Monday, February 28, 2011

The Days Ahead

Update
Here's a new (tiny little) clip of David, training.
Apparently, he trained a bit in the first session today, not the second one, and with Eduardo Schwank, not Juan Monaco (source).



As planned, David (still ranked #19 this week) arrived at Buenos Aires yesterday, in time for the start of the Davis Cup week. So far, there have been no further news about David's hernia problems. And the official site still maintains a complete silence on the subject. Therefore I can only report that David is scheduled to take up training at the Parque Roca in the afternoon session today, together with Juan "Pico" Monaco.
During the next few days, there'll be two training sessions per day, one in the morning and another one in the afternoon. How much and how hard David will be able to train remains to be seen. In any case, I'll keep an eye out for news, clips or photos from those practice sessions.
Apart from that, here's what's ahead in the next few days, until the tie itself will start on Friday (source: AAT).

Tuesday
Tomorrow, it'll be press conference day at the Parque Roca. With the Argentine team devoting the pause between the two training sessions to facing the media. The press conference will take place at noon, local time. And it will provide the first opportunity to maybe hear more about the exact nature of David's injury and his current state from David, himself.

Thursday
- Is traditionally draw day in Davis Cup. In this case, the draw ceremony (followed by another round of press conferences) will take place at 11am, local time. As soon as the draw is out, I'll be able to post the schedule for the weekend, including David's match on Friday, the starting time and who David will get to play against.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Some Questions & Answers about David's Injury


(AP Photo)

On Thursday night the news came about David's new injury. And that in spite of this injury, he's still planning to play Davis Cup next week. Since then, there have been a number of articles and speculations but no statement from David himself. So here's my attempt at answering some of the most important questions in this context - as far as that's possible at the moment...

What kind of injury does David have?
The initial info, as delivered by Guillermo Salatino, was that David is suffering from an "inguinal sports hernia on the left side". Since then, it's been described as a sports hernia in some articles (e.g. Fue Buena) and as an inguinal hernia in others (e.g. Cancha Llena/La Nacion).
The problem here is that sports hernia and inguinal hernia are two different conditions. At the moment, it's not completely clear, which one David has.
The following paragraph describes the difference between the two:
A sports hernia occurs when there is a weakening of the muscles or tendons of the lower abdominal wall. This part of the abdomen is the same region where an inguinal hernia occurs, called the inguinal canal. When an inguinal hernia occurs there is sufficient weakening of the abdominal wall to allow a pouch, the hernia, to be felt. In the case of a sports hernia, the problem is due to a weakening in the same abdominal wall muscles, but there is no palpable hernia.
That it reportedly took several years for David to get diagnosed correctly makes it seem likely that David has a sports hernia, as it's much more difficult to identify (due to the lack of a palpable "pouch"). Another factor that seems to support this view is that for the time being, David's doctors (including Ruiz-Cotorro), apart from wanting to conduct further tests, are favouring a conservative treatment. Which is apparently the standard procedure for treating a sports hernia.
The initial treatment of a sports hernia is always conservative in hopes that the symptoms will resolve. Resting from activity, anti-inflammatory medications, ice treatments, and physical therapy can all be tried in an effort to alleviate the patient's symptoms. (Source; also quote above)
However, if the symptoms don't resolve, the usual way of dealing both with a sports hernia and an inguinal hernia is surgery, generally in form of an endoscopic procedure. Recovery and rehabilitation normally take 2-3 months in case of a sports hernia (a couple of months longer for inguinal hernia - for athletes).
In other words, even if for the moment David can continue playing and he's not considering surgery at this point, he may not be able to avoid it in the long run.

What's going to happen now?
Tomorrow night, David will arrive back in Buenos Aires and meet up with the rest of the Davis Cup team. Next week, in the days leading up to the Davis Cup tie, it will be a mix of physical and tennis training for David, combined with physiotherapy and probably treatment.
Apparently, David will play singles on Friday (against either Victor Crivoi or Adrian Ungur). Whether or not he will play a second singles rubber on Sunday will depend on how he feels after the first match.

And what's going to happen after the Davis Cup tie?
According to Cancha Llena, David is still planning to play Indian Wells and Miami - depending on the state he's in after the Davis Cup tie and probably also the results of further examinations. Whether he will be able to play these two Masters events and what's going to become of David's (shortened) clay swing in Europe - that's impossible to say right now. We'll have to wait and see...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

David injured - but will play Davis Cup

After first rumours appeared about David, having more serious physical problems (perhaps hernia) on various Twitters, this is now the current news situation:

According to Guillermo Salatino (on his show "En La Red"), David is suffering from an "inguinal sports hernia on the left side" and first experienced problems during his match against Starace at the Copa Claro. However, also according to Salatino, David is going to play Davis Cup.

The grave news in this context is, as Danny Miche points out, that this kind of problem requires surgery. Which could mean another break of several months for David after the upcoming Davis Cup tie...

