impossible for him to go on. A sensible decision and certainly the right one to make but the question was - what was wrong with David? Was it fatigue or were there also physical problems of a different sort?
Here's what David told the press, afterwards.
I ran out of energy, feeling weak and dizzy. I don't have anything specific. I don't feel good. I talked about it with the doctor and I felt very tired. I tried to recover during those two days after the match against Hewitt but it wasn't enough. I felt weak and a little dizzy when serving.
I was empty.

The match against Hewitt was exceptional. With a lot of pressure and therefore costing a lot of engery. It's a general kind of fatigue that I'm suffering from. It has nothing to do with the hip injury that I had. I didn't feel any pain.
These or similar things David said to the various journalists of the various news sites and agencies. And while the wording may differ slightly, the message is always the same. He didn't suffer from any fever or infection. Instead, he felt completely drained and dizzy because he wasn't able to recover from the extreme exertion that the match against Hewitt had meant for him, physically as well as mentally. A level of exhaustion that simply could not be recovered in time for the match. Which explains why David felt "empty" on court, as well as his notion of not being in complete control of his own body.
In short, this retirement was the price David ended up having to pay for his battle epic victory over Lleyton Hewitt.

Meanwhile, Roger Federer has commented on this, showing understanding for David's "tremendous effort" to beat Hewitt and the consequences a match like this can have (thanks, Noubar via Lucy).
He never had enough time to rest and adapt to everything.
Obviously, the intensity you get from Lleyton and the crowd, and the pressure, all of that put together can lead to a result like this.
An important point. Because it was not only the sheer length that made the match against Hewitt so special - and eventually too much for David to recover from. Therefore I don't think that what happened should be seen as a sign that David is generally unable to play and then recover from five-set matches. I think that this was a very special match - with unfortunate consequences.
One more thing. I might be wrong but I think that this has only been David's third retirement during an ATP match in his career. An amazing number, given the many physical problems he has had over the years.
Still, in the past there were matches where I wished he would've retired. Where he also was clearly not able to compete but he stayed on court anyway, until the bitter end. You can call that heroic. I call it stupid and potentially dangerous. So for my part, I was relieved that he went for the more sensible option this time. And while I hope of course that something like this is not going to happen again (or at least not anytime soon), I also hope that if it does - David will do the sensible thing again.
(Greg Wood/AFP/Getty Images)


  1. I totally agree with you Julia. As much as I wanted to see him go deeper in the draw, I'm really relieved that he was wise enough to retire. As long as he's healthy and in good condition, chances will present themselves along the way and it's only the start of the year!

  2. I also totally agree with you Julia!
    I can imagine that with all the history between Hewitt and David it was more than special to him and he gave really everything he had.
    Also agree with you Camilia, it is the start of the year and there will be a lot of opportunities.
    Still I'm very proud that David fought so hard to win against Hewitt and didn't let it go. When everything settled down a bit, I hope it will give him a lot for future matches.

  3. We are still at the beginning of the year and david feel stress ! Very strange !!!!

  4. How was he supposed not to feel stress against Hewitt? And what is strange about feeling completely drained after a match like that?

    David is more fragile these days than he used to be, has been ever since surgery. And he's not getting younger, of course. But I still think that this match took more out of him than a "normal" five-setter would have.

  5. Very strange? really?
    Yeah, the season is still very young but this was an emotionally, mentally, physically drainning match that went on for almost 5 hours and it ended VERY late at their end of the world, with very little time to recover.
    Feeling the stress is normal, he's playing the home boy who he has a history with, in front of his home crowd in the biggest court in the first round, how could he possibly not feel the stress? He's not a robot, ya know.

  6. After the series of David's physical and mental problems it was unbelievable how he played almost 5 hours. I hope that he doesn't get back to the old physical level that he had in autumn. I am not a tennis expert therefore I want to ask you something:
    He had trained hard in the off-season for this year. Can that stress cause him a physical and mental problem in this season? Could it effect his whole energy David got with hard work in training?

