Friday, December 23, 2011

The Last Post of the Year

With David at home now, taking a break and nursing his inflamed knee before continuing his preparations for the new season - there's nothing more to report for me at the moment.

Therefore, allow me a few words on behalf of myself and Vamos David.
It's been a difficult year, not only for David. And I've had a lot less time for the blog than before. Not always enough time to do things the way I would've wanted to. And I already know that it's going to get worse, next year. Still, I'll try to keep Vamos David running as best as I can.
I can't promise it'll work - but I'll try...

Vamos David takes a break now.
Happy holidays not only from David but also from me & see you in 2012!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Look Back at David's 2011 Season

It was a very erratic season, riddled with physical problems. With those injuries, it's very difficult to achieve some sort of continuity.
An accurate description. Only that David said those words at the end of last year. But while he knew that his comeback season 2010 would be a difficult one, he also knew what would need to change...
I need more continuity in 2011. And for that it'll be essential that I won't be chased by injuries. (Source.)
Twelve months later, it is safe to say that things haven't changed and least of all for the better. David finishes the season, ranked #64 (the exact same ranking he had at the end of 2009, by the way). He didn't win a title for the first time since 2005, with the final at Auckland as his best ATP result of the year. And after only 38 matches in 2010, he played even a little less this year, 34 matches with an overall record of 22-12.
In short, 2011 wasn't the season David and we as his fans were hoping for. Still, here's my (not necessarily comprehensive) look back at this erratic, difficult and injury-riddled year...
The Battle Epic
There are promising match-ups, difficult and special ones. And then there's David vs Lleyton Hewitt. Which is all of the above and more, because whenever these two meet - it's personal. This time, their paths crossed in the first round at the Australian Open. Rod Laver Arena, night session. The perfect setting for what turned out to be a truly epic battle that lasted almost five hours. In the end, David prevailed 9-7 in the fifth set. It was the match of the season and a huge victory over his "friend" since junior days...
But it was also a victory that came at a price - having to retire due to exhaustion in the next round.

(Getty Images)
David on green
After three years, David could finally be seen "on green" again this season, which is to say - playing on grass. First of all at the Queen's Club, where he teamed up with Andy Roddick in doubles - probably his most unusual match, this year. After having lost to Fernando Verdasco in the third round, David then paid a visit to Stoke Park to play his beloved Boodles Challenge exhibition before making his first appearance at Wimbledon since his first-round exit in 2008. After two fairly straightforward wins on outside courts, in the third round David got his match on Centre Court - against Roger Federer. It was the best David played on grass this year by some margin. And though it wasn't enough to trouble Federer, it was nice to finally see David at Wimbledon again.

(Getty Images)
The (very different) US hardcourt swing
Last year, David went to Washington just to get some match practice and ended up with the title and the longest winning streak of his career. This year, David went to Washington as the defending champion, with a lot of points to defend - and it ended in a disaster. Having had a bye in the first round, David lost in the second to James Blake and with it his Top30 ranking. Then followed defeats against Stanislas Wawrinka (R1 Montréal; David's worst match of the season) and Andy Murray (R2 Cincy; the one with the catastrophic serve performance). But though his form wasn't great David showed his fighting spirit at the US Open, with his victories over Bobby Reynolds and then Ivan Ljubicic. Before in the third round, it was time for the big stage again - and Rafael Nadal. Having outplayed Nadal for most of the first set, David still lost in straights, unable to keep up, physically. Nadal did keep it up - but then afterwards famously collapsed during the press conference.

La Copa Davis
It was a good and unusually harmonious Davis Cup year for Argentina, despite the lost final. And while David didn't get to play as many matches as he would've wanted, those that he played he won. The most dramatic was of course the first one, against Adrian Ungur in the first round against Romania at the Parque Roca. The match that saw David bursting into tears during the last set... After missing the quarterfinal tie (and after his road trip to at least get to Buenos Aires to support the team), he returned in the semifinal against Serbia in Belgrade. David played a fantastic match against Viktor Troicki and got the Argentine team on the way to its eventual victory. Finally, together with Eduardo Schwank, David played and won the doubles in Sevilla, the only point that Argentina managed to win in the Davis Cup final against Spain. Still, the most important tie this year probably was the semifinal. Ever since Belgrade, things seem to have been a lot more peaceful on the Argentine team than they used to be. Especially between David and Delpo.