Update
According to a new MundoD article, David underwent an examination today, which showed that he's had hernia for four years. (Don't ask me how they established that.) In any case, his spokesman Bernardo Ballero confirmed that David will play Davis Cup. The article also says that David is "currently meeting with Tito Vázquez to discuss the next steps".

UpdateII (25/02)
Here's the latest round of info from the Argentine press.

- Apparently, consulting a specialist in Buenos Aires, who conducted a laparoscopy, led to the correct diagnosis. Prior to that, the hernia was not detected because of its asymptomatic nature. Which means that it didn't cause David pain - until the Starace match, which is when the symptoms began when he tried to run down a drop-shot. After the Copa Claro, it was initially misdiagnosed.

- Today, David will be heading back home to Unquillo for some more rest. Before on Sunday evening, he'll return to Buenos Aires and then spend the next week with the team, getting treatment and trying to prepare for the tie. David's spokesman Ballero:
"David will be available for the team. This injury doesn't keep him from playing normally, although he'll be in some pain."
- According to Clarin, at the moment David is not considering surgery. Whether that's a sign that he might be able to continue playing, with constant treatment perhaps, or that David doesn't want to accept what will be inevitable in the end - only time will tell.
(Sources: Clarin, Cancha Llena & La Mañana de Cordoba)

A Brief Update

While the tournament at Acapulco has been taking place without any security problems so far, and with all players still alive and well, things have been very quiet on the David-front. So quiet in fact that Clarin contacted David's spokesman Bernardo Ballero, in order to inquire whether David too is alive and well, having virtually vanished from the face of the earth after his his quarterfinal exit at the Copa Claro on Saturday.
Here's the statement they got from Ballero yesterday:
"I'm in permanent contact with David, who's still in Unquillo and who assured me that the pains in his groin have eased. Tomorrow, he'll be in Buenos Aires and if there are no physical problems, he's planning to take up training for the tie against Romania whenever the coaching staff sees fit."
In other words, after taking a break at home, David is now back in Buenos Aires, where he'll meet up with captain Tito Vázquez today (source). And where David, or "the evergreen Nalbandian" as the Davis Cup website insists on calling him (even in their tweets), will be joined by the rest of the team on Sunday, as well as Leonardo Mayer and Maximo Gonzalez, who are going to function as hitting partners. The team's training sessions will start on Sunday.
The Romanian team will also arrive on Sunday.

Monday, February 21, 2011

No to Acapulco

Update
At a press conference in Buenos Aires today, team captain Tito Vázquez and vice captain Caio Rivera officially announced the line-up for the upcoming Davis Cup tie against Romania.
And this is what the Argentine team will look like:

David Nalbandian
Juan Monaco
Juan Ignacio Chela
Eduardo Schwank

UpdateII (22/02)
There's still no official statement from David about his withdrawal.
But here's the line-up of Argentina's opponent Romania, as announced by the their team captain Andrei Pavel (source):

Victor Hanescu
Victor Crivoi
Adrian Ungur
Horia Tecau


You've probably already seen it:
David has pulled out of the 500 event in Acapulco.

It's the second time in a row that David had Acapulco as part of his schedule and then ended up not playing there. Last year because of the adductor tear he suffered at Buenos Aires.
This year - well, right now, there's still no official statement from David about his withdrawal. But the reasons already emerged on Saturday. On the one hand, there's the (so far not more clearly defined) "groin troubles". And of course the first Davis Cup tie of the year (March 4-6) to think about that David won't want to miss under any circumstances.
On the other hand, David also made it clear that he he doesn't want to go to Acapulco because of the current situation there and the security issues the ATP has warned its players about.

We'll find out more in the coming days.

On a different note, David has moved up one spot in the rankings this week, back to #19.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Copa Claro QF: David's Defeat in David's Words


(photos: Reuters)

David's week at his favourite 250 event ended today with a quarterfinal exit and a loss to Tommy Robredo, who prevailed 6-4, 6-4.
After heavy, protracted rains had turned the Cancha Central into a sea of red mud, hastily covered with a layer of dry clay before the match, it was clear that this wasn't going to be an easy match for David. Not only because a slow and heavy court is not exactly ideal for his game but most of all because moving on clay isn't David's greatest strength, and even less so on wet clay.

Still, and although Robredo moved much better than he did throughout the match, David did have his chances. In the first set, he seemed solid on serve and closer than Robredo to getting a break - until a poor game at 4-4 cost him his serve and eventually the set. In the second, David broke Robredo and went up 3-0 before surrendering the break again and, eventually, the match.
In my opinion, David began the match playing better than I thought he would, given the circumstances. But then his game and most of all his movement deteriorated as the match went on. David himself, however, apparently wasn't happy with the way he played from the start and he also explains that it was not his leg that was troubling him in the second set:
"The Spaniards are born clay-court players. They're very good and you can't give them any advantages because if you do, they'll beat you. It's as simple as that."

