Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Davis Cup Intermezzo: A Question of Timing

Once again, all is quiet on the David-front...

But even though there's no news from David, there's still the Davis Cup.
And that's always good for news, also of the somewhat unexpected kind...

As we all know, Argentina will face Kazakhstan in the Davis Cup quarterfinal, on July 8-10.
At the Parque Roca in Buenos Aires, as usual. - Or at least, that was the plan.
Until it was confirmed today that on Sunday, July 10th, local elections will be held in Buenos Aires. And apparently, the law forbids sport events to take place in the city during elections.
In other words, the AAT has a problem now.
Or, as a new Clarin article puts it, they have "few but clear alternatives". They could ask the ITF, governing body of the Davis Cup, for a rescheduling of the tie. It could be played on Thursday/Friday/Saturday or Friday/Saturday/Monday. Or they might have to say goodbye to the Parque Roca and hold the quarterfinal at a different venue, outside of Buenos Aires. Apparently, the board of the AAT will meet tonight and the aim is to "define the date and location" of the tie "as soon as possible".
Davis Cup drama of a completely new and different kind...

Update (30/03)
While the AAT is still trying to find a solution for the quarterfinal tie, there's now a bit of drama of the old and all too familiar kind...

David recently talked about how glad he is about Delpo's successful comeback on the Tour (quoted in the previous post). Something he has mentioned more than once in the last few weeks and always in connection with the Davis Cup. After his defeat at Miami yesterday, Delpo was asked by the Argentine media what he thinks about other players, and especially David, praising him now. Delpo's reply: "The important thing is to see who remembers you, who calls, who's there for you when you're not well. It's easy to talk now."
The media is of course now trying to turn this into the latest installment of the old David vs Delpo battle. Though for my part, I think Delpo has a point there. What could be a sign of more drama ahead, however, was his refusal yesterday to talk about the Davis Cup. Whether that means the reunion won't happen against Kazakhstan, after all - we'll see.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Double Shifts, Kazakhstan and a possible Reunion

(Sergio Cejas)

There are things in life that David enjoys more than giving interviews. Quite a number of things, actually. But whenever he agrees to doing it, he often does more than just one interview.
In this case, he not only met Fabián Sacarelli from MundoD, he also did a phone interview with José Luis Domínguez for La Nacion (who got the photo above from the MundoD photoshoot to accompany his article). So here's what David told him, first of all about his recovery, confirming once again that he's making good progress.
I'm doing double shifts, running on the treadmill, a lot of biking. I'm happy, I feel that things are going well and next week I'll be able to start hitting the ball with the racquet a little.