(AP Photo)
The body as the toughest opponent
Last year, it was a series of muscular injuries that forced David to pause, time and time again. This year, David's physical problems were, sadly enough, of an equally disruptive nature but at the same time also more diverse. It began with the hernia/adductor double surgery he underwent in March, followed by the viral infection he contracted afterwards and the effects of which kept him from playing the European clay-court events. After another adductor tear, suffered at Wimbledon, David was able to play the US hardcourt swing, the tournaments in Asia and the Davis Cup semifinal without further problems. But just when he really seemed to be picking up his form again, with the great match he played against Ivan Dodig at Stockholm, a hamstring tear suffered during that match put an end to his indoor season. With the tendinitis issues that forced him to pull out of the Copa Argentina as the latest chapter in David's ongoing injury saga.
I think what has become obvious this season is that David's physical fragility and tendency to get injured is not just a phase that will end at some point. And it's no longer more or less exclusively on clay that those injuries occur. The cycle of injuries, pauses and comebacks goes on. And by now, it would take nothing short of a miracle to break it. Because David's body obviously no longer holds up to playing professional tennis. For now, he's still trying. And I commend him for it. But I also think that the writing is on the wall. And that the expectations have to be adjusted to what's at all possible for him, at this stage.

(Getty Images)
A look ahead at 2012...
Apparently, or as far as I know at this point, David will begin the new season (his last one, according to Fue Buena) at the Australian Open. And I guess I may have caused a bit of confusion by saying that he'll then play the Davis Cup first-round tie, because in the past, there used be all of the Golden Swing between the two. But that's going to be different next year, as the first round of the Davis Cup has been moved forward, to the second week after the Australian Open (February 10-12). So David will play the Golden Swing after the Davis Cup tie against Germany. Starting with the new tournament in Sao Paolo (formerly Costa do Sauipe; February 13-19) and then, of course, the Copa Claro, his home tournament in Buenos Aires (February 20-26). I think I've also heard him say that he'll play Acapulco but that's not official yet.
So that's what the first part of David's schedule for 2012 looks like. What will make this season different from David's previous ones is that he will no longer be a commitment player. Which means no more direct access into 500 events but also the ability to count in six instead of only two 250 events for his ranking. Therefore we might get to see a slightly different schedule than usual. Also because of another factor, his ranking. Not defending his Auckland points from last year will see David drop down to around #89. The kind of region where getting into main draws is no longer a certainty...
What's certain - David will have two main goals next year. The Davis Cup and the Olympic Games in London. About the rest - we'll see.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Injury Update & A New Captain for Argentina

At the press conference on Thursday, following his victory over Ferrero, one of the first questions David got asked was about his knee and the nature of his problems with it. His reply was that he just began with his preparations for the next season and that, unfortunately, his right knee was causing him some trouble, due to "an inflammation, tendinitis". At that point he still thought he'd probably be able to continue playing the Copa Argentina. Yesterday, however, it became clear that this wouldn't be the case. In the words of the press release, issued by the organisers:
David Nalbandian has informed the organisers of the Copa Peugeot Argentina de Tenis that he won't be able to continue participating in the event. After several consultations with his doctors, before and after his first match, and following the advice from his team he has decided to withdraw, due to tendinitis and an accumulation of fluid in his right knee.
Apparently, it's not quite as bad as it sounds. David will now rest for a week and then continue his preparations as planned. For the new season that, according to La Nacion, he'll begin by playing the Australian Open and then the Davis Cup first-round tie against Germany (source).
- Still, an unfortunate and yet sadly appropriate ending for another difficult, injury-riddled season. I'll take a closer look at it (and also at the prospects for next year) in my year-end review post.

But yesterday was also a day of good news for David as the AAT officially announced that after three years with Tito Vázquez Argentina has a new Davis Cup captain - David's former coach Martin Jaite. The latest chapter in a story that began three years ago at Mar del Plata. Back then, Alberto "Luli" Mancini was Argentina's captain but it was no secret that David played a more than dominant role on the team. After Mar del Plata, Mancini resigned and David campaigned for Martin Jaite to become his successor. But the AAT didn't want another captain with very close ties to the players, nor did they want David to keep his prominent position on the team. So they appointed their own man, Tito Vázquez.

