Friday, July 29, 2011

Washington Draw

(tournament website)

According to Fue Buena, David will travel to the US tomorrow to embark on "a difficult mission", namely trying to defend his Washington title.
So here it is, the draw for the Legg Mason Tennis Classic 2011.
David, seeded eighth this time, has been drawn into the upper, i.e. Gael Monfils' half, and there into the lower quarter which looks like this:

[3] Viktor Troicki (SRB) vs BYE
[WC] Ryan Harrison (USA) vs Mischa Zverev (GER)
Alejandro Falla (COL) vs [Q] Chris Guccione (AUS)
BYE vs [13] Kevin Anderson (RSA)

[11] John Isner (USA) vs BYE
[WC] Dennis Kudla (USA) vs Tobias Kamke (GER)
James Blake (USA) vs Tatsuma Ito (JPN)
BYE vs [8] David Nalbandian (ARG)

A look at the complete draw you can take here.

So David will play his first match at Washington this year in the second round either against Tatsuma Ito (currently ranked #104), a player he has never met before. Or against James Blake, who, after having dropped down to around #170 at the beginning of this season, has by now managed to get his ranking back to #90 by means of playing (and doing well at) Challenger events. Almost five years have gone by since the only encounter between David and James Blake. That match took place in Shanghai, at the Masters Cup 2006, and it ended with a comprehensive defeat for David. But - a lot has happened since then.
In the third round David could then face another American, eleventh seed John Isner (currently ranked #33). They've met twice so far with David the winner on both occasions. With a bit of luck at Cincy last year (when Isner, dominant until then, had to retire after nine games) and then in more straightforward manner at Auckland, early this year.
Afterwards, in a hypothetical quarterfinal, there could be a chance for a Davis Cup semifinal "test-run" for David - against Serbia's Viktor Troicki, currently ranked #15 and the third seed at this event. It would be their fifth encounter on the Tour (match record 3-1 for David) and the first since Miami last year. But it hasn't been too long since they met on a tennis court - at the Boodles Challenge exhibition last month.
- That's as far as I'll look ahead right now. I'll just add that David will play his first match probably on Wednesday. And that just like last year, coverage will start with the quarterfinals.

According to Guillermo Salatino, David is "not thinking about getting a new coach".

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Look ahead at the US Hardcourt Swing

Or rather - at the three tournaments in the US and Canada that, if all goes well, David (now ranked #28) will play ahead of the US Open. Last year, it was at these tournaments that David played his best tennis since hip surgery, won the Washington title and eleven matches in a row, the longest winning streak in his career. And all of that virtually out of nowhere, after having played only two matches in the previous four months.
But whereas last season, David went to Washington with nothing to lose it's going to be a different situation this time. And not just because he's coming back from another injury.
For the first time since hip surgery, David now faces a series of tournaments where he has a huge amount of ranking points to defend. 770 at these three events. 860 if you include the US Open, which is more than half of the points he currently has.
Here's a look at the three tournaments where David did so well last season - and will have to do well again if he wants to keep a decent ranking and be seeded at the US Open...

Legg Mason Tennis Classic 500, Washington (August 1-7)

(Getty Images)

In the past, David usually took a break between Wimbledon and the Canadian Masters. Last year however, after not having played on the Tour since Monte Carlo, he went for a change of plans...
David was ranked well outside the Top 100 last season when the organisers offered him a wildcard and a place in the main draw. And what was initially planned as an opportunity to gain some match practice turned into David marching through the early rounds and eventually defeating Marcos Baghdatis to win the title.
Now he returns to Washington as the defending champion. And while the tournament, the heat and the humidity (and the lack of coverage during the early rounds) will be same as last year, it's going to be a very different scenario for David, with different expectations and a lot more pressure
- not least because of those 500 ranking points he's defending.
What's also different: David will be seeded this time and therefore he'll get a bye in the first round.