I'm missing out on playing two great tournaments, the kind of events I like, with Indian Wells and Miami, and also the first stage of the clay-court swing that wasn't part of my schedule [i.e. Monte Carlo]. What I'm doing now is only for rehabilitation, it's not like pre-season work.
After Wimbledon 2008, rumours appeared that David had been diagnosed as having a hernia. Later, it seemed like that this was a misdiagnosis and that it was his hip problem that he was suffering from. But apparently, the hernia was indeed diagnosed as early as 2008, only that it didn't cause him any trouble, not until recently... Here's David's summary of how it all happened, the hernia, the adductor problems and, finally, the double surgery.
The hernia was diagnosed in 2008 and I never had any problems with it. But during the tournament at Buenos Aires it began to trouble me. It was there that I learned that I would have to have surgery at some point. Then, when I played Davis Cup under the influence of painkillers, the problem with the adductors appeared. I talked to Miguel Khoury (former doctor of the Davis Cup team) and we also consulted Angel (Ruiz-Cotorro, his personal doctor). We immediately made the decision. It wasn't something that I worried about too much because they explained to me that it was an easy and simple surgery that doesn't require a lot of time to recover from.
The next Davis Cup tie may still be well over three months away but it's already on David's mind. And while not too long ago, David couldn't remember Kazakhstan as a possible opponent for Argentina, the Kazakh "mercenaries" have obviously impressed David with their victory over the Czech team.
I hope I'll be in good shape [for the quarterfinal]. I want to be in the best shape for it, something that maybe wasn't the case with other ties. Actually, it didn't surprise me that Kazakhstan are where they are now because they have quality players and maybe people don't know them, although I thought it was stunning that they beat the Czechs, being the away team. It was a very good victory.
Speaking of which, the Davis Cup that is, the quarterfinal against Kazakhstan in July could see a long-awaited reunion. It could be the first tie with David and Delpo on the Argentine team since the final at Mar del Plata in 2008.
At the beginning of the year, David and Delpo met. So far, David always said that their meeting took place in Australia and I'm not sure why this time, he said something else (or what Delpo was supposed to be doing in Auckland, for that matter). Maybe the whole thing was just a little mishap. But what hasn't changed is David's refusal to reveal what it was that the two of them discussed.
We met a couple of months ago in Auckland and we talked, the way you can talk between two people. We talked about the things we needed to talk about and that was it.
- A wise choice not to reveal anything, as far as I'm concerned. After all, they spent too much time communicating via the press. When settling things between themselves was clearly the better option. In any case, there can be no doubt that Delpo would be a valuable addition to the team, especially given his rise up the rankings and back to form, of late. Something that David is well aware of:
I hope he'll be there [for the tie] against Kazakhstan. He's a player with a high level and he would add a lot to the team. Personally, it didn't surprise me, the way he moved forward during these [last few] weeks because he plays very well and he has shown that he can beat anybody, anywhere. But I'm glad that he has made a quick return to the circuit.
So now it's David's turn. To follow suit and hopefully make a quick return to the circuit, as well.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Pause, the Plans and the Changing of the Guard

Just when I was starting to complain about the lack of any news from David and his recovery, here's now the first interview since his double surgery. MundoD's Fabián Sacarelli met David at the Inés Gorrochategui Tennis Academy, where David is currently working on getting back to the tennis court - preferably armed with a racquet, though and not just to pose for photos.
I want to play, I really do. The pause makes you want to come back, to make a new start. I miss grabbing a racquet and going on court. It's going well now and next week I'm going to spend a couple of minutes on court.
Apparently, he's making very good progress with his recovery, according to (or even a little ahead of) schedule. So a comeback at Madrid seems increasingly possible. Even if there are easier events for returning to the Tour than a clay-court Masters...
Q: Isn't Madrid a very tough tournament for coming back after an injury?

David: It's very tough, a Masters 1000, but you have to start playing. I won't be going into those weeks with too many expectations but I'll try to be in more or less good shape for Roland Garros and with many matches under my belt in time for Wimbledon. After that, there's the Davis Cup (July 8-10). It's going to be a tough tie, with names that are not so very well known but against young players who play well and that makes it complicated.
In one of my previous posts, I speculated that between his exercises, David might be following the tournament at Indian Wells on TV. As it turns out, he did watch some of it.
David: I watched the last rounds. I thought that Juan Martin (Del Potro) could've beaten Rafa, who wasn't playing that well, I thought. He [Delpo] played very well in the beginning, until 4-1, but then he couldn't keep up the intensity. Then his level dropped a little bit and Rafa doesn't let you get away with that. Djokovic is playing great tennis. He's quick, he defends well, attacks well, he's serving better. He met Federer again, who had to realise that the changing of the guard is getting to him.

Q: The changing of the guard happens to everyone.

David: That's the way it is. It happened to Sampras and Agassi, Lendl, Laver. We all get passed. Now there's (Milos) Raonic, who's 20 years old and serves like a machine. It's a different generation from Rafa, Murray or Djokovic. Federer's level has dropped a tiny little bit and at a certain level, it's difficult to remain at the top.

Q: How do you go about it?