(La Razon)
A decision that didn't go down so well with David, to say the least. And the beginning of a very difficult work relationship that included a series of disputes and media commotions. The final instalment of which came earlier this week when Vázquez appeared on Argentine TV to talk about his time as captain - and about David. Especially his statement "I don't see him as a positive leader" made headlines, also beyond the Argentine media. A line that sums up Vázquez' criticism of David and his dominant approach to being part of the team.
David's response: "He's entitled to his opinion just like everybody else. I think that I did things the best way I could." (Source.)

(El Día)
But now, the Argentine team has a new captain. Martin Jaite, former Top10 player, tournament director of the Copa Claro and David's ex-coach. Jaite has never made a secret of his ambitions to become Davis Cup captain and after his appointment he called it a dream that has come true for him (and perhaps not only for him). Though he also recognised Vázquez' achievements.
After three stormy years, this is hopefully the start of a new era.
With captain Martin Jaite and his vice-captain Mariano Zabaleta.

Friday, December 16, 2011

David pulls out of Copa Argentina

Last night, he was still making jokes about it. Now comes the bad news: Together with his team, David has made the decision to pull out of the Copa Argentina, because of tendinitis problems in his right knee (which he had taped, yesterday).
He'll be replaced by Thomaz Bellucci.

So - that was it, David's season 2011.

More about his injury and the withdrawal tomorrow (if possible). And also about Argentina's new and now officially appointed Davis Cup captain - Martin Jaite.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Copa Argentina: David vs Juan Carlos Ferrero

(Copa Argentina/FB)
David has won his first match at this year's Copa Argentina, defeating Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-1, 7-5. It was a very nice and entertaining match and for all of those of you who couldn't watch it live - Andvari has recorded the match and it'll soon be available via David on Screen.
After the match, David (who played with his right knee taped) said that he's in the middle of his preparations for the coming season and therefore feeling rather tired. But playing at home is always great for him of course and he also didn't rule out playing the event again next year. About his knee, he said it that it was okay during the match but thate he'll see what it's going to be like, tomorrow. - But all of that in a not too serious kind of manner.
Tomorrow, David will have a day off before his match against Marcos Baghdatis on Saturday.

(Vienna tournament website)

Starting time now: 10pm local.
The court is now being dried... And apparently, it takes ages...
It's raining again in Buenos Aires and the start of David's match is currently delayed...

That's my favourite photo of David and Juan Carlos Ferrero, the two of them hanging out at the players party in Vienna, back in 2007. One can only speculate what they were talking about...
Not quite as much time has passed since they last met on the tennis court, or rather - the training court. At Shanghai this year, they practised together. Their last official match, however took place at the very same stadium where they'll be playing tonight, at the BALTC in Buenos Aires, during the Copa Telmex (now Copa Claro) 2009.

Whether or not we'll get to see them play today will once more depend on whether there's going to be a stream, showing the Argentine TV coverage of the match. And it won't be possible to find out until the match has started. I will of course try to find a stream but any help will be much appreciated. So, if you find a working stream, please link it in the comments.

Good news: Rojadirecta lists four streams for tonight. You'll find them on the left, under "Today on Internet TV" (scroll down and click on "Tennis (): Copa Peugeot Argentina de Tenis 2011").

Another not entirely new problem concerning the Copa Argentina (and also the Copa Claro) is - the weather. As I post this, it's raining in Buenos Aires, with further rain showers forecast for the evening. In other words, we might be in for some rain delays...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Copa Argentina - Draw and Order of Play

It's that time of the year again... Ever since 2004, each and every one of David's seasons has included an appearance at the Copa Peugeot Argentina De Tenis, held at the BALTC in Buenos Aires. Making this the altogether eighth time that he'll play this exhibition event (which he has won four times). What makes this year's edition special, however, is its international field - six players from five different countries.
Just like in the last two years, the event will be played in the so-called "Super Six" format, with two groups of three players. The winners of both groups will meet in Sunday's final.