Top on the entry list: Mardy Fish, Andy Roddick and Jürgen Melzer. Wildcards for Gael Monfils, Fernando Verdasco and Lleyton Hewitt.
The draw will take place on Friday, July 29 at 1.30pm EST.

Rogers Cup, Masters 1000, Montréal (August 8-14)

(Montréal Tourism Guide)

The Rogers Cup, as the Canadian Masters is also known, is not only among the oldest ongoing tennis tournaments in the world (first held in 1881). It's also the only ATP event that regularly takes place in two different cities, with Toronto and Montréal taking turns.
Last season, David reached the quarterfinal at Toronto (for the second time after 2002) where his loss to Andy Murray put an end to his eleven-match winning streak. This year, the tournament will be held in Montréal again but that's where David had his best result at this event, with the final he made back in 2003 (and which he lost to Andy Roddick).
Defending 180 points at this tournament, David won't be seeded and can therefore meet any of the seeds 9-16 in the first round and any of the top 8 (who get a bye) in the second. And as this is a Masters event and therefore mandatory for the Top 30 - everyone will be there.

Western & Southern Open, Masters 1000, Cincinnati (August 15-21)

(Getty Images)

The Western & Southern Open as it's now officially called, also known as the Cincinnati Masters, or just Cincy, actually takes place in Mason, Ohio (northeast of Cincinnati). And out of all those Masters events where David has a record, it's actually this one where he has the worst.
When David reached the third round last year (where he lost to Novak Djokovic) it was the second best result he ever achieved at Cincy. He only did better back in 2003 when he made the quarterfinal. But apart from that it's always been either first or second round exits for David in the only six times he has played this tournament so far.
At Cincy, it's only 90 ranking points that David has to defend. Apart from that the same rules apply as with the Rogers Cup. The seeding for the US Open will based on the rankings after Cincy.

P.S. Greetings, by the way, from the first ever Vamos David "board meeting", as Krystle is currently visiting me here in Berlin.

Update (26/07)
A look back at David's Davis Cup career in 55 pictures you can find here on the Davis Cup website.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

On Course for Washington


Update (22/07)
The news just came in: On December 8, David is going to play an exhibition match.
A very special exhibition match...
At the Parque Roca.
Against Rafael Nadal.

Edit: Other sources are now saying that this hasn't been confirmed yet. I'll keep you updated.

There's still nothing to be heard from David himself but at least what little can be heard about him from others is positive and suggests that his preparations for Washington at the US hardcourt events are going ahead as planned. On those hardcourts you can see above, at the Vilas Club in Buenos Aires. As Danny Miche (who's not always just the bearer of bad news) just tweeted:
Nalbandian is doing full training at the Vilas Club, tennis and physical, he'll return at the ATP 500 in Washington in two weeks where he's the defending champion
So - about two more weeks of waiting...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Not really an Update...

Update II (19/07)
David is making progress with his preparations for Washington. He's now training on hardcourt at the Vilas Club in Buenos Aires (source).

A brief rankings update: David loses one place and is now ranked #25.
Still no further news...

As much I'd like to be able to tell you more about how David is doing and about his preparations for the US hardcourt events - no news at the moment. Once again, all is quiet on the David-front...
So I can only assume that David is still at home in Unquillo, probably training at the Ines Gorrochategui academy again, his last weeks with Luis Lobo. (Who's going to replace Lobo as David's coach is also still a mystery at the moment.) Tonight though, David might be in Santa Fe for Argentina's Copa América quarterfinal match against Uruguay. - But that, just like everything else basically, is merely speculation at this point.

What I can tell you about Washington, however, is that David will definitely be seeded this time, which means he'll get a bye in the first round. And also that with their selection of wildcards the organisers won't be making it any easier for David to defend his title. Those three that have been announced so far will go to Gael Monfils, Fernando Verdasco and Lleyton Hewitt.

As soon as there's any news - I'll let you know.

Edit: David is indeed in Santa Fe tonight to watch the football (source).