"I didn't start the match very well and Tommy did things better [than I did]. He was more accurate in the important moments. I felt pain in my pubic area. I'm going to determine whether I'm going to play Acapulco but I think it's going to be difficult."
What kind of injury this is exactly and how bad it is - we'll see. But it should be noted that David also told the press that he doesn't want to go to Acapulco because of the current situation there and the security problems (the ATP has advised players to arrive at Acapulco as late possible and then to leave as soon as possible; players have also been told to "limit their movements"). That statement from David didn't go down so well with the ATP and the tournament organisers.
In any case, this year, David is going to severely limit his movement on the clay courts of Europe. At the expense not only of the smaller events but also of Monte Carlo:
"This season, I'm planning to play Davis Cup, Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros [on clay]. The other tournaments I'll play on fast surfaces."
And here's David's final verdict about today's match...
The court was heavy but that's no excuse. He felt more comfortable [playing on it] and he won because he played better.
(Source.)
What's going to happen now, whether or not he'll play Acapulco (my guess is - no), and how serious this new injury is - I can't say. But what makes me think that perhaps it's not too bad is that David hasn't lost a single word about his Davis Cup participation being in doubt. - And that's probably what he's already focusing on right now, Davis Cup...

Copa Claro QF - David vs Robredo (Take #2)


(Olé)

UpdateII

If David wants to repeat his triumph at the Copa Claro, he'll have to try again next year - this season's campaign has ended with a defeat at the hands of Tommy Robredo, who won 6-4, 6-4 in just under 90 minutes.
In the second set, David seemed to have some problems with his leg after trying to retrieve a lob from Robredo. I'll try and find out what he says about it after the match.

As the match was not streamed via the usual channels, there'll be no recording, this time - sorry.

More soon...



(Reuters/Getty Images; montage by VD)

Update
1.36pm local - The match is now about to begin.

1.03pm local - The rain has stopped (for now) and they're preparing the court.
The plan at the moment is for David's match to start at 1.30pm.

11.59am local - it's raining again...
11.50am local - the rain has just stopped and looks like the match could start soon.


Theoretically, this would've been semifinals day at the Copa Claro.
Practically, it is now quarterfinals and semifinals day.

With David's match against Tommy Robredo on Cancha Central and two other quarterfinal matches on other courts scheduled to start at noon, local time (3pm GMT/10am EST).
And the one quarterfinal that got underway yesterday, Chela vs Montañes, to be finished after David's match.
The semifinal matches are scheduled for the evening. And if David makes it through to semis, he'll play the first match of the night session again, not before 7pm local (10pm GMT/5pm EST).
- Or at least, that's the plan.

The good news is that there'll be a stream for David's match against Robredo. Which is not always the case when there's a revised schedule and matches get moved to a different day.

The bad news is that again, rain is forecast for Buenos Aires...

In other words, we might be in for more waiting and general chaos.
I'll try my best to keep you posted...

Friday, February 18, 2011

Copa Claro QF - David vs Tommy Robredo


(tournament site)

UpdateII
It's official now - all play has been cancelled for the day.

The revised schedule for tomorrow:

David vs Tommy Robredo
12pm local (3pm GMT/10am EST), Cancha Central

If David wins, he'll play his semifinal match (against either Nicolas Almagro or José Acasuso) in the night session, which will start at 7pm local (10pm GMT/5pm EST). There's a bit of chaos at the moment. And there could be more of that tomorrow.
We'll see...


It's still raining in Buenos Aires. Here's the latest message from the organisers:
"We're going to wait until 8.30pm, then we'll have a meeting with the ATP. If the weather doesn't improve we'll be announcing the schedule of play for tomorrow shortly afterwards."


Another round at the Copa Claro and another match for David against someone he has known since junior days. Though Tommy Robredo is of course a player David has met several times on the Tour since then. Eight times, to be precise, from their very first encounter at ATP level, all the way back in 2001, to the two matches they played last year (at Monte Carlo and Toronto). Six out of those eight times it was David who prevailed (including their last three meetings). And out of the five matches they played on clay, David won three.

For Tommy Robredo, currently ranked #32, the Golden Swing has been a bit of a mixed bag, so far. He won the title at Santiago, beating Santiago Giraldo in the final, but then went out in the second round the following week at Costa do Sauipe (where he lost to Pablo Andujar).
David won his last three matches against Robredo rather easily (in 2008 and 2010; the last time they met before that was back in 2006). But that doesn't mean he's expecting tonight's match to be an easy one...
"I've played against Tommy many times. Ever since junior days we've met each other on the Tour and it's going to be a tough match because he moves well on this surface." (Source.)
P.S. As always, Tamar is at the Copa Claro. You can have a look at her photos here.

