Saturday, June 25, 2011

Wimbledon R3: Still a Work in Progress - David loses to Federer

He gave the best that he could, he had the courage to attack and take risks and he played his best match in quite some time. But against Roger Federer it was still merely enough to take ten games, keeping the scoreline respectable - 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 for the six-time champion.
After an intense and close first set, which included the only break David managed against Federer in this match, the second set saw David having troubles with the adductors in his right leg and several visits by the trainer. In the third set however, David was able to raise his game again and he kept it open until a break towards the end of it sealed his fate.
But although after the match, David had to admit that Federer's "level of play was superior" to his own, he also thought that he did "pretty well". And of course he enjoyed being back on the big stage. (Highlights here.)
It was the best match I've played since my return to the circuit, though I lost. When you lose it's hard to enjoy it but I liked playing on the Wimbledon Centre Court again, which is the cathedral of tennis.
David's press conference transcript you'll find here.
I'll take a couple of days off now...

From the first game on it became clear that today, it was a different David on court than in his previous match against Haider-Maurer. Playing with the kind of focus and intensity he usually reserves for Davis Cup matches. Determined to attack Federer as much as possible, mostly with aggressive play from the baseline, but also occasionally coming to the net. And especially in the first set, David was able to keep up with Federer, the set where he had the most success, returning Federer's serve. But also in the third set David managed to keep things open - until the decisive break at 4-4.
Still, this match showed the kind of play David is still capable of. As he got to display both his strategic abilities and his entire repertoire of shots, from his trademark down-the line-backhand to angled shots off both wings, lobs and drop-shots. The problems he had with his forehand today were, I think, the result of his attempt to play as aggressively as possible, of taking risks with that shot. Though perhaps, his adductor problems also played a part in this. Finally, David served well by his standards, gaining a fair amount of cheap points and committing only three double faults.
To be honest with you, before the match, I thought that David might get steamrolled, based on his recent performances. But he was able to raise his game and play better than I thought he'd be able to. And even if it wasn't enough to beat or just take a set off Federer, I still think that David really did a pretty good job today.
It was an extremely tough match. At some point I had a minimal chance but I wasn't able to take advantage of it and at this level you cannot afford to have any slumps or slips because you end up paying a high price for them. I think the only moment when where he had a little slip was when he failed to take those two match points.
All in all, David played as good a match as he was able to under the circumstances. But these circumstances not only include the far too few matches he's been able to play in the past few months. They also include the biggest problem at this stage of David's career - his physical fragility. Injuries have always been a factor with David. But whereas in the past, it used to be different injuries (wrist, knee, back, abdomen etc), ever since his hip surgery it's been muscular problems in his legs that have plagued him. Today, it was the adductors in his right leg and he's had trouble with them before. But although he had surgery on his adductors on the left side, David still sees today's troubles - he called them troubles, not injury - as a consequence of his latest visit to the operating room.
I didn't happen to me during the other matches but I think it's normal after having had surgery. Today, I had to play at a higher level than on the other days and it became clear that everything still isn't quite right.
Which of course raises the question when everything will be right and whether it will be in time for the US hardcourt swing, when David will get to play on his favourite surface again.
It's difficult to feel good now, these are the first matches I'm playing and I still need some more match practice but that's the road I have to take. It just takes some more time, that's all.
(Photos: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images & AP Photo)

Wimbledon R3 - David vs Roger Federer


It was a good account that David gave of himself on the Centre Court but in the end, it was Roger Federer who won the match 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.
During the second set David called the trainer to get treatment on his right thigh. I'll try to find out whether that was more of a precaution or another injury.
David gets a two-week pause now until the Davis Cup quarterfinal in July.

The match is now available on David on Screen.
Photos from the match on the Photo Page.

More soon...

(AELTC/Getty Images, montage by VD)

It's no secret that David sometimes finds it a little difficult to be motivated, playing a no-name opponent on one of the outside courts (and even more so if it's early in the day). But it's also no secret that David loves to play big matches. On the big stage. Against the big names. And that's exactly what he'll get today, playing Roger Federer on the Centre Court at Wimbledon.
A nice challenge, like against any of those players who are up there at the top. Facing them always means a special motivation.
And probably even more so against the top player he has more of a history with than with any other. After their paths had already crossed in junior days, David became Federer's 'nemesis' during their early years on the Tour when he beat him in their first five consecutive matches. After that, Federer was able to break David's dominance, winning the next four in a row before it was once again David who took the big one, the Masters Cup final 2005. But although David won the biggest match they've played, in the years afterwards the balance shifted more and more into Federer's direction: Out of the eight matches they've played since Shanghai 2005, David only managed to win two, at Madrid and Paris 2007 (match record now: 10-8 for Federer).
Still, it's not like Federer has forgotten those earlier days:
I used to panic and run to the net against him because I felt I couldn't hang with him from the baseline. That just made it difficult for me to play against him early on. Later on I really started to enjoy the challenge against him because he's one of the cleanest ball strikers in the game. His backhand is obviously, you know, a shot like almost no other on tour. All the players admire that shot especially.
But despite all that history, something is new today - the surface.They've never met on grass before. And David is well aware of Federer's record at Wimbledon.
It's not going to be the first time, we know each other well enough, but here [at Wimbledon] it's always different because he has won it many times and he's always a candidate [for another title]. I need to believe in my game and have the courage to attack.
Of course, David will be the underdog in this match against Federer, the six-time Wimbledon champion. But his plan is to focus on himself and simply try to give the best he can.
I have to play and think about myself. I'm still a long way away from feeling that I'm at my best and I have to make the best of all the matches [I get to play]. And needless to say, Roger is a very complete player.
- And David will have to play the very best tennis he's capable of at the moment to stand any kind of chance against him. In the past, David has often enough shown that he's able to raise his game in matches like this one. But whether or not he'll be able to do it again today, one thing is certain, he'll give his best. In this big match. On the big stage.
The last words I'll leave to Roger Federer:
I mean, I'm looking forward to that match. I think it's a wonderful third round. I wish I could have had an easier one maybe, but I know the danger against him. He can prove his point. If he's weaker or stronger than three years ago or eight years ago, we'll find out.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Wimbledon R2: A Win is a Win - David beats Haider-Maurer