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Rankings, Races and Grants - and apparently soon a new Coach

First of all, the weekly and slightly belated look at the rankings. David has lost three places and is now ranked #24. Which is the result of those 130 ranking points having come off now that he gained for his two victories at last year's Davis Cup quarterfinal in Moscow.

In the meantime, and while the dead rubbers were being played at the Parque Roca on Saturday (which Juan Ignacio Chela and Juan Monaco also won, completing the 5-0 victory for Argentina), David paid a visit to the Hipódromo de San Isidro in Buenos Aires, where he "spent a relaxed day" at the horse races, talking to jockey Pablo Falero and "enjoying chats with other spectators and regulars of the place".
(Source; photo: La Nacion)

- And probably also enjoying a last chance to hang out with friends and have a good time before the start of the preparations for Washington and the US hardcourt swing. Those preparations, and David's first tennis training since Wimbledon, were scheduled to begin yesterday, under the supervision of his coach Luis Lobo. But as Argentine journalist Guillermo Salatino tweeted last night,
On July 31 the Lobo/Nalbandian work relationship is going to end. He'll be there to help him prepare for Washington but he's not going to travel with him. The name of his new coach is not yet known.
Finally, and in case you were wondering what happened with the auction for David's foundation and the print of David as Caravaggio's Narcissus, in the end it was sold for $4800, a little less than the estimated price but still enough to make it the most expensive piece. In total, the auction raised over $60.000.
And an additional $10.000 will come from the ATP, as part of the new ATP Aces For Charity grant programme. It's the first time that the ATP awards $10.000 grants to charitable causes under the patronage of players or tournaments and David's Fundación Nalbandian is among those that have been chosen.

Edit: Back home from Buenos Aires by now, David was at the stadium in Córdoba last night to watch Argentina play Costa Rica, a match of the Copa América (football). The 'Albiceleste' won 3-0 and David got the chance to meet (and exchange numbers; or at least that's what it looks like in this pic) with Argentina's superstar Lionel Messi.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

David: I'll play Washington and the US Hardcourt Swing

During the doubles match yesterday, David held a press conference at the Parque Roca. Here's a very brief summary of what he had to say (due to physical problems, not David's but mine):
About his injury and plans for the coming weeks David says he's been getting better and better and that on Monday, he'll start with tennis again. He's planning to make his comeback at Washington and he also wants to play the entire US hardcourt swing.
He didn't get to watch the singles rubbers as he was on the road. And he'd prefer Sweden, rather than Serbia though he knows of course it's not going to happen. Davis Cup is always special and different, they have a good team, being part of the team and playing is easier than having to watch from the outside.
Serbia has a great team, with Djokovic who's impressive at the moment, but also with their other players. Still, if Delpo and David himself are in good form, playing on a surface they feel comfortable on, then they have a chance but it's going to be a very tough and close tie.
Tennis is a very cruel sport in terms of injuries, everyone is struggling with injuries and Delpo had to have surgery already at a very young age. That's not normally the case in other sports. But of course you always try to do your best and the plan is to play the whole US hardcourt swing. He still hasn't played a lot of tournaments and doesn't have much rhythm but after that he hopes be in form for the difficult (semifinal) tie.
No matter who's going to play in the end, Delpo, him, Chela, they're going to try and win. It was bad luck that kept him from playing this tie but the guys have done very well and Argentina has what it takes to form a great team and they believe that they can win.
He repeats that he'll come back at Washington. Asked about the rivalry between Djokovic and Nadal, he's been following that a little, they're the best players this season and Djokovic is impressive, basically perfect. But the season is long, the physical strain increases as it goes on and it's not easy to maintain the same level. Rafa is also a great champion and the second half of the season will be great with this rivalry between the two.
He met the team inside the locker room, it was the typical Davis Cup atmosphere and he talked to Schwank before the match. Finally, establishing a fixed doubles would be good, to have a very good doubles like the US (with the Bryans) would make winning the Davis Cup easier, also because then the singles players get to rest between their matches. But the Argentine team has never really had that.