Group A:
Gael Monfils, Eduardo Schwank, Fernando Gonzalez

Group B:
David Nalbandian, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Marcos Baghdatis

And here's the order of play:

David Nalbandian vs Juan Carlos Ferrero
Eduardo Schwank vs Fernando Gonzalez

Marcos Baghdatis vs Juan Carlos Ferrero
Fernando Gonzalez vs Gael Monfils

Gael Monfils vs Eduardo Schwank
David Nalbandian vs Marcos Baghdatis

7pm local: Gaston Gaudio vs Mariano Zabaleta (Gaudio's farewell match)
8.30pm local: The Final

Play starts at 8.30pm local (11.30pm GMT/6.30pm EST) and the matches will be shown live on Argentine channels ESPN (Thursday) and ESPN+ (Friday to Sunday). For those who don't have access to Argentine television, like me, this means another round of the good old stream lottery...
(photos: Copa Argentina/FB)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Copa Almirante Brown - And the Winner is: Pico

(photo by Tamar)

Edit: Tamar's photos from the match and the trophy ceremony you can view here.

Last year, David beat Pico in the final of this event. This time, Pico beat David 6-3, 6-3.
It was a typical exhibition match, with both players not trying to run down each and every ball but still treating the crowd to a couple of spectacular rallies. In the fourth game of the second set there was a brief shock moment when Pico stumbled and twisted his ankle a little. But he was able to continue playing, seemingly without any problems. The much more general and lasting "shock element" in this match was David's serve perfomance, including a double fault count in the double digits... We'll see what it's going to be like next week, at the Copa Argentina.


Yesterday, that was pretty much all we got to see of him - David walking onto the court at the club San Albano and then getting ready for his first match against Nicolas Massu. But just before the match itself began all available streams switched to football...

Let's hope that today we'll have a bit more luck and that there'll be a chance to watch the final of the Copa Almirante Brown - David against Pico Monaco.

Edit: The match is under way and for the moment at least there are streams (links in the sidebar).

Thursday, December 8, 2011

David wins first Match at Copa Almirante Brown Exhibition


David has won his first match at the Copa Almirante Brown, defeating Nicolas Massu 6-4, 6-0. As in the end, there was no stream after all, I can't tell you anything about this match. But maybe we'll get another chance to see David tomorrow, when he'll be playing the final against Juan "Pico" Monaco (who beat Juan Ignacio Chela in the first match of the day). This new edition of what was already last year's final will take place tomorrow, at 5.30pm local (8.30pm GMT/ 3.30pm EST)

Only two days have gone by since David arrived at the Ezeiza airport in Buenos Aires and then took a private plane on to Córdoba. But it was hardly more than a brief stopover that he got at home in Unquillo as today already sees him back in Buenos Aires. Or rather, in Burzaco, in the Buenos Aires province. There, at the tennis club San Albano, the third edition of the Copa Almirante Brown exhibition, played on hardcourt, starts today (the photo to the right is from the official presentation of the event).

In the first "semifinal" match of the day (3pm local), Juan Monaco will face Juan Ignacio Chela. And afterwards, at around 4.30pm local (7.30pm GMT/2.30pm EST), David will play against Nicolas Massu. Who, by the way, was also David's opponent in his first exhibition match after hip surgery, almost exactly two years ago.
The winners of today's matches will meet in tomorrow's final.

Last year, David took part in the Copa Almirante Brown for the first time and won it. Though it has to be said that this event really isn't all that serious. Still, the matches will be broadcasted live on Argentine TV. Edit: And just like last year, there's a stream for it (link in the sidebar).

Looks like I spoke too soon... The last remaining stream just switched to football. I'll try to find another one but I can't promise you anything. If anyone finds a stream - please post it in the comments.

Apart from that, there's also news from the other and much bigger exhibition that David is going to play next week, the Copa Peugeot Argentina de Tenis, or simply Copa Argentina (December 15-18), held at the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club and traditionally part of David's off-season.
Juan Monaco and James Blake have withdrawn and their places in the six-player draw will be taken by Juan Carlos Ferrero and Fernando Gonzalez. So the complete and truly international field now looks like this: David, Eduardo Schwank, Gael Monfils, Marcos Baghdatis, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Fernando Gonzalez.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

They Lost - But as a Team: After Argentina's Defeat

Before this Davis Cup final, the third in his career, David said that trying to beat Spain at home, on clay would be a tougher challenge than Moscow or Mar del Plata. And even though a lot of nice and respectful things were said on the Spanish side prior to this weekend ("if anyone can beat us on clay it's Argentina"), any team that has to face the "Spanish Armada" on clay goes into such a tie as the firm underdog. Therefore, it wasn't surprising that in his interviews before the final, David kept insisting that Sevilla wouldn't be his last chance to win the Davis Cup. He knew, they all knew, that even if they all gave everything they possibly could - it might be not enough.