A win is a win. That's what David probably told himself after his 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 second-round victory over Andreas Haider-Maurer in a little over two and a half hours. After a good start, David lost his serve as well as his focus in the second set but afterwards managed to pull himself together again, enough to beat Haider-Maurer (whose role model he used to be; thanks, Ashot) in four sets. Or in David's words:
It was another day where it was very difficult to play, with a lot of wind. The conditions were difficult. I had a lot of chances to break but I wasn't able to make it happen. In the second set I didn't play very well, so I lost that set and had to practically start again from zero. (Source.)
In the beginning though it didn't look like this match would turn into a struggle. Haider-Maurer had problems with the wind on serve (and apparently also with his nerves) and David found his returns very quickly, breaking serve already in the third game of the match. Just like in the first round, he often sought his chances at the net and he also exploited Haider-Maurer's weaker backhand wing, while remaining solid on serve. It was a good first set that David played and when Haider-Maurer served to stay in it, David broke him yet again to take it 6-3.

But David proved unable to carry the momentum over to the second set. Instead, more and more errors crept into his game and his approaches to the net grew sloppy, allowing Haider-Maurer more and more chances to counter them with lobs or passing shots. Still, and although the match was closer now than in the first set, David hadn't faced a single break point. Which changed at 3-3 with the disastrous game that should alter the course of the match. After a couple of unforced errors, David set up the first break point against him with a double fault, before double-faulting again to gift Haider-Maurer the break. And while this break didn't really happen out of nowhere, David was now visibly (and busily) frustrated by the way it had happened and when he had to serve to stay in the set, he got broken again to lose the second 3-6.

"Starting again from zero" in the third set, David managed to gradually gain his focus again. He was still playing far from great but at least he grew more stable again. After wasting several chances to break early on (and saving a couple of break points himself), it was once more the seventh game of the set that proved decisive. With Haider-Maurer serving, a lengthy deuce battle ensued which finally ended with David taking the fourth opportunity to break he had in this game to go up 4-3. And this one break was enough to take the third set 6-4.

But the battle was not yet won. Early on in the fourth set, David faced break points again but managed to save them before at 3-3, play was suspended due to a brief shower. Back on court, for the seventh game of the set, it became clear that David was able to handle the situation better than Haider-Maurer, who had to serve first after the delay and lost his serve promptly, giving David the break that would decide the match. Serving for it at 5-4, David threw in the last of his 9 double faults in this match before converting his first match point, playing serve and volley.

Not exactly a great match from David, too many missed chances (only 4 of 18 break points converted), patchy serving and too inconsistent during the rallies. And how the Wimbledon match statistics can arrive at merely 25 unforced errors is a mystery to me (maybe they have a very lenient concept of forced errors, who knows.)
But what's important is that he managed to get back on track again after the end of the second set. It would've been easy enough to just collapse and give the match away. But David didn't collapse. He threw his racquet and he cursed and he complained about the line calls - but he fought on.

What this win also means is that in terms of his opponents, David continues his tour of the German-speaking countries. We first had Germany, then Austria - now it's time for Switzerland. Time for Roger Federer.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wimbledon R2 - David vs Andreas Haider-Maurer

(AP Photo)

It's wasn't pretty but in the end, it was enough - David has won his second-round match, defeating Andreas Haider-Maurer 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 in two hours and 37 minutes.
In the third round on Saturday, he will now face Roger Federer.

You can download the match via David on Screen.

More tomorrow...

(Getty Images, montage by VD)

The second round, another match at 'SW19', this time on one of the show courts, and once again a new opponent for David. Which is to say - someone he has never faced before. And probably also never seen before or heard of. With Andreas Haider-Maurer, 24 years old and from Austria, David gets to face another player who hasn't had that many matches at ATP-level yet, 21 in his case. But who also has an ATP final to his name, after a surprise run from qualies through to the final of Vienna last year.

For Haider-Maurer this is the very first Wimbledon of his career after not making it through qualies the two previous years. This time, his current (and career-high) ranking of #78 has granted him direct entry into the main draw. So instead of having to qualify, "AHM", as even his official website refers to him, prepared for Wimbledon by playing the Queen's Club (where he lost to Donald Young in the first round) and then 's-Hertogenbosch (where he went out in the second around against Ivan Dodig).

In his first-round match, Haider-Maurer beat Florent Serra in straights, serving a total of 39 aces in the process and winning 89% of his first serves (of which he made 67%). Whether he'll be able to post numbers like that again remains to be seen. But this match might require some patience from David. Waiting for opportunities (and Haider-Maurer's much more attackable second serve)
- and then hopefully taking them.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wimbledon R1 - David: I played a pretty decent Match

(Thanks, Marwa; if the embedded clip doesn't work, here's the link to the original video; and if that doesn't work either or shows the wrong video, then you can download the clip here.)

I went from bad to good. In the first set I didn't start very well but finished it playing better and in the second and third I played a little better still. I was able to break his serve quickly, though he broke me again towards the end of the third set, and in the end I played a pretty decent match, given the time I haven't been playing [here].
That is David's own summary of his 7-5, 6-2, 6-3 first-round victory over Julian Reister. A match that merely lasted 106 minutes and that despite the shaky start that he caught, left David "happy and content with the match in general" because he managed to "raise" his "level as it went on".
In the second round on Thursday, David will now face Andreas Haider-Maurer (currently #78), another player he has never met before.