  7. David didn't train more or harder during the off-season than he did in previous years.
    He simply played a physically and mentally extremely draining match and didn't manage to recover from that in time for the next one.

    That he needs more time to recover now compared to when he was younger (and before surgery) is something that already became clear last year.

  8. I'm so pleased David listened to the doctor and retired this match. As he gains years, he also gains knowledge. Considering David never retires matches, he must have listened to his body and decided continuing wasn't worth the health consequences. I think it was a mature decision-making process, and I give him credit for it. (I'm also pleased he beat Hewitt.) :)

  9. Do you think stress from playing or during the match is the same stress you could have after a year? We're talking about a physical stress due to playing.
    Anyway, he could not have a fever, virus or whatever. But I'm sorry those symptoms? they´re similar to decompensation. Because the effor of the match, due to not sleeping for two nights (he arrived very late to Melbourne because some problem with his flight, at 5 am I think it was and he said he just could sleep at 5 or 6 am after the match against Hewitt. Add if you want the weather or whatever.
    But what he felt? that pretty much looked like some decompensation (the term in spanish is descompensacion). It's not just feeling pain or anything is more like some "lack of feeling". You can't control your body, you don't feel your body moving even when you gave it the order to do it (usually the body reaction to that order is slow).
    Maybe some minor decompensation due to all those factors combined. But he looked bad. And we watched him play with fever, with virus and he sucked those times. But this was clearly different.
    And we'll never know exactly what he felt. He usually doesn't tell everything.
    But I saw the same symptoms with some members of my family (worse, of course) but what they said it was pretty much the same.
    I'd bet money on this.

  10. Anna:

    descompensation=dehydration (?!!).

  11. i had a ski pass on thuesday but i did not go for skiing because i watched david playing on center court 9:00 AM european was an amazing fight from david maybe the best i have ever seen from him and the way he saved those match points were even better.before the match i knew if david plays his best he would beat hewitt in 3 sets.unfortunately david started very slowly,he didnt really move well.But i think his forehand was the key point.he made lots of errors from that side and his serve ws even worse.i couldnt belive my eyes he faced break points almost in every single serves game that can be so stresful!they played almost 5 hours without aces and free points from the serve.I can understand why he played like this against berankis!

  12. hi
    No, that's not the same. What you wrote in spanish is called "deshidratación". Is there someone that could translate what I mean? Because I don't find the term on english :(

  13. OK, Anna, maybe the word you are looking for is decompensation. It is the heart's inability to maintain adequate circulation. I don't think this describes what went on with David, though. And fatigue and exhaustion seem inadequate to explain what happened, too, so we'll have to go on what he said in the pressers. Unless, of course, he's seen a doctor since then and his true condition is known and has been addressed.

  14. He said it was exhaustion and a general kind of fatigue. And I think that explains what happened.

  15. Here's the definition I found. My Spanish isn't that good so I'll let one of you experts translate. Sounds like there is a blood sugar component to this problem, though. I know stress can cause that. Anyway, it's safe to say our guy was exhausted and fatigued to the max. No shame in that. I'm glad he retired against Berankis.

    Descompensación del paciente diabético( Cetoacidosis , síndrome hiperglucémico hiperosmolar no cetósico, e hipoglucemia.)
    Hiperglucemia del paciente crítico o por estrés.

  16. Also, I didn't read earlier replies to my whining about Auckland, but since I was exactly right, it bears repeating again. I saw this kind of bow-out at the Australian Open coming from a mile away. Even Federer and Nadal, who have the most natural stamina of all the players, would struggle coming off playing 5 live tournament matches the week before a Slam. They know that, of course, and that's why they don't do it.

    The brilliant, breathtaking shotmaking ability that Nalbandian exhibited in the Hewitt match makes this all the more depressing. He not only has more than enough game to win multiple slams, but he also has the courage and focus you need. Yet, due to stupid planning among other things he is still Slam-less.