At the same time, having to play against Spain in the final also brought back some unsavoury memories. Of the infamous Mar del Plata debacle and all that went with it, including David and Delpo falling out with each other. And it wasn't until the semifinal at Belgrade this year that their relationship actually seemed to improve again. But Belgrade turned out to be a big party, and it's so much easier to get along when things are going well.

Today, things didn't turn out well. Although Delpo played an absolutely incredible match. But even that wasn't enough against Rafa Nadal. And when Nadal finally sealed Delpo's and the Argentine team's fate in the fourth-set tiebreak, the question was what David's reaction would be like. I don't always agree with the way David behaves in Davis Cup. But today, he gave the best answer to that question. He went over to comfort Delpo. And though his first words were picked up by one of the TV cameras (see the previous update), he refused to tell the media what else he had said. Because it was only meant for Delpo's ears.
Later, during the press conference, Delpo returned the compliment:
Apart from the defeat I'm happy about the support I got from the team. The guys gave them a lecture in the doubles. (Source.)
Three years after Mar del Plata, Argentina played as a team - and lost as a team. But as far as David is concerned, they have every reason to be content with what they've achieved during this season and the final.

David: We should be happy and satisfied with everything that we've done, everyone of us. The players, the coaching staff, everybody. I think we had a great season. We got here in top shape, we were prepared for a very tough tie. During this weekend the Spanish team showed just how hard it is to beat Spain at home. But we're okay because each of the players gave everything in every moment. Sometimes, things don't work out. But we're okay and satisfied with all that we've tried in order to win. Sometimes the opponent is too good and there's not much else you can do.

Apart from that, he reminded everyone that once they get past the first-round away tie against Germany (Germany's captain Patrick Kühnen was at La Cartuja, by the way), Argentina will have home ties against pretty much every other team, including all of the big ones. Another Davis Cup season and another, maybe better chance. Also knowing that Rafa Nadal won't be playing Davis Cup next season (source).
But David will - of course. In 2012, the Davis Cup will once again be his priority. And also the Olympic Games in London, with the tennis competition taking place at Wimbledon.

So yesterday's doubles was David's last official match of the 2011 season. But it won't be the last we've seen of him this year. Next week, he'll play the Copa Almirante Brown exhibition and then there's also his traditional appearance at the Copa Argentina.
I'll take a couple of days off now but I'll see you in time for the "exhibition season".

Davis Cup Final - Spain Beats Argentina 3-1

(Christina Quicler/AFP)
- The update I was hoping I wouldn't have to make.
Rafael Nadal has defeated Juan Martin Del Potro (who put up an incredible fight) 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, 7-6(0).
Spain wins its fifth Davis Cup title. And Argentina loses its altogether fourth final.
The fifth rubber won't be played.
Edit: David's first words to Delpo: "You played a fantastic match, you have nothing to blame yourself for." (Source.)

Welcome to the last day of this year's Davis Cup final at La Cartuja. - Which wouldn't take place, or at least not with at least one more live rubber, if it hadn't been for David's and Eduardo Schwank's great victory in the doubles yesterday. But - here we are.
As always, Sunday means that it's time for the reverse singles. And also as always, it's the #1 players from both teams, who are up first (Edit: the AAT just tweeted a photo of Delpo, warming up for the match on the training court).

(Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images)
Rafael Nadal vs Juan Martin Del Potro
It'll be their altogether 10th meeting but only the second one to take place on clay (the first one was at Roland Garros 2007; Nadal won in straights). Overall, the match record stands at 6-3 in Nadal's favour, with all three of Delpo's victories dating from the 2009 season, including the one in the semifinal of the US Open, on his way to winning the title. This year, they've met twice so far, with an easy victory for Nadal at Indian Wells and a not so easy one at Wimbledon.
In short, Delpo has defeated Nadal before but so far, he has only managed to do it on hardcourt and during his best season. Still, Delpo has also shown that he can play great matches on clay - but the question is, how well can he play today? After the four hours and 46 minutes he spent on court against David Ferrer on Friday, his fitness is a bit of a question mark, going into this match. And even more so against the "King of Clay".