Update
The not so good news: After the weather was perfect the last few days, it's raining today at Buenos Aires and the forecast says it could be raining all day. How that will affect today's schedule at the BALTC remains to be seen.
Right now, play is underway. Let's hope the weather holds...
4.40pm local - Play is suspended (at 3-3 in the third set of the first match of the day).
5.02pm local - The second match of the day session (Almagro/Acasuso) has been moved to Court No.2.
6.40pm local - Still rain delay at the BALTC.

Copa Claro R2: David breezes past Brezicki


(Highlights by Andvari - thanks.)

It was a quick and easy victory for David that could've been even quicker and easier - but in the end, it still took David merely 68 minutes to defeat Juan Pablo Brzezicki 6-1, 6-2. In the quarterfinal tonight (again at prime time), David will now meet sixth seed Tommy Robredo. His match record against the Spaniard stands at 6-2.

In my pre-match post, I wrote about the different roads that the careers of David and Brzezicki have taken since the days when they met at junior events in Argentina. And those very different roads manifested themselves in two different levels of play that were on display in this match. David clearly was the better player in every department, outhitting and outplaying Brzezicki basically at will and allowing him to hold serve only once in the entire match (for 4-1 in the first set, though not without a lengthy deuce battle and after having had break points).

But although David was completely in charge of the match and hit a number of spectacular winners, he also made a number of unforced errors, both off the forehand and the backhand wing. More unforced errors than you'd expect him to make, given his dominance during the rallies and the fact that he only rarely found himself under any pressure. An example of which were the two breaks of serve in the second set that David gifted to Brzezicki with a combination of unforced errors and double faults. In short, it seemed as if David had some difficulties, staying focused in this match. Which probably had something to do with the different levels of play that I've mentioned above. In any case, I have no doubt that he'll find it easier to stay focused when he gets tested more on court again.

David's summary of the match:
Today everything worked really well, I feel good and I didn't have to wear myself out, physically. That's also important.
With two fairly easy victories under his belt now, David is not only happy with the way he played so far but also thinks that it's time to aspire to greater things.
I feel great, in those two matches that I've played I was aggressive, I was always in control and I moved with ease. I think that if I can keep up this level I have chances of winning the tournament.
At his press conference, David was also asked what he thinks about the surface change that his former coach Martin Jaite, the tournament director, is planning for the Copa Claro. Here's what David had to say about that.
Everybody knows that I prefer to play on hardcourt, I feel better [playing on it] and I would've liked it if they had changed the surface 10 years ago. However, I have to take into account that tennis in South America is based on playing on clay and while one or two [players] would benefit from a change it would hurt 50 or 60 others. (Source.)
As far as I know, the decision will be made this summer.
But for now it's - David on clay at the Copa Claro. And in the quarterfinal tonight.


(Olé; photo above to the left: EFE)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Copa Claro R2 - David vs Juan Pablo Brzezicki



Update
It could've been a lot quicker and even more one-sided than this but still, David didn't have to work too hard to beat Juan Pablo Brzezicki 6-1, 6-2.

In the quarterfinal tomorrow, he'll now face Tommy Robredo.

A few more screencaps you'll find on the Photo Page.
The match is available for download via David on Screen.

More tomorrow...



(Getty Images/La Legion Argentina; montage by VD)

When Juan Pablo Brzezicki beat Filippo Volandri in the first round of the Copa Claro on Monday, it was the first time he won a match at ATP level since Roland Garros 2007. Back then, he made his way through qualies and won two rounds before losing to Carlos Moya in the third. It was the biggest success of his career. Which shows the different roads David's and Brzezicki's careers have taken since their junior days. And while David had has said that he knows his opponent today from back then*, chances are that they haven't seen too much of each other since.
And they've never played an official match against each other before.
*"I know Brzezicki from way back. As juniors, we played national tournaments. I played for Córdoba, he for Buenos Aires. I have to think about my game more than about my opponent." (Source.)
Juan Pablo Brzezicki (if you're not sure how that's pronounced - he demonstrates it in the audio clip on this page, both the Argentinean and the original Polish version) is currently ranked #196 and usually plays clay-court Challengers. And to be honest, I've never seen him play before.
So I can't tell you anything about his game. Instead, here's a clip, which not only offers you a brief look at Brzezicki (amongst other players) but also contains David's match point and celebration, as well as his press conference after the Starace match...



... in which David says he thinks both Djokovic and Murray have what it takes to become #1 but also that Nadal and Federer are not done yet.

Also not done yet, at the Copa Claro: David.
Who we'll see again at prime time, tonight.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Copa Claro R1: Steady as he Goes


(Highlights by Andvari, despite technical problems - thanks!)

It was the kind of match he will have wanted at the start of his home tournament: The second edition of David against Starace in the first round at Buenos Aires ended after only 75 minutes with an easy 6-4, 6-4 for David.
With his his shots, and especially his forehand, working well, David dominated most of the rallies and never really seemed in any kind of danger of losing this match. In spite of a little blip in the second set when he lost his serve after going up a break. In short, it was a good and solid start from a David, visibly fired up, playing in front of his home crowd.
In the second round, he will now face Juan Pablo Brzezicki, an Argentine Challengers player David has known since junior days but has never played against on the Tour before. The match will take place on Thursday.