David: You have to try and find your way back. The season is very long and during the year, players have many ups and downs. It's about making the most of it when someone's playing at their best level and not treating it as something bad when someone isn't playing well. With experience, or quirks, I keep on fighting and in terms of my tennis, I still have the chance to be at the top, inside the Top 10.

Q: How do you plan your season?

David: When I play a tournament, I'll try to win, to play well and to give my best. I have a schedule that suits me with my injuries and if I can gain [ranking] points then so much for the better. After Miami, I hadn't planned to play anything on clay [as in skipping Monte Carlo] because of my hip and with this (the double surgery), no way. I make my schedule based on taking care of my body. I prefer to play few events and big ones, not those small tournaments and say that I'm [ranked] 40. If I'm healthy, I know that if I'm playing well I'm going to have good results at the great tournaments.
Finally, we only just talked about it in the comments for the previous post - David's great run at Madrid and Paris 2007. And, as if on cue, Sacarelli asked David about it in the interview:
Q: In 2007, you beat everyone at Madrid and Paris. What did you have back then that you were not able to keep up?

David: I hadn't had any surgeries, almost none, practically zero.
By now, he's had three, the big one in 2009 and now the two smaller ones. But although merely two weeks have passed since David's latest visit to the operating room, it looks like he'll be back on the training court very soon. In a few more weeks, we'll get to see him playing matches again. And maybe, hopefully, delaying the changing of the guard just a little bit longer.

(photos: Sergio Cejas)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Instead of a real Update...

(Getty Images; David at Indian Wells last year)

Update (21/03)
Time for the weekly look at the rankings. The 25 points from Indian Wells are gone now and David has been overtaken by Richard Gasquet. But thanks to Ivan Ljubicic losing 22 places this week, David remains at #19.

At Indian Wells today, Novak Djokovic beat Roger Federer for a place in tomorrow's final (and the #2 spot in the rankings), while Delpo's run ended with a defeat at the hands of Rafa Nadal.
Meanwhile, back in Unquillo, David is working on his recovery. In peace and quiet. The important word here being 'quiet' because as much as I'd like to be able to post news for you - there simply isn't anything to report at the moment. No news, no interviews, nothing.

But speaking of Indian Wells, how will missing out on this tournament (as well as Miami and Monte Carlo) affect David's ranking, as he won't be able to defend any of his points?
In the case of Indian Wells and Miami, it means losing 70 points (Indian Wells R2: 25; Miami R3: 45), which isn't too bad. The quarterfinal he reached at Monte Carlo last year, however, will cost David 180 points. In total, he'll drop 250 ranking points in the coming weeks, from 1655 now to 1405 after Monte Carlo, which will send him down probably around seven or eight positions in the rankings. Regardless, by the way, of whether he returns at Madrid, Rome or later than that since he didn't play any tournaments between Monte Carlo and Washington, last season.
And while his ranking won't be high enough to be seeded at Madrid or Rome, it will be enough for a place among the seeds at Roland Garros.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A very brief Update

Update (17/03)
The recovery process has begun - according to his spokesman Bernardo Ballero (quoted on Clarin), David has started with the first "movements".
"David is fine and he's now doing the first light movements on the bike."
So it's back to the exercise bike for David, like in the days after hip surgery (see pic).
But apparently not for long:
"In the first days of April, he's going to get on court."

While David is busy with the initial stage of his recovery program (and maybe also watching a bit of the action at Indian Wells), there's very little to report for me at the moment.