Before and after the press conference, David watched yesterday's doubles together with Agustin Calleri. Whether that brought back any memories of the last doubles they played together for Argentina and the turmoil that allegedly followed that match at Mar del Plata 2008 - who knows. But they seemed to be having a good time (more photos on the Photo Page).
(photo: Telam)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Davis Cup Update - Argentina in the Lead, David on the Road

Ashes from the Chilean volcano Puyehe made it impossible for David to get to Buenos Aires and the Parque Roca in time for the first two rubbers. But when he'll take his place courtside to follow the doubles tomorrow, he'll do so knowing that it might already be the decisive rubber of this tie.
After the first day, Argentina leads 2-0, thanks to the victories of Juan Monaco (who beat Andrey Golubev 6-3, 6-0, 6-4) and Juan Martin Del Potro (who defeated Mikhail Kukushkin 6-2, 6-1, 6-2).

While those matches were being played, and after his flight from Córdoba had been cancelled because of the volcano ash, David was on the way to Buenos Aires - by car. He didn't manage to get to the Parque Roca in time for today's rubbers but while he was still on the road, he gave a phone interview to TyC Sports, the Argentine TV channel that broadcasts the Davis Cup, and said that he'll take up training again in a couple of days.
I did physical training and also a lot of rehabilitation but the first time I'm going to pick up a racquet again and play a little bit of tennis will be next Monday.
(Source; photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images)
But first of all, Argentina's quarterfinal tie continues tomorrow.
With the doubles and with David at the Parque Roca.

Update (08/07)
Argentina is through to the semifinal after Eduardo Schwank and Juan Ignacio Chela beat Evgeny Korolev and Juriy Schukin 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 to win the decisive third rubber.
David was at the Parque Roca for the match though halfway through it, he left his place courtside for a while to hold a press conference. More about that tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Body as the toughest Opponent - David and his Injuries

When Novak Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal in the final at Wimbledon, it was the 48th match he won this year, having lost only one. When David lost to Roger Federer in the third round at Wimbledon, it was his 58th match - but for this season and all of the last one combined.
Ever since his return after hip surgery, injuries and other physical problems have severely limited the amount of matches David has been able to play. Forcing him again and again to pause, to recover, to prepare and then make another new start on the Tour. Never allowing him to establish much of a rhythm or routine, or to gain match practice.
With the latest muscular injury currently sidelining David for the next days' Davis Cup quarterfinal, it's time to take a look back at the surgery that changed the course of David's career as well as its consequences, past, present and perhaps also for the future...
(photo: La Nacion)

Flashback. On May 13, 2009 David was wheeled to the operating room at the Clínica CIMA in Barcelona (sorry, I think I initially typed Buenos Aires out of sheer habit), wondering whether after the hip surgery he was about to undergo he'd be able to leave the hospital on his own two feet. Knowing that this kind of surgery had ended tennis careers before but also knowing that it was his only chance of continuing to play. The surgery was a success, there were no complications, and immediately afterwards, David was able to start with the first exercises. Taking the first steps - on crutches but on his own two feet - down the long road towards his comeback on the Tour.
But although his hip surgery was successful and would eventually enable David to move, train and play matches without the pain that had previously tormented him for over a year, it was also clear that this operation was going to have an impact on the rest of his career. It just wasn't clear how that impact would manifest itself.

By now, it is. Only 58 matches over the course of one and a half seasons, a total of 15 tournaments missed (including four out of seven Slams) due to physical problems, ranging from exhaustion to hernia and the double surgery he had in March. On average, David gets to play less than 10 matches between one injury pause and the next. The majority of which, including the current one, have been caused by muscular injuries, hamstring and especially adductor problems. So far, those injuries occurred when David played on clay (Buenos Aires 2010, Monte Carlo 2010, Davis Cup R1 2011). Now it has also happened on grass, and after the surgery in March that was supposed to put an end to injuries like that. I can't tell whether any mistakes were made, be it by the doctors or by David's team. But what's obvious is that they still haven't really found a way of keeping these injuries from happening.