Istabraq's photos from the match are now finally on the Photo Page (thank you!).
And here's very brief clip; 20 seconds of groundstrokes and David getting angry with himself:

Having elected to serve first, David got broken in the opening game of the match and found himself trailing by that one break throughout the first set. Holding serve easily afterwards, however, and losing only three more points on serve in that set, David began to work on getting the re-break. Finally, he managed to break back as Reister served for the set, to level the score at 5-5. After another easy hold, David broke the German again, this time to love, to take the first set 7-5.
In the second set, David broke to go up 3-1 and with some difficulties managed to consolidate his break for a 4-1 lead. When Reister served to stay in the set at 5-2, he held a game point but David took him back to deuce before once more converting his first set point, 6-2.
The third set saw David going up a break for 4-2 and at this moment, the match seemed virtually over. In the following game however, David faced the first break points since the opening game of the match - and lost his serve. But only to break Reister immediately again and finally, serving for the match at 5-3, converting his first match point, 6-3.

In short, overall a very good and very solid performance from David, as not only the scoreline but also a look at the match statistics suggests - which actually speak of a match that was a bit more than just "pretty decent".
In his post-match press conference, a visibly happy and relaxed David (see video above) also stressed that "everything is fine" with him at the moment, physically. And that after having done "everything" to arrive at Wimbledon "in the best possible shape" what he needs now simply is to play matches.
I feel better with every match I play. It's relieving to know that I'm fine, that I don't feel any pain. So it's only a question of time and continuing to compete.
David was also asked about the slowing-down of the grass at Wimbledon, something that other players have been complaining about.
Actually, I don't know whether it's slower but the ball bounces higher. Nowadays, there are many players [here] who play from the baseline and you can easily play from there. But grass is still a fast surface and there are shots that continue to do damage. (Source.)

At a press conference in Buenos Aires, Tito Vázquez has announced Argentina's team for the upcoming Davis Cup quarterfinal tie against Kazakhstan (July 7-9). David will be joined by Juan Ignacio Chela, Juan Monaco and Juan Martin Del Potro, making this the first tie David and Delpo will play together since the lost final 2008.
Apart from that, the entry list for Washington came out today - David will be going back, trying to defend his title.

(Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wimbledon R1 - David vs Julian Reister

(Clive Mason/Getty Images)

David's first match at Wimbledon in three years has ended with a straightforward 7-5, 6-2, 6-3 victory over Julian Reister in an hour an 46 minutes.
In Round 2 David will now face Andreas Haider-Maurer on Thursday. It will be David's first meeting with the Austrian.

More tomorrow, including photos by Istabraq...

(Getty Images, montage by VD)

After three years, today is finally the day that will see David (now ranked #23), playing a match at Wimbledon again - if the weather allows it. There are some rain showers forecast for the day and as David's match is scheduled as the fourth one on Court 19, it remains to be seen whether today he will really get to make his comeback at the oldest and most prestigious of Slams.

In any case, this match means something like a new start at Wimbledon for David and it's also going to be a premiere. Julian Reister, 25 years of age and currently ranked #135, is usually at home playing clay-court Challengers, whenever he's not trying to qualify for ATP-level events. Last year, he managed to qualify for Wimbledon for the very first time in his career and he also managed to win a round before losing to Xavier Malisse in the second.

That David has also played a match against Malisse at Wimbledon before is about as far as the similarities go between these two (apart from the fact that David beat Malisse; in the semifinal 2002). A very simple way of illustrating the major difference: This is going to be David's 508th match at ATP level. For Reister, it's going to be his 18th.

Another difference lies in the way they've prepared for Wimbledon. While David got to play a total of seven matches at the Queen's Club and Boodles, Reister retired after seven games in the first round at Halle before losing in the first round at 's-Hertogenbosch, last week. In other words, Reister, who's usually more of a clay-courter anyway, hasn't been able to get much match practice on grass.
As this is going to be their first encounter and I very much doubt that David has so much as heard Reister's name before, he'll probably need a moment to see who he's dealing with.
But whether or not David will have a slow start - the only way to find out will once again be the scoreboard.

Monday, June 20, 2011

David: I'm ready for Wimbledon

Today, the 125th edition of The Championships at Wimbledon begins with the upper half of the draw. For David, who's in the lower half, it will start tomorrow with his first-round match against Julian Reister.
But before focusing on what's going to be his first match at Wimbledon since June 2008, David took a moment to talk to Argentine news agency Telam, saying that he's ready and in "good shape" now, coming to Wimbledon "in the best way" to play a tournament he "really enjoys playing".
I'm very happy with the preparation I had for the tournament. Since I didn't play Roland Garros, I had a lot of time to practice on grass.

To adapt well to playing on grass is fundamental. As everybody knows it's a surface that's quite different from the others.
Apart from getting much more time than usual to train on grass, David was also able to prepare by playing first the Queen's Club and then the Boodles Challenge exhibition.
I've felt very comfortable during these last weeks where I've played on grass, physically as well as in terms of my tennis.
So now it's time for the big one - David's first Championships in three years.
I'm really looking forward to playing Wimbledon. It's one of my favourite tournaments and the last couple of years I couldn't play, due to injury.

I've got great memories of this tournament. It was incredible to reach the final [2002] where, unfortuntately, I met a Lleyton Hewitt who was the number one in the world and played fantastic on grass.
For this year's edition, David sees his physical fitness as the basic factor.
The most important thing is that I feel good, physically and then, as always, I'm going to try to get as far as possible.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Boodles Final - David loses to David Ferrer

David won his first two matches in the champions tiebreak but he didn't get lucky the third time around. After two sets and two rain delays, in the end it was the other David (Ferrer), who prevailed 7-5, 4-6, 10-6.