Except for the latest addition to David's schedule. According to this article here (thanks, Anonymous), as well as the tournament website, David is planning to play Nice. This fairly new event (it's only the second edition this year) takes place the week before Roland Garros.
Which means that if all goes well and David returns at Madrid, he'll be facing a packed schedule, including four clay-court events in a row (Madrid, Rome, Nice & Roland Garros) and only one week off until Wimbledon. - Ambitious plans. And hopefully rightly so.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

David back Home, Recovery begins

As I post this, on the second day after his double surgery, David is already back home in Unquillo. After having left the hospital, the Sanatorio de Trinidad in Buenos Aires, on Thursday evening, David travelled back home already yesterday. Which may count as another sign that everything did indeed go very well.
With David getting some well-earned rest at the moment, that leaves it to others to talk about the surgery and the plans for his recovery in the coming weeks and months. First of all, Miguel Khoury, one of the doctors in charge, explains what was done during the two surgeries.
"Everything went very well, as we were expecting. For the hernia, a biodegradable mesh was put in place. For the adductors, in David's case those muscles were weakened and the abdominal wall was also reinforced. We are optimistic and he's ready to deal with this situation. We hope that in a month's time he can go back to training and play on the Tour again in two months. Of course, that depends on how his recovery will develop."
A recovery process that will involve several different steps:
"After putting plenty of ice on the areas that were operated on, during the weekend he should begin with a bit of stretching. The idea is to start with the exercise bike from Monday on, then exercises in the swimming pool and after that the next step will be to take up jogging."
Which will sound rather familiar to David, as those were also the first stages of his recovery after hip surgery. In charge of David's rehabilitation will once again be his trusted kineseologist Diego Rodriguez, who gave his take on the situation in an interview with Radio del Plata, saying that David was able to walk again soon after surgery and that "rehabilitation has already begun".
"It's amazing how the doctors Santilli and Khoury operated on him, using minimal invasive techniques. We're going to get settled in Unquillo with David in order to achieve the goals we have set for ourselves with the rehabilitation. And in a month we'll begin with physical training and tennis on court."
Apparently, the plan really is for David to return at the Masters in Madrid (or at the Masters in Rome, a week later) and on clay - although Rodriguez makes it clear that all of this will depend of course on whether David will be ready for it.
"Right now, we're thinking about when and where to come back. We're going to that when David is completely fit. Fortunately, he's not impatient yet."
Apart from that, it seems there's hope that the two surgeries will completely restore David's ability to move, which has apparently been restricted ever since his hip surgery.
"There are no movements that David isn't allowed to make. After the operation he will be in better shape than he was before because there were some movements that were difficult for him due to the hip surgery."
In other words, David may not only be able to play without pain again but he'll also be able to move better than it was possible for him, before. And the fact that his comeback is planned to take place on clay, the very surface that has caused David trouble ever since hip surgery, makes it look like his doctors and his team are quite confident that these last two surgeries will really make a difference and maybe put an end to those troubles.
(Sources: Clarin, Cancha Llena/La Nacion, Telam)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

David to have 2 Operations today

Good news: David's surgeries both went well and have been successful.
He'll be able to leave the hospital again tonight and continue his recovery at home in Unquillo.
Surgery began at 8.30am local today with the tenotomy, then came the hernia laparoscopy.
Altogether, the two surgical interventions took two hours.
(Sources: Guillermo Salatino & Gulliermo Poggi via Twitter.)

Edit: This is now being confirmed by a number of press articles. All of them reporting that everything went well. And also that David only had the tenotomy on his injured, left leg.
Only news agency Telam reports the order of the two operations to have been the other way around and adds two quotes by Bernardo Ballero:
"The two surgical interventions Nalbandian had went perfect."
"The operation went well and David is happy [with the way things went]. Right now, he's resting and if it all goes as planned he's going to leave the hospital tonight."
From a new press release on the official site:
Next week, David will begin with "light physical exercises".
He's going to travel back to Unquillo in the next couple of days where he'll work on his recovery together with his team.
And there's also a quote from David:
"I'm very calm and I hope that I'll soon be back to my best so I can face the rest of the year absolutely normal."

After further tests and a review of the results and scan images by Dr. Ruiz-Cotorro (who confirmed the diagnoses of David's Argentine doctors) the decision was made:

At a clinic in Buenos Aires, David will undergo two different surgeries today.