Unlike with so many of his other matches, David played well right from the start and didn't have any problems, holding serve early on. Changing directions frequently, especially with his forehand, he kept Starace guessing and trapped well behind his own baseline. And with consistently good returns, David managed to put Starace under growing pressure on serve. It paid off at 4-4 in the first, when Starace double-faulted to set up a first break point for David, which he converted with another great return that drew the error before equally promptly converting his first set point in the following game with one of his many forehand winners in this match. 6-4.

In the second set, David broke Starace's serve again to go up 2-1 but only to follow it up with what easily was his worst service game of the night. After initially saving two break points (the first he faced), David handed back the break with the only double fault he made in this match. But it turned out to be no more than a blip. David quickly regained his focus and broke Starace again for 4-3, successfully applying his strategy of hitting as many balls to the Italians weaker backhand as possible. At 5-4, David served for the match and finally converted his second match point with a couple of big forehands to set up a last drop-shot Starace didn't try to retrieve. 6-4.

After the serve stats David posted in his last couple of matches, it was good to now see him much more solid on serve again. And it's not often that you get to watch David hitting his forehand as well and above all as consistently well as he did in this match. In the early stages of it, he had more trouble with his backhand. But the errors he made with it were mostly the result of his movement and that improved during the match. Still, and although a couple of spectacular points may seem to tell a different story, it was obvious that in general, David was being careful with his movement and that he decided not to try and run down each and every ball.
"I'm at a new stage now but there are still restrictions for me. I can't jump normally, run at the baseline or do slides. My coaches let me do that but with restrictions." (Source.)
The objective is of course to prevent further muscular injuries. But whether David will still remember to be careful, once he faces a greater challenge than in this match - who knows.

Talking on court after the match, David said he was very happy about the way the match turned out and that he thought he played very well. While later, at the press conference, he pointed out once again just how important and special playing this tournament is for him.
"Even though it's not one of the big tournaments, Buenos Aires is one of the toughest events on the Tour because it has very good players. It's totally different, playing here. To walk on court is something spectacular and maybe it generates a little more pressure but in my case - I like it." (Source.)
Let's hope he'll get to experience that special sensation of walking on court at the BALTC a few more times this week.


(Clarin; photo above to the right: DyN)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Copa Claro R1 - David vs Potito Starace



Just like last year, David has defeated Potito Starace in straight sets in the first round at Buenos Aires. Only that this time, there was no epic rain delay, the match could be finished on the same day and David's victory was a straightforward 6-4, 6-4.

In the second round, David will now face his countryman Juan Pablo Brzezicki (who made it through qualies and beat Filippo Volandri 6-1, 6-3 in his first-round match). It will be their first encounter.

Some photos and screencaps on the Photo Page.
You can download the match via David on Screen.

More tomorrow...



(AP Photo/Getty Images; montage by VD)

It's not only a case of same opponent, same round, same event - even the date is exactly the same. A year ago to the day, David played Potito Starace in the first round at Buenos Aires.
It was the last of their three encounters so far and although it was maybe not the best or most dramatic match between these two, it was still the most exciting one, for a different reason. As it was, of course, David's first official match after hip surgery (reports here & here).

Today's match will be the fourth meeting between David and Potito Starace and it's also the fourth time that they meet on clay. In his comeback match last year, as well as in the quarterfinal at Acapulco 2008, David beat Starace in straights. The only close and dramatic match they played took place when they first met at Buenos Aires, in the quarterfinal 2008. Back then David dropped the first set before taking the second in a tiebreak and eventually winning in three (on his way to the title, which he won that year).

Potito Starace, currently ranked #46, has had a good Golden Swing so far, having reached the semifinal at Santiago and the quarterfinal at Costa do Sauipe (where he lost to Giraldo and Dolgopolov, respectively). Starace is a clay specialist with a pretty good serve and forehand, who also likes to play drop-shots, if he gets the chance. Something that David will try to prevent by keeping him too busy for it.
Or in David's words:
"I've always had nice matches against Potito. He's a very tough player, who likes to play on clay." (Source.)

"He's a tough player with a very heavy forehand, who doesn't miss a lot of first serves." (Source.)

Monday, February 14, 2011

David: I'll do a good Job at Buenos Aires


(Marcelo Cáceres/Agencia Córdoba)

Before the Copa Claro starts for David (tomorrow night), here's the latest interview. With an apparently relaxed and optimistic David, who's really looking forward to playing his home event. And who's determined to give his best, playing in front of his home crowd at the BALTC.
Talking to Marcelo Maller from Clarin, David (ranked #20 as of this week) also gives his take on what happened in and after Australia, who he thinks will be the players to beat at the Copa Claro and how the experience of playing this particular event has changed for him, over the years.
Q: How are you, going into this tournament?