So again no Boodles 'title' for David but a nice week spent at Stoke Park, training and preparing for Wimbledon. And although he already set a record with his eighth appearance this year, I guess it's safe to say that if he's fit, there's going to be another record, next year.

But for now, it's goodbye Boodles.
And on to Wimbledon.

The match is now available for download via David on Screen.
Edit: And now also the trophy presentation (thanks, Andvari).
(No photos from Istabraq this time.)

Today, on the last days of this year's anniversary edition of the Boodles Challenge, almost all of the players have already moved on (or moved back) to London to prepare and focus on Wimbledon. Only two are still left and they will play today's final match: David and David Ferrer.

The two Davids have practiced together at Stoke Park this week and they know each other well. On court, they've faced each other already twelve times, including at Masters events, Slams and in Davis Cup. And at the start of this season, they met in the final at Auckland. Back then, Ferrer won in straights and he also holds the upper hand in terms of the match record (7-5).

But what the "two Davids" have never done before is playing a match on grass. And as far as I know they've also never played an exhibition match before.
In the past, they had many tough battles (on court as well as on the Playstation). Today, it's going to be a different scenario, a new and very different version of the "Battle of the Davids". But one that both Davids are surely going to enjoy.

(photos by Istabraq; from the match against Gasquet)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Wimbledon Draw

It's been three years since David played his last Championships at Wimbledon...

The 28th seed this year, he has been drawn into the lower half of the draw, which will get started on Tuesday.
There, David is in the upper, i.e. Federer's quarter:

[7] David Ferrer (ESP) vs Benoit Paire (FRA)
Ivan Dodig (CRO) vs [LL] Ryan Harrison (USA)
Carlos Berlocq (ARG) vs [Q] Karol Beck (SVK)
Andrey Golubev (KAZ) vs [26] Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP)
[22] Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR) vs Fernando Gonzalez (CHI)
[Q] Rik de Voest (RSA) vs Ruben Ramirez-Hidalgo (ESP)
Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) vs [Q] Cedric-Marcel Stebe (GER)
[LL] Go Soeda (JPN) vs [12] Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)

[16] Nicolas Almagro (ESP) vs Jarkko Nieminen (FIN)
John Isner (USA) vs Nicolas Mahut (FRA)
Somdev Devvarman (IND) vs Denis Gremelmayr (GER)
Juan Monaco (ARG) vs [18] Mikhail Youzhny (RUS)
[28] David Nalbandian (ARG) vs Julian Reister (GER)
Florent Serra (FRA) vs Andreas Haider-Maurer (AUT)
Adrian Mannarino (FRA) vs QUALIFIER
Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ) v [3] Roger Federer (SUI)

Complete draw here.

In short: David's first-round opponent will be Julian Reister (currently #135).
And the first seeded player bound to cross his path in the third round is - Roger Federer...
(Photo: Wikipedia)

Boodles Update
Tomorrow's final match at the Boodles Challenge David will play against his training partner at Stoke Park - "the other David" Ferrer. Weather permitting, play will start at 2.30pm local.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Boodles Day 3 - David also beats Richard Gasquet

(Photo by Istabraq)

On Tuesday, David started poorly and then improved as the match went on. Today, he played (and especially served) very well in the first set, before then losing it in the second... But in the end, and after another champions tiebreak, David managed to keep his perfect record against Richard Gasquet, winning 6-3, 0-6, 10-5.
What's going to happen now, whether David is going to stay and play his final match at Stoke Park or move on to Wimbledon - we'll see.

You can download the match via David on Screen.

Istabraq was at Boodles again today and once more, David insisted on posing for her camera...

More of her photos on the Photo Page.
And as today was her last day at Boodles, a big round of applause and thank you once again to Istabraq for all the fantastic photos!

Apart from that, tomorrow the Wimbledon draw ceremony will take place at 10am local time.
It will be broadcasted live on Radio Wimbledon and covered in the tournament website's "As it happens" section.

Today, on the third day of Boodles, it's time for David to not only practice on grass and hang out at Stoke Park with his friends that are accompanying him - it's also time to play his second match. Against someone David should like to see on the other side of the net.

David's match record against Richard Gasquet speaks for itself. They've met seven times on the Tour and on all seven occasions David was the winner in the end, including their encounter at Paris 2007, after which Gasquet said he had never faced anyone, playing better tennis.
But although their past matches were often enough one-sided, the closest match they've ever had took place on grass, at the Queen's Club 2008 (where David beat Troicki in an earlier round, by the way). Back then David eventually prevailed in a third-set tiebreak.

It's only an exhibition they're playing today. But if David's first Boodles match is anything to go by, he'll take it seriously enough. And he'll try to keep his perfect record against Gasquet.

A word about the weather. After rain cut short play yesterday, the forecast says there's going to be more rain today... Though it apparently looks like play can start as planned.

And by the way... It was three years ago to the day, that a blog called Vamos David, initially in bright greens and white, made its very first appearance on the internet. Also three years ago to the day, I wrote my first ever post - about David playing Boodles. And now here we are, three years, almost 600 posts and over 8700 comments later... Vamos David. Still going strong. :)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Boodles Day 1 - David beats Viktor Troicki

(photo by Istabraq)

It took a bit of work but after a rather patchy start (and losing the first set), David managed to clean up his game and turn the match around, eventually winning 3-6, 7-6(3), 10-4.
I'm not going to pretend that I know who he will play his next match against but as David won't be playing tomorrow, it looks like it's going to be on Thursday.

The match is available for download via David on Screen.

Apart from that, Istabraq was at Boodles today. And look who she happened to run into...

You can find more of her photos on the Photo Page.

And here's a first look at David, getting ready for his match. - Or at least the Boodles Twitter says it's David (next to him Javier).