Hernia surgery in form of a laparoscopy and then also an adductor tenotomy, which David's spokesman Bernardo Ballero describes as a procedure to "lengthen the muscles and to make them stronger". - Made necessary by the adductor tear that David suffered during his Davis Cup match, last Friday.
Some news sites (e.g. Olé) write that David will have the tenotomy on both legs, while others (e.g. MundoD) say it's only going to be his left, injured leg. Right now, I can't tell you which version is correct, though I think this could perhaps be the result of a misunderstanding, as there are different adductor muscles in each leg. (And if it's the right leg as well, wouldn't that make it three different surgeries, one may wonder.) - We'll find out.
In any case - if all goes well, then David will be out of the hospital again, tonight.

The projected recovery time is two months and therefore, according to a new press release on the official site, he might be able to make his comeback at Madrid.
Or at least, that seems to be the plan for now.
(Other sources: Clarin; Cancha Llena - thanks, Marwa)

Good luck, David. I really hope those surgeries will put an end to the pain...
¡Y que te mejores pronto!

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Brief Update


The Davis Cup weekend is over (final score: 4-1 for Argentina), and David, still ranked #19 this week, is out with an injury. Or rather, a combination of two injuries, the hernia he already had, going into the tie and the left adductor tear he contracted during his match against Ungur.
But while it's clear now that the Masters events at Indian Wells and Miami will take place without David, so far there's been no further news about whether or not David will use this involuntary break to have hernia surgery.

Meanwhile, and you've probably seen it already, Argentina's opponent in the quarterfinal has also been decided - Kazakhstan (who beat the Czech team 3-2).
Asked about Argentina's possible opponents in the quarterfinal recently, all that would come to David's mind was "the Czechs". The other team he couldn't for the life of him remember. But it's not surprising that Kazakhstan doesn't have a place on David's tennis map of the world - or that it didn't have one, until now. After all, it's their first season in the World Group. In any case it'll be interesting to hear what David thinks about the Kazakh team and the fact that it exclusively consists of ex-Russian "mercenaries".
The quarterfinal will take place on the weekend after Wimbledon (July 8-10) and it will be another home tie for the Argentine team. Whether David will be able to even consider playing it - that remains to be seen.

The coming weeks (and perhaps months) will once again be more quiet here on VD, with no matches to report. Unfortunately, I have quite a bit of experience with this kind of situation...
And like during previous injury pauses, I'll keep you up-to-date on the latest news about David's recovery. As well as any interviews he agrees to do.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Argentina through - David out


After yesterday's drama and pain, David had a much better time at the Parque Roca today, celebrating Juan Ignacio Chela's & Eduardo Schwank's victory in the doubles, which grants Argentina a place in the quarterfinal of this year's Davis Cup (against either the Czech Republic or Kazakhstan but in any case at home).

But at the moment, the big question is of course - how badly is David injured after yesterday's match and what's going to happen now.
Argentine news site MundoD offers what might be some possible anwers. According to them, David has confirmed that he has suffered a muscular tear in his left adductor (very close to his hernia) and that this will keep him out of both Indian Wells and Miami.*
The decision about having hernia surgery will, also according to MundoD, be made in the next couple of days.

*Same info now in a new article by Olé.
And now also on Cancha Llena/La Nacion.
A new Clarin article includes a quote from David's spokesman Bernardo Ballero, who explains why the muscular tear caused David such pain.
"The tear itself is not important but what makes it special is that it's close to the inguinal sports hernia. That's why he felt a sharp pain."

Edit: It's all over the Argentine media now and I think I can say it's official.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Davis Cup R1 vs Romania - Day 1 Review

(Mauro Alfieri/La Nacion)

I once wrote that there are two versions of David Nalbandian, one on the Tour and another, different one in Davis Cup. The one we know from the Tour would've retired from this match, maybe halfway through the second set. But the other, different David remained on court because "you can't quit" (quote) in Davis Cup. And least of all when you're playing at home. In the end, after three hours and four minutes, David won the match 6-3, 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 and with it the first point for Argentina.
Later, Juan "Pico" Monaco beat Victor Hanescu 7-6(5), 1-6, 6-1, 6-1 to give the Argentine team a 2-0 lead after the first day.
Asked whether he'll be able to play another match on Sunday, David first said no, then - we'll see. But according to Infobae and Danny Miche, it's clear now that he won't play.