Right now, there is still no statement from David about this latest injury or his plans for the coming weeks, with the US hardcourt swing drawing near. Last year, it was during this stage of the season that David was able to play his longest, as well as his most successful series of matches since hip surgery. And back then it seemed like the worst of his injury problems was behind him. Now, one year later, the ranking points from that run will soon be gone. But the injury problems remain and with them the question, how much longer until David has enough of the injuries and pauses, of recovery and then yet another comeback - until the next injury.

From tomorrow on, David (who's currently at home) will be at the Parque Roca for the quarterfinal tie, to support the team. It's the first time that a muscular injury is keeping him from playing Davis Cup and it's going to hurt, having to watch from the sidelines. Whether the next time around David will be part of the team again and what's going to happen until then, during the US hardcort swing - we'll see...

Saturday, July 2, 2011

David out of Davis Cup Quarterfinal

Update (04/07)
Still no statement from David, who's ranked #21 as of this week (having gained two places).
But there's another quote from the Argentine team's doctor Javier Maquirriain which makes it clear that there's more to this injury than a very visible haematoma:
The injury is like a tear. It's an important muscular problem. It's best for him not to play.
And because it is, once again, a muscular problem it will require some time to heal.
The estimated recovery time is three weeks. After that he'll have to take up training again in order to be able to play. (Source.)
With Washington merely four weeks away that makes it sound like there's little chance of David playing it.

Edit: Some additional quotes from David's spokesman Bernardo Ballero:
He pulled out because he can't play Davis Cup and that's why he's going to support his teammates during the tie.
David really wanted to play but he realised that it's better not to take risks and to leave his place on the team to somebody else. (Source.)

At a meeting today with David and his team, Tito Vázquez, vice captain Ricardo Rivera and the Argentine team doctor Javier Maquirriain it was decided that David is not in the shape to play the quarterfinal tie against Kazakhstan because of adductor problems.
Argentine news agency Telam quotes Maquirriain:
David has a very visible haematoma. The injury, which he suffered during his match against Roger Federer at Wimbledon, is related to his last surgery, something that typically happens after these operations. Therefore together with his kinesiologist we agreed that it's better to rest and not play this tie.
So there's obviously more to those adductor problems than it seemed during the match - a lot more. If it's enough to keep David from playing Davis Cup...
There's no statement from David himself, yet. There's only the following comment from Tito Vázquez:
Without a doubt it's an important loss for the team. David is a great player and it was a luxury to have him. In spite of his desire to play we have agreed on a replacement for him.
And that replacement is going to be Eduardo Schwank, who'll now get his place on the team, after all.

That's all the news there is at the moment. Though the question is of course why the surgery that David had in order to put an end to those muscular problems is now the cause of more muscular problems - and how that can be a typical consequence.
Once more we can only wait and see what's going to come out of this...

Davis Cup - Schedule for the coming Days


David has pulled out of the quarterfinal tie due to injury problems (right adductors).
More as soon as possible...

After four months, it's now back to the Parque Roca for David, back to Davis Cup and preparing for Argentina's quarterfinal tie against Kazakhstan.
This time though, everything is going to be a little bit different. Normally, Davis Cup weeks always follow the same standard scheduling. First training at the venue on Monday, press conference on Tuesday, draw ceremony on Thursday and then the tie from Friday to Sunday. But since this quarterfinal had to be rescheduled (due to elections in Buenos Aires on Sunday), not only the tie itself but also everything else will now take place one day earlier than usual. Which means that the schedule for the coming days looks like this:

Start of the team training sessions at the Parque Roca
(two sessions per day for each team)

Press conference (1pm; all times local)

Draw ceremony and press conference (10am)

Thursday - Day 1
First two singles rubbers (play starts 10am)

Friday - Day 2
Doubles rubber (11am)

Saturday - Day 3
Reversed singles rubbers (play starts 10am)

In the meantime, David had the following to say about the upcoming tie and the Kazakh players:
It seems to me that the tie is going to be a lot more even than people think. I think that everyone on the team will have to play at a good level.