    Yes, yes, yes I know. What's in the past is in the past and there's no sense in complaining about what you can't change. But since we're talking about recent history that is terribly frustrating, it's worth repeating that playing Auckland was a completely boneheaded mistake. Sydney 2009 caused the Lu loss, and Auckland 2011 made it impossible to recover from an early-round challenge. Damn shame. What a waste of talent.

  17. It's not Auckland that cost David his second-round match. It was his five-hour battle against Hewitt.

  18. jeez chris (mister know it all). give it a rest. who really knows what David's thinking is. you seem to know him better than he knows himself. maybe he just wanted to improve his ranking, improve his game - which he did. ferrer has no problems playing a much tougher auckland series of matches (couple of 3-setters) and playing the AO. nadal could probably play many 5-set matches in a row and still do well at AO, though i don't think he would want to.
    i think david just wants to improve and get in the top 10 and prepare for DC. he doesn't plan on winning AO. David didn't plan on a 5 setter with hewitt which is different from a 5 setter with anybody else. i don't know exactly what david's thinking is and nobody here knows either. it's obvious though that he is making strong progress in his fitness and play...but still needs more work to make it in the top 10. i'm happy he seems to be a solid top 10-20 for now. you act like he's gonna win the AO and beat federer and nadal if he just makes a few tweaks and follows your game plan. i suggest you email him and apply for a position as his coach. if he accepts, then come back and start ranting away like you have.

  19. previous post is from me

  20. I agree with you, Joe. And I've made a similar suggestion before...

  21. Chris, the matches in Auckland had nothing to do with his fatigue after the hewitt match. As you could see he had more than enough energy to finish a 5 hour match, and this is why he was so tired. If a professional tennis player cannot play 5 1.5 hour matches in a week, then I don't know how you could call them a professional. Federer and Nadal can go and win the fench open then have barely any rest and go out and win wimbledon on a completely different surface, thats a lot of matches to be played in those weeks for them. David's match with Hewitt is the only reason why he retired against Berankis, because he really had no time to recover from it.

  22. @chris

    "little steroid-pumping musclehead that he is."

    btw...i strongly object to this comment.
    why do you post such trash? why are you so personal with this player? if you think he's on steriod's, you better have some proof.

  23. Good question. I'm not going to have that here.

  24. Chris, you've been warned about this before. This time, I've deleted your comment.

  25. That's right John. David's matches at Auckland were quick and amounted to what he would have spent on the practice court if he didn't play matches.
    He didn't have tough matches like ferrer (2 tough 3-setters).
    And if David did have 5 grueling 3-setters at Auckland, who am i to say that's bad for him? david's a pro and smart with lots of smart help around him. i give him credit for his planning, especially when i don't have a clue what his planning is. David never really reveals what he thinks.

  26. Joe, Julia and John H (the 3 Js), I agree with you all. Auckland didn't cause David to retire against Berankis. Hewitt did. I actually think the match play at Auckland helped David beat Hewitt.

  27. Absolutely ridiculous statement that Auckland caused David to retire in the second round.

    I mean if you look for example at the facts how much match play he's had in Auckland in his 5 matches there spread over 5 days:
    6:53 hrs.
    And in the Hewitt match in 1 day: 4:48 hrs.

  28. What you wrote about surgar is for people with diabetes.
    It's not a "heart" problem. It's about several things of the body not working well at the same time. It could be because a heart problem, a sugar problem, even from heat strokes. I don't know if for you the more similar term would be when the body shots down. Here "descompensasion" can have different grades: level to very serious (death). And even if you have a chronical problem or disease it could happens due to several factors that get together in one time. And after that everything is ok. But the symptoms? Exactly what he describes. And even before hearing David, when I saw the match that was the first thing I though about. Nothing wrong with being tired from a match. But I don't think his team should stay with that only.
    I'll try to find the term or a better explanation on english. Because seems to be very different for you. For example? here when you feel like crap because you ate something bad we said intoxication. When I wrote something like that, I got jokes about me not beng able to handle well the alcohol... So I learn that I'd have to say food poison when the problem was some fish and not tequila :)

  29. I don't know, Anna. I'm content to believe David was just exhausted and fatigued. Maybe like what cyclists and distance runners experience when they "hit the wall."

