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.


  1. thank you Julia for this review, I liked how you highlighted the "green" season and the epic battle versus Hewitt.
    Unfortunately, we'll have to remain realistic in 2012, David's toughest opponent is injury...

    A medal in London, if David sees this tournament as a Davis Cup-esque event, he'll play great! :D

    Last but not least, thank you Julia, thank you Vamos Daviders for this 2011 season. Though David didn't have a fantastic season, I was glad to come here almost everyday to read you all. VD has been my sport haven and will always be.
    Happy holidays everyone. Be blessed . Can't wait to be in 2012 for a fresh start :) See you soon!

  2. Federer-Nalbandian match next year,Im reading on twitter,is that maybe a farewell match in case DC doesnt work out next year?

  3. Getting Fed to play some exhos in South America has been the plan for years. We'll see if it happens this time around.

    And happy holidays to you too, Mira. :) Though there's one more post to come this year before VD will go on holiday. ;)

  4. If David does not get his ranking up, he may not qualify to represent Argentina in the Olympics.

  5. Let's hope he gets the chance to play the Olympics. I'm sure he'll try to make it.

  6. I hope he can make it to the last 16 in the AO!He needs a good draw finally!That would be a great start of 2012 season!