People here don't really know their names but they are young and promising players. None of them is older than 22 years [actually, all of them are] and in the near future they're going to get much better in terms of the ranking.
Another topic David talked about was the doubles and the absence of Argentina's best doubles player at the moment, Eduardo Schwank.
I think it's difficult, it's not a good time for Argentina in terms of doubles, at the moment. Because of the ranking. We started playing with Schwank and Zeballos. For my part, I really like "El Gordo" Schwank. He's one of the very few to have made semis on the Tour [at Slams; and a final at Roland Garros]. He's a very good doubles player but still he doesn't get to be here for this tie. It's a difficult moment because there's no balanced doubles team.
While insisting that his relationship with Delpo is "normal".
It's always been good. Now we get the opportunity, after several years with injury problems, to play together again.
Even though at the same time he also believes that it's the captain's (and vice captain's) job to make sure there's a good atmosphere on the team.
I keep saying that it's the captain's job. The captains also have to make an effort and reconcile the energies within the group. One of the tasks of the captain and the coaching staff is to do just that. (Source.)
But first of all, they're all going meet tonight at the Hotel Panamericano in Buenos Aires. David and Delpo, Chela, Monaco, vice captain Rivera and captain Tito Vázquez. What's going to be discussed during that meeting we'll probably never get to know. But hopefully, it's going to be the beginning of a harmonious and successful Davis Cup week.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Interlude - before it's Davis Cup Time again...

Before next week everything will be all about the Davis Cup quarterfinal and David's and Delpo's first reunion on the Argentine team since the notorious Mar del Plata fiasco in 2008, I'll take this moment to post a couple of things that got lost along the way, during Wimbledon and before. Things in a lighter sort of vein.
First up are some quotes from a brief interview with David before the Federer match.
Q: What’s the last thing you do before a match?

David: Always I do my over grips before every match to get concentrated on the game. It depends how many rackets I have, maybe four, maybe six, depends.

Q: Did you ever think of doing anything other than tennis?

David: When I was 11, I would switch between tennis and other sports. Three years later, I would be playing for four hours against older people. I was a total tennis fan. Today, I just practise for an hour and a half, but focusing on what I need to improve. Those are different stages in your career.
Interesting use of the past tense here. Anyway, when it comes to what David thinks he'll be doing once he has said goodbye to tennis, we've had different versions before, including maybe becoming a coach one day. But this one is new:
Q: What do you think you might do after tennis?

David: I like all sports, so I’m going to be one of those guys who play a lot of other sports right after I finish my career. I like sharks. So maybe I study a little bit of marine biology, something like that. Reading books about it. There are no sharks in Argentina, but good ones in Australia.
(Full article here; photo: Carl De Souza/AFP/Getty Images)
Apart from that I recently set out to solve the mystery behind "Gervasio Esteban David Ezekiel Nalbandian" - allegedly David's full and complete name, at least according to some people...
You can read more about how David came by that illustrious name and how myths can be created and spread on the internet in my Mythbusters post.

Meanwhile, David's foundation is currently conducting another art exhibition and auction at the Galeria Arroyo in Buenos Aires in order to raise funds for its projects.
And in case you happen to have an estimated $6000 to $9000 to spare, you can decide to invest them into purchasing this particular piece here:
"David, Evocando Al Narciso De Caravaggio" by Nicola Constantino.
Which, as the title already suggests, is supposed to be an 'evocation' of the original painting by Caravaggio (you can have a look at it here) of Greek mythology figure Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection when he saw it in a pond and who, unable to leave it, died eventually.
- Only that Caravaggio's Narcissus doesn't admire a half-naked reflection of himself. (And he probably also doesn't have a tattoo...)

Coming tomorrow: general overview and schedule of the upcoming Davis Cup week.