  30. Dang Chris, you saw it coming a mile away? Really? I don't think anyone did-not even he. And David knows his body better than anyone else. Like everyone else said, the Hewitt match was a physical and emotional affair that would have drained anyone.
    The fact that he had no adequate rest between matches spoke to that. So why are you blaming him for playing Auckland. There is no causal link between his second-round loss and Auckland, so your argument is totally pointless.

  31. And anonymous, whoever you are, I heart you!! LOL!!!

  32. Guyz, I don't think you should keep convincing Chris that Auckland wasn't the cause of this fatigue, It's being really ridiculous now, Chris, i have nothing against you man, we all like each other here, but your comments are not productive, you only complain and complain, and keep feeding the same topic and go on and on, you gave your opinion at the first time that you think Auckland was a bad mistake,and most of David's decisions are wrong and stupid, ok thank you very much, we all know it now, why on earth do you have to remind us on every post ? you keep writing it 10 times on the same post, i don't think we have anybody in VD that suffers from amnesia (except for you maybe). but enough is enough man, let it go.
    You know what Noubar asked me today about VD, he said " Is Chris still complaining about Auckland ?"
    lets just enjoy David at the moment, for my part, am really happy about the Hewitt match, i keep watching the match with a big smile on my face because am still happy this guy can play this level of tennis, this dream-like shot making.

  33. Lucy,

    I am glad that David still has "it." At least he's proven that he does. Let's hope he carries that attitude to future tournaments.

  34. You're right there Lucy.

    And yes as soon as my exams are over I am gonna watch that Hewitt match again :) With a big smile too lol

  35. Lucy, when I saw "Guyz" I knew it was Noubar. Say hi to him from all of us. I think it's time now to enjoy the rest of the Australian Open and then move on to Santiago. Yep, Tiffany, David does still have "it."

  36. we are cousins after all (well, second cousins lol) yesterday i copy pasted the post to him, and some comments as well, lmao.
    He is really pissed now, because obviously its not only blogger that is blocked in Syria,youtube as well, that really sucks, at least he has facebook to keep in touch. But he told me about a German traffic port that might work, hope it pays off.

  37. Lucy,

    I'm guessing that Google is no longer accessible to him there? Blogger and YouTube are both Google products

  38. You know, I'm not used to insist about the chances of something being more serious than it was told. This is probably one of the few cases and mostly because I saw the same symptoms in some members of my family.
    The thing that I don't know how it's called in english can be caused for a lot of things, usually combined, probably the fatigue was one of the causes. And the fact that he only could sleep the two precious nights at 5 or 6 am (when his flight was delayed and after the Hewitt match).
    What I'm saying is because it's probably nothing and I dont say he's sick. What I say is what I saw on tv and what he described was not only fatigue. Was what I explained due to fatigue, lack of sleeping, etc. Clearly he didn't seem to have total control of his body.
    Good thing he heard the doctor and quit.
    Now, is he going to play in Chile?

  39. I'm just downloading David's match against Hewitt now (probably won't watch it in a while, lol) but you have a version with no commentary! Awesome. It looks like Eurosport player has that option for all courts?

  40. To Joe and John H.: to put it bluntly, I don't think the Hewitt classic match would have occurred if Nalbandian was fresh. Frankly, I thought he seemed a little bit tired during that match, and he was far from the spry player we saw against Petzschner, for example.

    The general point that no one here can disagree with is this: playing a full week of matches before going to a major does not allow you to be in a fresh energetic condition (unless you're a fitness freak like Ferrer or Nadal, but even then it's difficult).

  41. Joe, you act like players can't mistakes in their scheduling or that they are above criticism. Are you aware of how many times Nadal fans have criticized Nadal for overloading his schedule, particularly playing Barcelona every year? I am not alone in doing this. The fact is, part of doing well at the big events is planning and making sure you're fresh as a daisy when play gets started. Nalbandian in 2009 and 2011 has clearly failed to do this.