David: Good, good. The truth is I'm very happy with the way I've been training. Last week, Lobito [Luis Lobo] was in Córdoba. I've been training hard.

Q: Do you think that maybe people are worried because of your last performances? Because in Australia you could barely move in the second match and at Santiago you lost in the second round.

David: Noo. Do you think people are worried?

Q: It's not unusual to be dead on your feet after a match as long as the one against Hewitt, without being able to respond, physically.

David: Buehh [that's really what it says], but the match at the Australian Open was tremendous. With the nerves, the pressure, with the opponent, it was a lot more than what it seemed at first glance. And apart from that we finished playing at 1.30am. And I ended up going to bed at around 5 in the morning or something, after the massages, the press, food. And then you go around in circles because you can't sleep. You can't recover that well and then the other day, I played during the day. Things like that happen. And afterwards, in Chile, it was like playing in a field. All the matches I saw were very bad. It was impossible to play. Tell the people to stay calm, I'll do a good job at Buenos Aires.

Q: I was asking you because after surgery, the million-dollar question was whether you can still last five sets...

David: (interrupts) That answered the question the people or you had - I did it. But are you asking me about the five-set match against Hewitt or the one after that? Hahaha.

Q: The question was about whether you'd be able to last in a match, but the other one wasn't.

David: I think that as I'll go on playing and go on adjusting I'm going to feel a little better. You have to remember that I'm still limited in some ways in training and in a way, that hurts my performance and also my recovery. But little by little, getting the medical okay, I try to do my best.

Q: At Buenos Aires, who will be the one to beat?

David: I think it's going to be Almagro, who's a very tough opponent on clay. Robredo, who comes here, having won Santiago. And then the Argentines are always tough, like Monaco, who's playing well and difficult to beat if he's playing with confidence. Wawrinka as well is very tough, and Bellucci is a very promising player.

Q: Do you see yourself as one of the contenders for the title?

David: Yes, and if I didn't then I wouldn't be playing here. If I didn't I would be playing on hardcourt in the US, which would be better for my hip.

Q: Having won the title in 2008, where do you get the motivation for this tournament from?

David: From wanting to win it again and playing at home every day. We don't get to play here much and in front of our home crowd. And now we get the chance. That's spectacular and to play at a full stadium is something beautiful.

Q: Do you feel a little pressure?

David: You always have a little more than the usual pressure when you're playing at home. But it's nice because an athlete walks on court and enjoys it. Otherwise you probably wouldn't be there.

Q: While you're not a veteran, you're 29 years old. Do you think that this might be your last tournament in Buenos Aires?

David: No, I don't see it that way. I think that I still have some years left. I don't think that this will be the last time.

Q: From the David Nalbandian who first played this event in 2001 to this one now - what has changed?

David: Back then, the crowd went to see a promising young player and today a contender. Now I enjoy it in a different way because I know how it is. Back then it was with uncertatinty, anxiety and nerves.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Copa Claro Draw

The first news from the tournament site's Twitter were correct.
David has been drawn into the top, i.e. Almagro's half, which looks like this:

[1] Nicolas Almagro (ESP) vs Pablo Galdon (ARG)
Leonardo Mayer (ARG) vs [WC] Federico Delbonis (ARG)
Lukasz Kubot (POL) vs Pablo Cuevas (URU)
[WC] José Acasuso (ARG) vs [7] Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR)

[3] David Nalbandian (ARG) vs Potito Starace (ITA)
Juan Pablo Brzezicki (ARG) vs Filippo Volandri (ITA)
Albert Ramos - Vinolas vs Joao Souza (BRA)
[WC] Maximo Gonzalez (ARG) vs [6] Tommy Robredo (ESP)

The complete draw you can view here.

The tournament website calls it a "classic". I feel tempted to call it "deja vu all over again" - David against Potito Starace at Buenos Aires. For the third time now in four years. And for the second time in a row, they're going to meet in the first round. A strange coincidence but there are worse things than facing an opponent in the first round you've never lost to before.
In the second round, David could meet another Italian but one he has a negative record against. Filippo Volandri won two of their three matches so far (all on clay) but almost five years have gone by since they last played against each other.
The first seeded player bound to cross David's path is Tommy Robredo, who could be David's opponent in a possible quarterfinal. And out of the seeded players, I think that it could've been a lot worse. David has 6-2 match record against Robredo and the last three times (two of which were on clay), David beat him very easily.
In a hypothetical semi, David might face top seed Nicolas Almagro or rising star Alexandr Dolgopolov (finalists at Costa do Sauipe today)... Still far away. Too far away to speculate.

Update
A brief glimpse at David, training at the stadium here.

As for David's charity football match today, it ended in a 4-4 draw, without injuries but with a lot of fun that David had at Gualeguaychú, a "very nice city" where he "always has a good time" (source).