As David said after the match, he felt good during the week and ready for this match. And initially, it looked like he might get away with playing it. For although he was being cautious with his movement from the start, it was the normal caution David has been playing with on clay ever since surgery. But then, something went very wrong. How and when exactly - that's still a bit of a mystery as there are varying statements from David about it:
"I'm not really well, I did everything I could. I felt rather bad, I had a normal start but halfway through the first set I began to feel bad. I was suffering the whole match through."
"I felt pains that I didn't have during the week, that with the adductor was new. It began to trouble me at the end of the first set and from the second set on it was unbearable. I lost all ability to move and had this been a different tournament I would've retired, without a doubt."
"In the second set, my adductor started to hurt. In the third set I tried not to move and then happened what happened. I couldn't play a normal rally."

Going into this match, it was clear that David's strategy for this match would be to take risks and keep the points as short as possible. Ungur on the other hand, tried to move David as much as possible and for that, he threw everything he had at David, going for his shots and also playing a lot of drop-shots. This strategic contrast made for a rather interesting first set, during which David saved break points (a specialty of Davis Cup David, I might add) in three of his service games, including the one when he served for the set. At that point, I didn't notice that he was having any problems.

At the start of the second set, the cameras showed David, talking to the team during changeovers. It was the first sign that he was in trouble - but still, he went on to play what would become the shortest and most one-sided set of the match. Solid on serve, David broke Ungur for 2-1 and then later went up a double break to lead 5-2 before serving it out.

In the third set, David, now visibly struggling, tried to ration his movement, reserving his bigger efforts for the important rallies. But somehow, he still managed to take it up a notch in those moments, like when he held for 3-3 after having been down 0-40. Having held serve easily to stay in the set and get to 5-5, David was one point away from the tiebreak before two errors (caused by his increasingly limited movement) cost him his serve and the third set.

At the start of the fourth set, it became clear that David was now trying to move better again, probably knowing full well that he wouldn't survive a fifth set. The point that earned David what would turn out to be the decisive break was also the one that was responsible for probably the worst moment for David in this match. (You can watch it here.) After that rally, David was in tears during the changeover. But he played on, and even had the chance to go up a double break. Still, in the end, that one break was enough, David served for the match at 5-4 and finally converted his first match point with a service winner.

- That's probably not a very good summary. But I have to admit that watching this match and watching David suffering has left me a bit shaken...

Some more quotes from David:
"I felt horrible on court today. I could have retired from the match because the pain was unbearable but I'd never give up in Davis Cup, let alone playing in my country."

"We thought I'd be able to hold up better but it didn't work. I can't take a step."

"During one of the changeovers, I was crying in pain. It was one of the worst moments I ever had on court. I couldn't even walk half a metre."
(Quotes: Cancha Llena & Telam)
What this match will mean for the coming weeks and months of David's career, well, that remains to be seen. But for my part, I cannot help but be reminded of a certain match, three years ago. Another match that Davis Cup David played and that also ended in tears - his five-set victory over Robin Söderling... Let's hope that this is where the similarity ends.

(above and to the right: Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images)

Davis Cup R1 vs Romania - Day 1

David has won the first point of this tie for Argentina, defeating Romania's #2 Adrian Ungur 6-3, 6-2, 5-7, 6-4.

Having broken into tears after converting his first match point after a little over three hours on court, David said in his post-match interview that he felt "rather bad" for most of the match, with his problems (apparently also with his adductor) having started in the first set. And according to him, this match was "suffering" as well as "a great effort".
One that means that he won't play on Sunday. What it will mean for the coming weeks and months - that's something David didn't want to say anything about. Not yet. (Photo: AP Photo)

More soon...