  42. @ Krystle

    Yes on the Eurosport archive you can download all the matches without commentary.

  43. One thing people keep saying on here over and over again which completely misses the point is this: the Hewitt match caused Nalbandian's retirement, not Auckland.

    Well, in my opinion, Nalbandian would have played much much better in the Hewitt match without having played Auckland and could have won in quicker/easier fashion. Let's not forget just how close he was to being down 4-0 in the fourth set - that would've been the match, folks. He escaped by the skin of his teeth.

    So, here's the sequence: Auckland caused Nalbandian to play sloppy in the Hewitt match which took too much energy for Nalbandian to be fresh for Berankis. All clear now Joe and John H.?

  44. Tiffany, here's why I saw it a mile away. And I will be very polite in asking this. When is the last time someone played a live tournament the week before a Slam and even gotten to the second week?

    I recall James Blake winning Sydney twice and then bowing out early in Melbourne. Ferrer is about to do it, but he is a fitness freak, while someone like Nalbandian is actually below average in his ability to recover.

  45. I think everyone is clear that that is your opinion, Chris.

    It is, however, only an opinion.


  46. Okay, Chris. Enough is enough. We know all about your opinions. And we all know about your tendency to ignore facts and just acknowledge those things that seem to support your personal views.
    And I've had enough of it. Just like everybody else here.

    So - stop it now.

  47. Yes, a very well-founded one.

    And it's one that I hold not out of hatred for you all but as a major admirer of Nalbandian's talent. With his shotmaking ability, he should be a fixture in the second weeks of Slams.

  48. Chris my god, you must think that Hewitt is just some crap player. He didn't play sloppy because he was tired from auckland at all. If you think a professional tennis player would get tired after a few hours on court during an entire week before the tournament then your just wrong. They have been trained to play many for hours upon hours, and really the first couple matches at auckland shouldn't have tired him out at all. Since this is the beginning of the season, you can blame him for an overloading schedule, and he should have a lot of energy after the post season. He played a little sloppy against hewitt because he was in Australia on the biggest court, in a night match against the home favorite, he had the crowd against him and it just happened to be his biggest rival. Yes he started off a little nervous, but it went the distance because Hewitt was moving really good and his shots were very sharp. David went for some risks in the 4th to get out of a major hole and it unnerved hewitt a little bit. David grew in confidence so the match was even right up till the decider which David won by sheer courage. It could have gone both ways. If anything Auckland was very helpful to David, it got him match tough, and it prepared him for the Open. On a side note, I've had a time where I played really dizzy in a match, and it was the day after I had been out practicing for 4 hours. It was very hot out in 90 degree weather, and I had just eaten something only about an hour before the match. I didn't go into it perfectly hydrated, and so I think I might see where David would be like in that position. However yes he is a pro and I can't really compare my intensity to playing with his level, but still I can see where he could have felt like that.

  49. Chris, you would have been claiming that Auckland was a problem even if David lost in the semis. You've got one idea in your head before the tournament starts, and all you want to do is prove you're right regardless of what happens on court. You don't analyse things. You just keep trying to make everything fit into your own opinion.

  50. Krystle, I am going to very politely object. I was open to this planning with Auckland somehow working out, and I said as much in the comments a couple weeks ago. Apparently, that has vanished from memory.

    John, once again. Grand Slams are best of 5 over two weeks against the best players in the world with the most heated and intense competition because the most money, points, and prestige are on the line. You are acting like I'm throwing a fit over nothing, but the fact is you can't come in even 70% if you want to go far. Apparently you don't understand that, nor have you ever contemplated why Sydney/Auckland champions never go far in Melbourne or why Fed-Nadal-Murray-Djokovic rest and practice lightly the week before every year. The fact is I am simply saying the same thing Nadal fans said for years about their guy, just that I am doing it with a significantly lower-profile player.