So it's the first day of this year's Boodles Challenge - the tenth anniversary edition. And of course, this anniversary cannot possibly take place without David, "firmly regarded as a favourite of the event" and record holder in terms of appearances.

The last time David played this event, back in 2008, he first beat Robby Ginepri and then lost to Ernests Gulbis. Today, unless the schedule changes again, and there's always a chance for that to happen at Boodles, he'll play his first match of this year's edition against Viktor Troicki (third match of the day, not before 5pm GMT).
David has a 3-1 match record against Troicki (currently #12) and they've met on grass before, at the Queen's Club 2008. Back then, David won in straights.

A word about the format - there are no normal third sets at Boodles. If a match goes the distance, a champions tiebreak (10 points needed to win; the same as in doubles) will decide the outcome.

And a word about streams...

There'll be free streams from Boodles on LiveScoreHunter and Fromsport (see sidebar).


Monday, June 13, 2011

Back to Boodles

And back to Stoke Park. Where, if he finds the time between training and matches, David can also play a round of golf. Or enjoy the other amenities "one of Britain's leading five-star hotels and country clubs" has to offer. Perhaps, it's not surprising that David likes this event as much as he obviously does. And while the choice of his preparatory ATP tournament for Wimbledon has changed over the years, first Halle then the Queen's Club, what hasn't changed is David returning to Stoke Park to play The Boodles Challenge, whenever possible.

What has changed about Boodles itself is that this year (for the second time) there's going to be a stream and there's now also a an official Boodles Twitter - they've come a long way since the 'old days' when it was often enough practically impossible to find out the results of the matches. Let alone watch them.
What remains the same, however, is the slightly chaotic nature of this event. The line-up, as well as the schedule of play, are usually subject to frequent changes, also because additional players show up to play an extra match (in this case Ivan Ljubicic, Marin Cilic and Novak Djokovic, who's going to play on Thursday - or at least, that's currently the plan).
And there's already been the first alteration of Tuesday's schedule, with Richard Gasquet replacing Sam Querrey, though David's match against Gilles Simon has not been affected by it.
In short, it's usually all a bit spontaneous and chaotic at Boodles but this year, 'armed' with a stream and, hopefully, updates about the schedule, we'll be able to watch David at one of his favourite events. Apart from that, Istabraq will be courtside from Tuesday to Thursday to take photos and maybe supply us with some extra tidbits about David at Stoke Park.

The order of play has changed again - current version: David will play the third match of the day against Viktor Troicki (thanks, Istabraq).

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Farewell, Queen's Club - David bows out to Verdasco... again

Update (11/06)
David will play his first match at the Boodles Challenge next Tuesday. In the second match of the day (play starts 2.30 GMT), his opponent will be Gilles Simon (thanks, joyce63). Apart from that, I've added some photos joyce63 took at the Queen's Club on Tuesday and Wednesday to the Photo Page.

It is a truth universally acknowledged in tennis that if you don't make use of the opportunities you get during a match - you'll end up paying the price. In David's case today, that price was his third-round loss to Fernando Verdasco, who won 7-5, 6-1. After squandering his chances to break, a single, terrible service game cost David the first set. A blow from which he proved unable to recover, only just managing to avoid a bagel in the second.
After saying farewell to the Queen's Club, David will now continue his preparations for Wimbledon by playing The Boodles Challenge at Stoke Park next week (June 14-18). And we'll be able to follow his progress - as there will be a stream.

But back to today's match. (This time as a combination of the scoreboard and Istabraq's impressions.) After David chose to receive, Verdasco began the match with a very shaky service game, which not only included a couple of double faults but also a total of three break points for David. Had he converted one of those, who knows what course this match might have taken. But he didn't. Instead, an even (and good) set of tennis ensued that saw David having it just a little bit harder to get through this service games than Verdasco - until 3-3. After Verdasco had already been up 40-15, David managed to take him back to deuce before getting a fourth chance to break - he also didn't use. But David fought on, easily held for 4-4 and then also for 5-5, though not quite as easily. However, at this point the match was still wide open and 6-5 Verdasco, all was still far from lost. But then it came, the service game that would turn the match into one-way traffic. Serving to stay in the set for the second time, David began with a double fault. And then continued with a series of unforced errors, gifting Verdasco altogether three set points and then finally the first set. With another unforced error.

This service game and the outcome of the first set changed the course of the match completely. While Verdasco now raised his level, with the added confidence of having the first set under his belt, David fell apart. And he did so, completely. What exactly went on in his head - who knows. But he lost track of the match as soon as the second set began and once he found himself down first a break and then a double break it became clear that he wasn't going to find his way back into this match again. Instead, the only, small victory he managed to achieve was holding serve for one more time, before Verdasco served it out easily.
It is, unfortunately, not entirely unusual for David to lose matches this way. Collapsing from one moment to the next. And while it's also usually a mental problem, the exact workings of it (and David's mind) will remain a mystery. As he likes to answer any questions about it by saying how well his opponent played...

So, what to make of David's comeback week at the Queen's Club? Difficult to say, without having seen him play all week and without having been able to have look at his (supposedly improved) movement. But the results speak for themselves and I think they're positive. After three months away from the Tour, winning a couple of rounds was all that could be realistically expected from David and that's what he has accomplished. Apart from that, he finally got to play a few matches, without any physical problems, and match practice really is what he needs now. And I'd like to add that I never thought I'd get to see David and Andy Roddick playing doubles together...
But what's most important - David is back, at last!

(photos by Istabraq)

Finally, I'd like thank Istabraq for a terrific job this week (her final round of photos from the Queen's Club on the Photo Page), for all the great photos and the info about the matches. And I think I'm not the only one who's happy that she'll also be going to Boodles... Thank you so much!