(Maxima Online)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Copa Claro Preview


(La Nacion)

UpdateII (11/02)
With the start of the Copa Claro now drawing near, David talked to tycsports.com (the website of the Argentine sports channel) about his take on this tournament, the current state of affairs and, of course, the Davis Cup...
"For me, playing the ATP event in Buenos Aires is very nice, most of all because of the people. It's nice to think that those, who follow you on TV at the different tournaments throughout the year now get the chance to come and see you. That's why I really enjoy playing here. This tournament is a very important part of my calendar and has been for some years now."
About his current physical state, David has the following to say:
"Physically, I feel very good and relaxed in that sense. I'm going to give my best because I want people to see the best Nalbandian in Buenos Aires."
And Santiago?
"As for Santiago, I played very badly, the court was in a poor state and Zeballos played well."
Three weeks from now, it'll be time for the first Davis Cup tie of the season, Argentina's first-round encounter with Romania (March 4-6). And you might think that the planning stage for this tie would've started by now - but apparently not really.
"So far, there have been no talks about it with Tito Vázquez. I think that on clay, Romania is an opponent we can beat."
While David insists (once more) that there's no ongoing grudge between him and Delpo.
"Everything is fine with Juan Martin, there's no meeting planned because there's nothing to clarify."
We'll see if everything is still fine when they play Davis Cup together again. Though the earliest possible occasion for that will be the quarterfinal, as Delpo won't play against Romania.


David has never been one for playing packed schedules with lots of 250 tournaments in-between the big ones. But out of all the smaller events, this is the one that's most important to him, the Copa Claro (formerly Copa Telmex), his 'home tournament' at the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club. The only tournament venue, by the way, David and his fans get to see twice every year - during this event and the Copa Argentina exhibition.

Last year, David making his comeback after surgery and more than nine months away from the Tour was the main attraction of the tournament, with a guaranteed prime-time slot in the night session for his matches. This year, it's clear that David will be facing a tougher competition for a place in the night session - but also on court. Tournament director Martin Jaite and his team have done their best to assemble a strong field. Although the player who was marketed as the big attraction this year, as a recent Slam semifinalist, now won't come to Buenos Aires, after all: David Ferrer has pulled out of the Copa Claro, citing "personal reasons" (source).

For "our" David, who's defending 45 points at this event, this means that he'll be the third seed behind Nicolas Almagro and Stanislas Wawrinka (no byes in the first round). Unless a higher-ranked player receives the last remaining wildcard. So far, two wildcards have been announced. One will be awarded to José "Chucho" Acasuso, David's opponent in the final 2008. Whereas the organisers' choice for the second wildcard could lead to a new edition of David's last match, as it will go to Horacio Zeballos.

Update (11/02)
The third wildcard goes to Argentinean youngster Federico Delbonis.

The draw will take place on Saturday. In the past, David was sometimes present at the ceremony and the press conference that goes with it. This time, however, David has other plans, he'll be playing a charity match in Gualeguaychú (a name you may remember for one of David's more colourful off-court performances). In any case, this time David probably won't sing, instead he'll play football for a good cause (source).
As always, I'll try to post the draw as soon as possible.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Adios Santiago



Update (07/02)
The new rankings are out and despite his less than stellar performance at Santiago, David remains at #19.


ESPN Deportes have a video that shows the last rally of the match and part of David's press conference afterwards. Embedding it here won't work but clicking on the picture above (a screencap from the video) will take you to the page where you can watch the clip.

At the press conference, David says that Zeballos played well and that the altitude makes it more difficult to come back. Zeballos also served very well and got a lot more cheap points than he did, because of his serve. Apart from that David thinks that the court is very bad and wonders why the ATP permits a tournament to be held in such conditions as it's bad for everybody, for the matches, the spectators, the players. And for him and his game, trying to take the ball early, in particular. That's what made it difficult.

The clip also shows a very happy Horacio Zeballos at his press conference, who twittered after the match that "beating your idol is a dream come true".

I can't say whether other players have complained about the conditions at Santiago as well.
And right now, I don't have the time to try and find out or to look for further quotes or photos from David. As there are important, private matters I need to attend to. So I hope you'll understand. And I also hope that by the time the Copa Claro begins I'll be able to make more time again.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Santiago R2 - David vs Horacio Zeballos

UpdateII
David's week at Santiago has ended with a defeat at the hands of his Davis Cup teammate Horacio Zeballos, who prevailed 6-2, 7-5.

Everything else, report, interviews (if possible) and pics tomorrow.



(AP Photo/Diario Uno; montage by VD)
"He's a good server. We know each other from the Davis Cup. We've trained together many times but we have never played against each other before. It's a pity that we, the Argentine players, have to eliminate each other here."
(ATP website/Spanish version)
It's going to be a premiere - but this time, David will have a very clear idea of what's awaiting him. After all, David and Horacio Zeballos have been through three Davis Cup ties together, including the one against Sweden, where the two of them won the doubles. Apart from that, they played an exhibition match less than two months ago. Not very serious at all, even by exhibition standards but still - David will know what to expect, going into what will now be their first official encounter.