It will indeed take a "small miracle" (as David and Edu Schwank called it after their match) for this final to go down to a live fifth rubber. And that's why I'm not going to look beyond this fourth one, right now. Instead, for the moment I'll leave it at:


P.S. But in case there is a fifth rubber - David will play it.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Davis Cup Final Day 2 - Argentina Stays Alive

Update (04/12)
Recording of the match now available via David on Screen. And photos by Denise, VamosDavider at La Cartuja now on the Photo Page.
Edit: And a post-match video interview with David & Edu (in English) here.

Prior the final, it was the doubles that David identified as the rubber Argentina would have the best chance to win. And today, together with Eduardo Schwank, he let his words be followed by deeds. After just under two hours, during which Argentina's "makeshift doubles" was always in control of proceedings and didn't lose serve once, David and Edu Schwank converted their first match point to beat Spain's Lopez and Verdasco 6-4, 6-2, 6-3. Or in David's words:
We're happy because we won and now still have a chance. We played a great doubles match. We basically played a perfect match and the result shows it.
Their victory keeps Argentina alive in this final, with the score now 2-1 after the second day.

David and Edu Schwank took control of this match already early on, getting their first break (against Lopez) to go up 3-2. In this first set, neither David nor Edu Schwank faced a single break point. The only close service game was the last one, when Edu Schwank served for it. But after a couple of errors and wasting a first set point they managed to take the second. 6-4
At the start of the second set, David and Edu Schwank immediately raced to a 4-0 lead, though David faced a break point at 1-0. But "Davis Cup David" saved it with an ace. And when at 5-2, it once more fell to Edu Schwank to serve out the set, they closed it out easily. 6-2
(Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images)
The third set they began with another break in the first game, with Lopez double-faulting on break point. At 3-2, David got in trouble on serve again and this time faced two break points. But he saved both of them with strong serves (one of them another ace). Finally, at 5-3 Lopez served to stay in the match. At 30-30 it was one of Schwank's many great returns today that set up their first match point before one of David's returns drew the decisive error from Verdasco. 6-3.

Halfway through the first set, one of the commentators summed up his impressions by saying that Lopez and Verdasco didn't look like a doubles team out there. While David and Edu Schwank did.
A perhaps slightly harsh but still accurate description. There were plenty of rallies during this match, where despite all of their experience Lopez and Verdasco didn't really seem to have any kind of strategy - or plan what the other was doing. And while Verdasco made lots of unforced errors, Lopez lost his serve altogether four times. David and Edu Schwank on the other hand simply played a fantastic doubles match. Tito Vázquez agrees:
Fortunately, the doubles worked out. David was excellent. The doubles played very well and was the superior team from start to finish.
David was indeed excellent, even though during the early stages of the match, Edu Schwank was the best player on court. But still, without David that wouldn't have been possible. Or in Edu Schwank's words:
He knows exactly what needs to be done, and even more so in this Davis Cup match. He took a lot of the pressure off of me and made it possible for me to play very relaxed. I felt very comfortable.
But David's importance became even more clear as the match went on. While Edu Schwank's level began to drop a little, David kept motivating him and pushing him on. And the longer the match lasted, the better David played - though that's perhaps not a surprise after the latest pause.
So the final at La Cartuja will be decided on the third day, in the reverse singles. And basically as soon as the match was over, David was asked about playing a possible fifth rubber:
The fifth rubber is still far away. Everybody knows what they have to do. Del Potro played a great match against Ferrer but didn't get rewarded for it. Playing against Nadal won't be easy for him, it's very tough - and then some.
Adding the little joke he has made before...
I'd like to play all five rubbers but the rules won't allow it.  (Source.)
There are also speculations (including in the comments here) about David perhaps replacing Del Potro tomorrow in the first of the reverse singles against Rafael Nadal. But the general opinion among the Argentine "insiders" is that this won't happen. Also because prior to the final, Vázquez has said that David isn't fit to play a best-of-five match on clay against Nadal. And though he played great today - I agree.