It's the first Davis Cup tie of the year. And to get us started (at 11am local/2pm GMT/9am EST): David, playing a match against Adrian Ungur that's surrounded by uncertainty and questions, regarding his physical state and the (apparently sports) hernia that's troubling him. Even though, according to David, "there's no risk. There's only the pain to endure. I'll do whatever it takes, the discomfort is minimal and it's not going to keep me from playing." (Source.)Whether the discomfort really will be minimal and how well David will be able to play - we'll see.
In any case, for David there can be no doubt about the objective for this match, with or without pain: "I don't think about anything but winning the point for my country." - But also, more specifically, for Pico: "I want to win my point to give comfort to Monaco, as his match will be very tough. Without doubt, Hanescu is the player to beat." (Source.)

And in the second match of the day, it'll be up to Juan "Pico" Monaco to try and do just that:

(photos: Natacha Pisarenko/AP Photo)

David is not the only one who knows about the importance of the second rubber and hopes that Argentina will be in the lead by the time it is played. In Pico's words: "I hope that David wins so I can walk on court with a 1-0 lead and I'm able to play calmly. Anyway, I've had a good clay swing and I'm aware that mine will be a key point because Hanescu is the best of them." (Source.)
Victor Hanescu on the other hand, who has been speaking very highly of David these last few days, has shown himself to be rather confident about his chances of winning this match. Even though he has identified a possible problem: "The crowd will of course be louder than at an ATP event but I hope that we'll be treated with respect and that it won't turn into an additional complication." (Source.)

When the Davis Cup draw for 2011 came out five months ago, this looked like a very makeable first round for Argentina. Now, pretty much anything seems possible. Still, the big question remains to be - David. What part he'll be able to play in this tie and where his path will lead afterwards...

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Davis Cup vs Romania - Draw


A look at the Parque Roca, still empty. - But it won't be for much longer...
Here's the draw for this weekend's tie:
(On all three days, play will start at 11am local/2pm GMT/9am EST.)

Friday (04/03)
David Nalbandian vs Adrian Ungur
Under different circumstances, which is to say without David's current hernia problem, this would be the kind of match you'd expect David to have in the bag before the first rally was so much as played. Adrian Ungur is currently ranked #183 (his highest ranking was #122) and usually plays Challenger events. Which is why at age 26, he has played a total of 6 matches at ATP level. Plus 3 matches in Davis Cup to David's 41. As I've never seen Ungur play, I can't tell you anything about his game. And David's knowledge of Ungur and his game is somewhat limited, too.
"Tomorrow it's going to be a match where I don't really know the opponent and surely there's going to be speculation for a couple of games in order to know where the match is going to go."
But the biggest question mark here is of course David's physical state. Whether it will allow him to play well enough to hopefully win the match quickly or whether all Ungur will need to do is to keep him on court for as long as possible (and perhaps also play lots of drop-shots). But that David's training sessions this week reportedly went well so far (better than he was expecting) may count as a good sign.
"Things went smoothly [in training] on Tuesday and Wednesday. I feel good. I'll be the same or a little better."
And if there is one thing that is certain about this match then it is that the crowd at the Parque Roca will do its best to support David. Still, I guess I'm not the only one who will follow this match, keeping an eye on David's movement and looking for any signs of him, being pain. Especially since it doesn't look like David is planning to let his hernia keep him from anything...
"It's not going to keep me from giving my best on court."

Juan Monaco vs Victor Hanescu
This will be the third meeting between these two and the first time they play a best-of-five match. The first time they met, at Auckland 2009, it was Pico who prevailed. But their only encounter on clay so far, at the Masters in Rome last year, Hanescu won. Clay is Hanescu's best surface and although he hasn't done too well in singles so far this year, he's an experienced Davis Cup player. In other words - this won't be an easy match for Pico. And that's even more reason for David to want to win his match, so that "Pico can be relaxed, going into what's the most important match on Friday". (David's quotes: Olé.)