Horacio Zeballos is currently ranked #108 but his doubles ranking is #41. And as is usually the case with doubles experts, he's no stranger to mixing up his game and coming to the net. Backhand slice and drop-shots are also something David will get to see a lot of in this match. But the biggest weapon Zeballos has is his serve, made more dangerous by the fact that he's a lefty. And this is already his third event on clay this year, as instead of travelling to Australia, Zeballos played two clay-court Challengers in South America. He lost both times in the second round but what's clear is that he won't need to adjust to playing on clay.
How much progress David has made by now with his adjusting - we'll see.

Update
On this page there's a clip of David training with a young Chilean player (who enjoyed his chance to train with David so much that he said afterwards he could've gone on till midnight). The quality isn't great but it's something.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Santiago R1: David loses Focus but beats Berlocq


(Jim Rydell/Movistar Open)

Update
The latest interview with David you can read here.

"It was a tough match, I lost my focus in the second set."
And apart from that, according to David, it also was "not a good show" that the crowd at Santiago got to see but in the end, it was enough to beat Carlos Berlocq 6-2, 2-6, 6-2 in an hour and 57 minutes. In the second round, David will now face his Davis Cup teammate Horacio Zeballos. The match will take place on Thursday.

After one of David's typically slow starts, including facing a couple of break points in his very first service game, he got on track very quickly and broke Berlocq for the first time in the following game (2-1). And when David extended his lead to a comfortable 4-1 (with a double break), it looked like this match might turn into a rather one-sided affair. Serving for the set at 5-2, David made two double faults, one of them at set point. But when he went on to convert his second set point moments later, it seemed like no more than just a glitch. Of the sort that David tends to have in moments like this.
That it was more than just a glitch became clear in the second set. David immediately lost his serve (for 2-0 Berlocq). And although he managed to break back for 3-2, that re-break would turn out to be the last game he'd win in this set. Posting terrible numbers on serve and producing more double faults, some of them at the worst possible moments. The worst example of which was his service game to save the set at 5-2 Berlocq, with David making 3 double faults in the course of that game, including one to set up a set point for Berlocq. He took it and the second set.
At that point, I was beginning to fear that David might have physical problems, as he seemed unable to serve properly. In the third set, however, he managed to get back on track again. Serving much better again and breaking Berlocq early on (to go up 2-1). Up 3-2, David got into trouble again when another double fault (the only one in the third set) meant another break point for Berlocq. But this time David managed to hold and to afterwards go up a double break again before, serving for the match at 5-2, converting his second match point.

A strange match and even more difficult to explain, having followed it only on the scoreboard. Here's David's way of explaining it:
"It's the first tournament on clay and therefore I need to adapt."

"I wasn't troubled so much by the conditions (heat and a bit of altitude) because it's the same in Córdoba. But this was the first match I've played on clay this year. It was a tough encounter and I had difficulties in the second set. But in the third set I raised my level again."
(David's quotes: Cooperativa.cl, ATP website/Spanish version)
And that's what's important of course, that he managed to raise his level again in the third set. But also that the second apparently was a glitch after all - a long one. And, always a factor with David on clay: no injuries. Hopefully, he'll be able to continue adjusting. Without physical problems.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Santiago R1 - David vs Carlos Berlocq

UpdateII
It was a strange match and what exactly happened in the second set, well, we'll see what David will have to say about that. But in the end, after almost two hours, David converted his second match point to beat Carlos Berlocq 6-2, 2-6, 6-2.
In the second round, he'll now face another Argentinean, his Davis Cup teammate Horacio Zeballos.

More soon...



(AP Photo/Deportes.Orange.es; montage by VD)

Update
5.17pm local - David's match is now about to begin...

4.57pm local - the first match is finally over, second seed Juan Monaco has lost to Maximo Gonzalez. Next up on the Cancha Central: David.
3.57pm local - the first match on the Cancha Central goes into a third set. So it'll still take a moment until David's match will begin.

With a total of eight other Argentine players (apart from David, himself) in the draw at Santiago, there was a fair chance that David might get to meet one of them in the first round. And now it's indeed an encounter with one of his countrymen that he will start this tournament and the Golden Swing on clay with.
Carlos Berlocq usually plays clay Challengers. Playing a lot of those last autumn and consistently scoring good results, he has now managed to move up to #65 in the rankings - the highest ranking he has ever had in his career.
David has played against Berlocq once before, at Roland Garros 2008. I remember that match and David's easy 6-2, 6-4, 6-1 victory, which looked promising at the time (until in the following round David's hip injury struck again). Normally, this should be an easy match for David. But it's also his first match on clay this season. So perhaps, he will still need to adjust a little.

As far as I can see, there will be no stream for this match. Only the scoreboard.