  51. Chris, you are throwing a fit and you have been, basically for weeks on end now. This is the last warning.
    Any further comments will be deleted.

  52. Chris,

    Like I said before, and you're totally missing it, it is not wrong or bad for David to play a warm-up tournament. Warm-ups enable a player to work on his or her game in order to prepare for the major. That's exactly what David was doing. To suggest that he should not warm up would be ridiculous. In fact, if he had not, the Hewitt match would have yielded a different result, with Hewitt taking that match instead of David. Think about it. Your assertion that he never should have played any tournament leading up to the open is just not founded on any logic or common sense. Further, players who make the latter stages of the majors are those who prepare adequately by playing lead-offs, not those who sit at home playing it on their Wii's, PSP's, or X-boxes (just using this as an example and to elicit a few chuckles, but you get my point). This time, David got a less-than-favorable draw, getting Lleyton Hewitt, someone who is familiar with grand slams and not a qualy or a lower-ranked player.

  53. Can we just stop this now...

    - Thank you.

  54. Julia, as much as i'd like to stop, for some reason I feel I can't even though I don't think I can convince Chris otherwise. First off chris getting past the 2nd round in a major isn't very far, so really the whole 70% thing doesn't matter because it was only a 2nd round match. Also, if you think about it most of the top players play a week before the majors, and then play an exhibition like kooyong. Im pretty sure last year federer played it and also won it. Also Berdych this year played kooyong and brisbane and hes doing great.... so playing right before doesn't really matter if your a professional player with skill. Chris if David can't play 5 hours in a week before a major, if that means that he goes in fatigued then he really shouldn't be a professional player. Auckland was great for his confidence, and accept the fact that the hewitt match took a lot out of him and he couldn't recover fast enough.

  55. Why can't you just leave it when I've expressly asked for that?
    This is not helping.

  56. yes, keep replying doesn't help, just ignore, it's silly what he is doing

  57. yes its me Julia, i finally did it,using a German software,I registered, and they gave me a lifetime Proxy and port that runs through a particular software, now i can enter any website, VD is back to my life.

  58. Welcome back Noubar! Great that you found a way to access VD again! YAY!

    To start something else :-):
    Do we know if David is already back to Argentina or does he stay in Australia to recover a bit and then go back home? I didn't see anything...

  59. I was wondering if anybody knows the answer to this question:

    During the 5th set of the hewitt match, david was given a tablet from his team in the stands. Does anybody know what that was?

    When that happened, I thought hewitt might go nuts (maybe as a stalling tactic) and accuse david of coaching and/or doing something against the rules.

  60. @noubar

    wellcome back -- i knew you'd find a way back :)

  61. Hey Joe:

    He was given an inflammatory because he started cramping up. What happened, I don't think, was against the rules and did not take an excessive amount of time.

  62. Oh, and Noubar, glad to have you back.

  63. Yay, Noubar! Welcome back.
    That didn't take too long. :)

    I was wondering about that tablet too - they gave it to the ballboy to give to David. I'm surprised that is allowed - how can the authorities know what is really being given? (And no, I'm not suggesting that this was anything other than what they said it was!)

  64. I'm glad you're back, Noubar. :D
    Hope this works now and will continue to work for you. :)

    Mina, I haven't seen/heard anything so far, either. But my guess would be that David is back home now. Taking a break before the South American swing.

    And yeah, it's normal for players to receive salt tablets, minerals or medication during a match like that one. Also from their team.

  65. I hope he has a good rest!
    And the next tournament isn't too far away.

  66. I think he is the top seed in Santiago, hope he goes with confidence, lets see whats the clay swing is gonna be like.
    btw Dologopolov is the main reason am still watching AO after david's loss.

  67. This second week of the Australian Open has been quite disappointing when I think about it, not really any great matches I can think of and the top players winning far too easily today. Murray hasn't been tested so far, and I hope Dolgopolov can challenge him, but the way this AO is going, I'm not sure whether he will...