Queen's Club R3 - David vs Fernando Verdasco



David's week at the Queen's Club has ended with a defeat at the hands of Fernando Verdasco, who prevailed 7-5, 6-1 and keeps his perfect record against David. After wasting several chances to break in the opening set, David apparently, as well as completely, lost the plot in the second set and barely managed to avoid getting bagelled.

David has a few days off now before playing The Boodles Challenge (an exhibition event) next week.

More soon...

(Istabraq/Getty Images; montage by VD)

12.54pm local - After a bit of a delay, David's match is underway now.

In the third round at the Queen's Club today, David may still not get to play on Centre Court - but he gets to play his first match against a seeded opponent, seventh seed Fernando Verdasco. At #23, Verdasco is currently ranked only one position above David, after having dropped out of the Top 10 in April. When it comes to the match record, however, the advantage Verdasco holds is a much clearer one. They've met twice before and on both occasions the Spaniard prevailed.

At the US Open last year, David, physically as well as mentally exhausted, proved unable to keep up with Verdasco and the speed of his game. Whereas their first encounter, at Wimbledon back in 2006, which David lost in straights, became known as the match David allegedly tanked so he could watch football. In short, David has had his problems with Fernando Verdasco in the past (he also lost their only exhibition match, at Boodles 2007; by the way, Verdasco has joined this year's field).

While David has had two straightforward wins so far, Verdasco only had to play in the second round (first-round bye), where an injury his opponent Nicolas Mahut suffered early on in the match helped him secure an easy victory. Which makes it difficult to say what kind of form he's in at the moment - though with Verdasco, basically anything is possible, on any given day. In the past, David has struggled with Verdasco's game, with breaking his (leftie) serve, with his sudden changes of speed and with Verdasco's best shot, his forehand. Whether David will find a better way of dealing with these things today remains to be seen - only that we won't get to see it.
Once more, there will be no stream and this time, Istabraq also won't be courtside to tell us more about the match (or to take photos). So there's only the scoreboard and hoping that this time, it'll be David, who will prevail.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Queen's Club R2 - David beats Bozoljac

On paper, it looked like this match might be more of a test for David. But in the end, he only needed 72 minutes to secure an easy 6-4, 6-4 victory over Serbian qualifier Ilija Bozoljac. After dropping serve early on in the first set, David immediately recovered the break and went on to break Bozoljac two more times in the course of the match. And again, there were no "hiccups".
In the third round tomorrow, on Court 1 and once more without a stream, David's opponent will now be seventh seed Fernando Verdasco. It'll be their third encounter, the second one on grass - and maybe the first one David will be able to win...

After two rain delays, the second of which happened just after the very first point of the match had been played, the match began with a couple of fairly straightforward service holds until at 2-1 for Bozoljac, David went down 15-40 and after saving the first break point ended up losing his serve for the first time this week. A potentially costly break against a strong server. In the following game however, Bozoljac made a total of three double faults, one of them on break point, and handed the break straight back. After this exchange of breaks, David grew more solid on his serve and at 3-3 broke Bozoljac again, helped by the Serb's lowly first serve percentage. At 5-3, and with Bozoljac serving to stay in the set, David squandered altogether three set points before eventually serving it out to 15.

The second set saw closer service games on both sides, with Bozoljac coming back from 0-30 twice and David getting taken to deuce (at 1-0). For a while, both took turns at getting into the vicinity of a break point - without really getting there. Until at 4-3, it was David who found himself facing one (after having been up 30-0 in that game). But he saved it and having held for 4-4, he managed to turn the tables in the following game - and at the best possible moment. David broke Bozoljcac to love to go up 5-4 (here's a video clip, showing that particular game - and David in action) and then, serving for the match, converted his first match point.

So much for the scoreboard version. Here are the additions from Istabraq's notes (thanks again!!!):
The court was ready for some time before the match was continued, David and Bozoljac took a long time to show up again. The match was very different from yesterday's, there were no long rallies as Bozoljac came to the net a lot and also played plenty of drop-shots. One of which saw David slip on the grass, fall on his back (see photo) and skid quite a long way - but without any physical consequences. And after 2-2 in the second, David never really looked in danger of the match. Which was, perhaps, also the reason that Bozoljac took his frustration out on the umpire and tried to argue about calls - not that it made any kind of impression on Lars Graff. Bozoljac served very well at the start of the match and then completely lost his groove, while with David it was exactly the other way around, as is so often the case with him.
- But it all ended well:

(photos by Istabraq)

You can find more photos Istabraq took during the match on the Photo Page.

Queen's Club R2 - David vs Ilija Bozoljac

(Getty Images, montage VD)

Update II
It took hours of waiting until the match could finally begin - and then it was over after merely 72 minutes. As that was all it took David to defeat Ilija Bozoljac 6-4, 6-4.
In the third round tomorrow, he will now meet seventh seed Fernando Verdasco. David has faced him twice before (once on grass at Wimbledon) - and has so far never managed to beat the Spaniard.

Note: No agency photos from the match, so far. Sorry.

More soon...

5.40pm local - David's match is underway now - at last...

4.40pm local - The rain has stopped again and it looks like play will resume shortly.
4pm local - After exactly one point (for David) - the rain is back and play is suspended.
3.53pm local - David's match has been moved to Court 2 and is about to begin.
3.33 pm local - Though not on the scoreboard until now, play has resumed on Court 1 in the meantime (early on in the second set now).
2.22pm local - The rain has stopped now. Play should continue at around 3pm.
1.45pm local - It will take longer than expected until David's match can begin, as play at the Queen's Club is currently suspended, due to rain (at 6-6, first set in the first match on Court 1).

First Illya, now Ilija... 25-year-old Ilija Bozoljac from Serbia is currently ranked #200 (his highest ranking was #101, in 2007) and he mostly plays Challenger events - on fast surfaces. Other players may spend the season, travelling from one clay-court Challenger to the next but not Bozoljac. He prefers to play on hardcourt and indoors, and his taste for fast surfaces already says something about his game, about his strengths - most of all his serve, combined with an attacking game that's also well-suited for playing on grass.