P.S. After the match, the celebrations and the glory, it was time for the fun part of Davis Cup...

Davis Cup Final Day 2 - 2-1 after the Doubles

(Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images)

Tomorrow, we'll get to see at least one more match at La Cartuja and whatever happens then, at least Argentina won't go home without a point. David and Eduardo Schwank have kept Argentina in this final and Spain from securing an early victory by defeating Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco 6-4, 6-2, 6-3.

The first round of photos now on the Photo Page.

 More soon...

After the long and emotional day at La Cartuja yesterday and with Argentina on the verge of defeat, today the time has come for David to enter the scene. And to try, together with Eduardo Schwank, to keep this final from turning into a whitewash for the Argentine team.
It's been a while since David last played doubles in Davis Cup. That was during the first-round tie in Stockholm, last year. Back then, David played with Horacio Zeballos and without any real preparation (and without having played together before), they managed to beat Robin Söderling and Robert Lindstedt. - All kinds of things can happen in Davis Cup and especially in the doubles.

(Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images)
Feliciano Lopez & Fernando Verdasco vs David Nalbandian & Eduardo Schwank
David and Eduardo Schwank have played doubles together before. Once. That was three years ago at Basel 2008, where they immediately made it to the semifinal. Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco not only play doubles regularly on the Tour together, they are also Spain's fixed doubles team. And they've already played a dozen doubles rubbers in Davis Cup, including the one they won at Mar del Plata (against David and Agustin Calleri).
In short, it's a very experienced team that David and Edu Schwank find themselves up against today. But also one that has had its problems, this year. And especially towards the end of the season. Lopez and Verdasco have been on a losing streak ever since the Masters in Montréal (where they lost in the second round). And their comprehensive defeat against Michael Llodra and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Davis Cup semifinal tie against France (where they only managed to get three games) raised some doubts about whether Spain's captain Albert Costa should rely on them for this final. But Costa decided to stick with Lopez and Verdasco, the recently not too successful but still very experienced pair of lefties.
In terms of Davis Cup success and experience, David is of course far ahead of Edu Schwank, who's playing his fifth doubles rubber in what's his sixth tie (for David it's the 17th doubles and the 22nd tie). But Schwank is the best doubles player Argentina has to offer, with a Roland Garros final this year and a US Open semi (last year) to his name. Apart from that, they know each other well, as Schwank used to be coached by David's brother Javier and they often trained together in the past. But in this match today, everything will depend on whether they can manage to complement each other. And whether they can deal with the pressure of having to play this match with their back against the wall.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Davis Cup Final Day 1 - Spain up 2-0

After the first two singles rubbers and a total of over seven hours of tennis, the worst case scenario for Argentina has become reality.
After Juan Monaco was chanceless against Rafael Nadal, Juan Martin Del Potro lost the second singles rubber to David Ferrer, who won their five-set battle 6-2, 6-7(2), 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Spain now leads 2-0 and is merely one point away from winning a fifth Davis Cup title. While Argentina is on the brink of defeat...
But that's not the reason David shed a couple of tears at La Cartuja today. It was listening to Argentina's national anthem during the opening ceremony that moved him.
In tomorrow's doubles rubber, it'll now be up to David and Eduardo Schwank to try and keep Argentina in this final...

Juan Monaco threw everything he had at him but in the end, he didn't stand a chance against the "King of Clay". After just under two and a half hours, Rafael Nadal prevailed 6-1, 6-1, 6-2, winning the first point for Spain. In the second rubber, the pressure is now firmly on Delpo...

Bienvenidos and welcome to the first day of the Davis Cup final at Sevilla's La Cartuja stadium!
We won't get to see David on court today (only supporting his teammates from the sidelines) but still, it's two very important matches that we have on our hands, the first two singles rubbers...

(Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images)
Rafael Nadal vs Juan Monaco
When these two friends last played against each other, it was Juan "Pico" Monaco who came out as the winner. That was at Cincy 2007, when Nadal retired, down a set and a double break. Their other two matches, however, took place on clay. And both times, Nadal won very comfortably, merely granting Pico two and four games, respectively. This year, Nadal met his match on clay, in the shape of Novak Djokovic. And the tail end of his season certainly didn't meet his own expectations. Still, on clay Nadal is a phenomenon (the best clay-courter ever, according to David) and needless to say, he has never lost a Davis Cup singles match on this surface.
So of course, Pico will be the complete underdog in this match and nobody really expects him to win it - but perhaps this lack of expectations can help him a little. As well as the good results that he was able to post at the last few tournaments he played.

(Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images)
David Ferrer vs Juan Martin Del Potro
It's going to be their fifth encounter (match record: 2-2) but the first one on clay. In the past, Delpo has shown that he's able to beat Ferrer, and easily at that, on hardcourt. And he won both of their last two matches in straights (after having had to retire, the first time they met and losing the second time on grass). But two and a half years have gone by since Delpo's last victory, which took place at Miami 2009, the year he won the US Open. And of course the surface, as well as the situation, is a different one today. During this season, Delpo has made an amazing move back up the ranks to just outside the Top10 but he hasn't played since Valencia. David Ferrer on the other hand came to Sevilla, having made the semis at the World Tour Final. Ferrer has said that he's tired after the long season he's had but also that he's determined to give his all in this final. And his Davis Cup record on clay is just as impeccable as Nadal's. In short, this will be a really tough match for Delpo. And much more so in the not unlikely case that the Argentine team finds itself trailing after the first rubber.

Tito Vázquez has said that Argentina's goal is for the scoreline to be 1-1 after this first day. Can a first point be won against the "Spanish Armada" today? We'll find out. VAMOS ARGENTINA!!!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Davis Cup Final - The Draw

We all know about David's special obsession. But as much as he likes to play Davis Cup, what he could surely do without are the press conferences that go with it. And the draw ceremonies. Which usually involve having to sit through lengthy speeches by various officials, something that can send even the most ardent 'Copero' almost to sleep (pic from Mar del Plata 2008). Today, however, David had every reason to be a little tired (and look it, in the clip above). At 6.45am this morning, there was a knock on the door of his hotel room and David had to undergo an unannounced doping test, just like Juan Monaco and Juan Martin Del Potro (source).

In any case, this is what came out of today's draw ceremony (Edit: impressions from it here):
(Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images)
Friday (2pm local) 

Rafael Nadal vs Juan Monaco

David Ferrer vs Juan Martin Del Potro

Saturday (4pm local) 

Feliciano Lopez & Fernando Verdasco vs David Nalbandian & Eduardo Schwank

Sunday (1pm local)

Rafael Nadal vs Juan Martin Del Potro

David Ferrer vs Juan Monaco

As expected, Argentina's captain Tito Vázquez nominated David together with Eduardo Schwank (who replaces Chela on the team) for the doubles while Juan Monaco will contest tomorrow's opening singles rubber against Rafael Nadal. A strategy that already became apparent during the training sessions. Still, after the ceremony was over, there were at least two people at Sevilla's Teatro Lope de Vega, who didn't really trust the choices made by Vázquez. Those two were Spain's captain Albert Costa and Rafael Nadal, who had the following to say about tomorrow:
We'll see if I'm going to play against Monaco. I don't know yet. In principle, I play against Monaco, who finished the season, playing very well. But they could replace him with Nalbandian. I won't know until tomorrow. (Source.)
For Nadal it's apparently difficult to believe that David won't be playing tomorrow. While David himself admits that it does feel a bit strange not to be part of the line-up on the first day.
Each final is different. You always do your best. I'm ready and prepared for that match. It's not going to be easy. It is weird not to be playing on Friday in a tie but I'm prepared.
And they, David and Edu Schwank, have been preparing for the doubles ever since the Argentine team first got together in Buenos Aires.
(In the brief clip above, David also talks about the doubles, basically just saying that they'll have to see what the match is going to be like, how well Lopez and Verdasco will play and that his preparations with Schwank have been going really well.) At the same time, the doubles rubber as his first match is not completely new for David. Since last year's first-round tie against Sweden, I've been calling it the "Stockholm Maneuvre" - David playing the doubles and then also a possible live fifth rubber. And to me, it seems like this is also the plan, this time (regardless of what the draw says).
You have to accept the line-up as decided by the captain. We shouldn't rush things but take it match by match and then see what happens. (Source.)
Audio clips from David and everybody else (in English) here.

P.S. More photos from the draw ceremony on the Photo Page. And everything about the match-ups in time for the matches.