Saturday (05/03)
Juan Ignacio Chela & Eduardo Schwank vs Victor Hanescu & Horia Tecau
A combination that is new in Davis Cup (as is Chela, playing doubles for Argentina). But what's not entirely new is Chela and Schwank, playing doubles together. They first did so on the Tour back in 2009 and last year, they played four events together. Most notably Wimbledon, where they managed to make a surprise run to the semifinal. And one half of the team they'll meet in this weekend's doubles rubber they will recognise from that Wimbledon semifinal - Horia Tecau (whose partner was Robert Lindstedt back then).
So Chela and Schwank have some experience, playing together. But they'll find themselves up against an experienced and successful team in Hanescu and Tecau, who play doubles both in Davis Cup and on the Tour, and who have two doubles titles to their names, having won their second only last week at Acapulco. Therefore, this might be the toughest rubber to win for the Argentine team.

Sunday (06/03)
David Nalbandian vs Victor Hanescu
Whether David will actually play against Hanescu on Sunday remains to be seen.
Chela could replace him, a decision that Vázquez will have to make one hour before the match.

Juan Monaco vs Adrian Ungur
Whether the final rubber of this tie will look like this is also not clear yet, also depending on whether it's going to be a live or a dead one.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

David: I think I'll be ready on Friday


UpdateII (03/03)
Tamar (thanks!) from VD's partner site David Nalbandian Es Un Ídolo Total is at the Parque Roca these days and she has posted these links in the comments - but I'll post them here again so that everybody can see them.
Tamar has taken lots of photos, of David training and at the press conference (and she'll continue to take more and add them to her gallery). See them here.
And she has also made a video of Wednesday's training session, you can watch it here.

Today it was time for David and the rest of the team to face the press at the Parque Roca after the first training session of the day - which apparently took place without David. Which doesn't have to mean anything, after all he did only one session of reportedly "light training" yesterday. But whether he took to the practice court in the afternoon I haven't been able to find out yet.
(Edit: He did train with Juan Monaco in the afternoon; source.)
However, David did show up at the press conference. And about his injury problems, his current state and the chances of him, playing on Friday he had the following to say:
"The treatment I'm receiving has been good for me and I can say that I'm better than I expected. I think that I'll be ready on Friday."
Which sounds good, given the circumstances. Then again, it also sounds like the kind of statement that could be expected from David in this context. And I'd like to add that there's still no official verdict on the exact nature of the injury though in the media, it's now almost exclusively described as an inguinal hernia (adding that it's a "very small one").
Apart from that, David also made it clear why he's even trying to play this tie, despite of his current injury situation.
"Everybody knows that the Davis Cup is very important to me, it means a lot [to me] and therefore I'm willing to make an effort that maybe I wouldn't be making for a tournament on the Tour."
And if he could have it his way, he'd be doing even more for the Argentine team but with the situation being what it is, the most important thing is to win this tie.
"Argentina is always the favourite, playing at home and in my particular case, I want to play on all three days but together with Vázquez we're analysing what's going to be the best strategy."
Right now, according to the press, it looks like the strategy will be that David and Juan Monaco will play singles on Friday, while Juan Ignacio Chela and Eduardo Schwank will play the doubles. On Sunday, Chela could take David's place.

Here's another quote from the press conference which makes it sound like it's not really clear yet whether David will be able to play on Friday.
"Playing at home is always great because of the competition and even more so because of the crowd. The idea is that if I'm well, and Tito orders it that way, I can be there on the first day. Yesterday I trained a little better than I expected and today it has been tougher. We'll assess what happens during the week to make a decision."
Meanwhile, there are more and more speculations in the press about David having surgery, maybe already after this tie (like here). In that case, David would be out at the very least until Wimbledon. But perhaps, missing the clay season wouldn't be such a very bad idea... We'll see.