Occasionally, Bozoljac also tries to qualify for ATP-level events and he managed to make his way through qualies at the Queen's Club. Which means that this is going to be already the fifth match he plays at this tournament. And even though it's only his second match at ATP-level this year (and his 27th, overall), chances are that Bozoljac will be more of a test for David. Because he's used to the conditions, because of his game and his strong serve and because David probably has very little idea who he is and how he plays.

Finally, and as something like a postscript for yesterday, Danny Miche interviewed David after the doubles. The interview is available in audio only. Here's a very brief summary:
David is feeling very good, no problems or pains. Coming back on grass means playing on a surface he's not really used to but he's content with his match against Marchenko though there's still room for improvement. But that's only logical after another long absence, also from playing on grass (David had to calculate first how many years have exactly passed since his last match on grass). About the Davis Cup, it's good news for everybody that Delpo will play but although the two talk about "little things" whenever they happen to meet, they haven't really sat down and talked to each other yet. It's something they will do, if they get the chance. David also revealed that playing doubles was a spontaneous idea and all about getting some more match practice, and that it was Andy Roddick, who asked him in the locker room to play doubles with him.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Welcome back, David!

Over three months after his last ATP match and almost three years after playing his last match on grass, David made a successful comeback on the Tour (and on grass) today, with his 6-3, 6-4 victory over Illya Marchenko. Without dropping serve and without any "hiccups" when trying to close out the first set and then eventually the match.
In the second round tomorrow, David will now face Serbian qualifier Ilija Bozoljac. It will be their first meeting. And once again, there will be no stream.

David began his comeback today in the best possible way - by hitting an ace. And he caught a great start into this match. After easily holding serve in the opening game, David couldn't convert two break points he had on Marchenko's serve. But the Ukranian's following service game (at 2-1), saw him go down 0-40 and this time, David took his chance and afterwards consolidated his break without difficulties. At 4-2, David faced a first break point - and saved it. At 5-3, David served for the set and closed it out to love.
The second set saw David squandering further break points, in the first game of the set and then three in a row at 1-1 (as Marchenko went down 0-40 again). But instead of losing focus because of those wasted chances, David continued to hold serve, saved the second (and last) break point at 4-3 for Marchenko before finally getting the decisive break in the following game. At 5-4, David served for the match - and once again, he closed it out to love.

- That much could be gathered from the scoreboard. But today, Vamos David had a "spy" courtside who watched the match and saw those things you can't see on the scoreboard. Here's from Istabraq's (thank you!!!) notes:
The match was played mostly from the baseline, with neither player advancing to the net much. In the longer rallies, David outplayed Marchenko more often than not though by playing with depth and pulling him wide, Marchenko also managed to force David into committing errors.
But noteworthy certainly is that David served well in the important moments. The first set for example he managed to close out with a series of great serves. Which is even more amazing, given the fact that it was windy at the Queen's Club today - not the conditions David likes and it did seem to bother him a little but it didn't keep him from serving well.
At the end of the match, however, he also had a bit of luck. Marchenko slipped, both to allow David to break for 5-4 in the second set, as well as during the final service game, granting David match points...

(photos by Istabraq)

Apart from his singles comeback, David also played doubles with Andy Roddick, against Delpo and Radek Stepanek. In the first set, it was David who got broken (to love), in the second set it was Roddick and that was enough to come out second best. But this wasn't really a very serious match, it was fun and practice for the players - and for the crowd it was pure entertainment.
The "racquet-throwing" incident has been mentioned in the comments before. Here is Istabraq's description of it:
David threw his racquet and failed to catch it, so Roddick went to pick it up for him. But instead of handing it back, he threw it even further away - so David had to go and get it. Which he did, laughing... In short - a good time was had by all.
More of Istabraq's photos from both the singles and the doubles, plus pics of David, training you'll find on the Photo Page.
A very brief clip of the doubles you can watch here (thanks, Andvari).

Queen's Club R1 - David vs Illya Marchenko

(Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Update IIIDavid and Andy Roddick have lost their doubles match against Delpo and Radek Stepanek, who prevailed 6-3, 6-4 in what was apparently a highly entertaining match.

(Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Update II

David has won his ATP comeback match, defeating Illya Marchenko 6-3, 6-4 in just under one and a half hours.
In the second round, he now won't get his "test match", instead he'll face Ilija Bozoljac from Serbia (who defeated Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin). It'll be another first meeting for David.

More soon...

(Getty Images, montage by VD)

David's comeback match is underway now.

So this is it. After 107 days of first surgery, then recovery, infection and fever, then more recovery and training for David, and 107 days of waiting for him to play another ATP match for us - David (now #24) will play his comeback match today at the Queen's Club. Against 23-year-old Ukrainian Illya Marchenko. It'll be the first time they meet.

As mentioned before in the draw post, Marchenko is ranked just outside of the Top100 (#108 as of this week) and so far this year, he has really struggled to make it past the first round at ATP events, if he got into the main draw at all. And because this is their first encounter, chances are that David's knowledge of Marchenko and his game is rather limited.
- Just like mine. I've seen him play only once, two years ago in Davis Cup. And though I recall that I was quite impressed with his gutsy performance in front of a rather vociferous (away tie) crowd, that's pretty much as far as my memory goes.

Another thing that's rather limited is Marchenko's experience, playing on grass. If you count in his first-round loss at Wimbledon qualies back in 2009, he has played a grand total of six matches on grass, the remaining five of which all took place last year.
In other words, it's very tempting to see Marchenko as the kind of player who shouldn't be able to trouble to David, not on this surface and not even after a long injury pause. Still, and despite having been able to prepare on grass, David will be rusty after another long pause.
How rusty exactly - that's what he and we are going to find out.

Later, in the evening, David is also scheduled to play his doubles match - again, after it was cancelled yesterday. Unfortunately, there won't be any stream, neither for his comeback match, nor for there doubles. Only the scoreboard.
But VD readers Istabraq and joyce63 will be courtside at the Queen's Club, and will be able to tell us a bit more about what happened (and there will be more photos).

Monday, June 6, 2011

Queen's Club - David's Doubles Debut... Delayed

As David's doubles match ended up getting cancelled, he'll now have to play two matches tomorrow. First his singles comeback match, then later the doubles. And here's the bummer - there won't be a stream for either of those two courts...

Photos of David training and hanging out at the Queen's Club today now on the Photo Page, courtesy of Istabraq (thank you!).

In the evening, as the fifth and final match on Centre Court, David is scheduled to play his first match at the Queen's Club this year. But whether he'll get to play doubles alongside Andy Roddick against Delpo and Radek Stepanek today, that will depend on whether the previously scheduled singles matches get finished in time and that, as always, also depends on the weather.

After a first weather-induced delay, play is now about to start at the Queen's Club, around an hour later than originally planned.
Four matches now still to go before it'll be time for David's doubles debut.
- Let's hope it'll get to take place today.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Queen's Club Draw

Update II (05/06)
The order of play for Monday has just been released. David will not play singles tomorrow. Instead, the doubles with Andy Roddick against Delpo and Radek Stepanek will be his first match at the Queen's Club. There are usually no streams for doubles matches...

Finally, here it is - a draw with the name David Nalbandian in it.

David is the 9th seed at this event (no bye in the first round) and he will play his comeback match against Illya Marchenko. It'll be his first encounter with the young Ukrainian.
And he has been drawn into the bottom half, Roddick's, i.e. top quarter, which looks like this:

[7] Fernando Verdasco (ESP) vs BYE
Nicolas Mahut (FRA) vs [WC] Oliver Golding (GBR)
Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ) vs QUALIFIER
Illya Marchenko (UKR) vs [9 WC] David Nalbandian (ARG)

[15] Kevin Anderson (RSA) vs Ivo Karlovic (CRO)
Andreas Haider-Maurer (AUT) vs Donald Young (USA)
Feliciano Lopez (ESP) vs Dmitry Tursunov (RUS)
BYE vs [3] Andy Roddick (USA)

The complete draw you'll find here
Apart from singles, and for the first time since Indian Wells 2009, David will also take part in the doubles competition. Back then, he played with Delpo. This time, they'll meet in the first round - but on different sides of the net. Delpo will play with Radek Stepanek, while David is going to team up with - Andy Roddick. I kid you not. The doubles draw proves it.

But back to singles and David's comeback match. His first opponent is going to be Illya Marchenko, ranked #105 this week (the highest he has been ranked so far was #67), who has spent most of this season trying to qualify for ATP-level events or losing in the first round of main draws. The biggest match he played this year took place at the Australian Open, where he reached the second round before he lost to Andy Murray. I doubt that David knows much (or rather - anything) about Marchenko so he will probably need a few games to know what he's dealing with. And also, perhaps, to reacquaint himself with the feeling of being on court and playing an official match.
And just in case making his comeback isn't exciting and motivating enough, the draw provides a little extra motivation for David - in terms of a possible secound-round "test match" against Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin.
I'm never much one for speculating about the later rounds and in this particular case, after yet another pause and playing on grass... I'll just leave it at that. For the moment.
And say - welcome back, David!

News inferno today. And what was still missing, you've guessed it - the Davis Cup. Delpo has just confirmed via his Twitter that he's going to play the quarterfinal tie. So word now is that the team will be: Delpo, David and Chela & Schwank for doubles. Which means that the tie against Kazakhstan will see David and Delpo reunited on the Davis Cup team for the first time since the Mar del Plata disaster in 2008.
And if you want to take a look at David, an apparently fairly recent one, then you can watch a new promo clip for his foundation, though a lot more fun are the outtakes.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A little Update...

Update (02/06)
Some news from David's camp. David's spokesman Bernardo Ballero talked to Argentine news agency Telam about how David is doing these days:
David is in very good spirits, relaxed. He finished a period of recovering muscle mass, as he had lost 6 kilos and he's now spending a week of training on grass in London in order to return at the best possible level.
Apart from that, Ballero confirmed David's grass-court schedule.
David received a wildcard for the Queen's Club and has travelled to London a few days ahead in order to prepare on grass. His plan for the grass-court swing is to play an exhibition [i.e. Boodles] and then afterwards Wimbledon.
- Where, perhaps, some plans for the upcoming Davis Cup tie (July 7-9) will be made...
Tito Vázquez hasn't called, maybe because David didn't play Roland Garros but if they meet at Wimbledon they're going to talk.

It's drawing near now, David's comeback at the Queen's Club. And regardless of whether he gets to play on Monday or Tuesday, one thing is clear - over a hundred days will have gone by since his last match on the ATP Tour, all the way back in February.

Meanwhile, David is in London now, preparing on grass. Perhaps he managed to attend the Champions League final, perhaps somewhere between training sessions he's watching some of the matches at Roland Garros. But whatever it is he's doing these days, he's doing it in complete seclusion. Peace and quiet. Which is certainly nice for him (and the way he likes it) but for me it means - there's absolutely nothing to report.
Ever since an Argentine football journalist met David by chance at a restaurant in Buenos Aires last Wednesday, where David told him that he was planning to fly over to London on Thursday, there's been no news of Mr. Nalbandian. But at least that's going to change soon.

So the only piece of info I have for you at the moment is that the draw for the Queen's Club will be pulled on Saturday, at 4pm GMT. And as usual, I'll do my best to post it here as quickly as possible.