Saturday, March 17, 2012

Defeated But Not Broken - David Loses to Nadal

You never like to lose. It's something that leaves you with a bad feeling. But I think that I played a good match, it was tough. I had many chances and couldn't convert them in some moments.
Seconds after he had defeated David 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 in yesterday's quarterfinal, Rafael Nadal went over to David, put a hand on his shoulder and said a few words to him, in an attempt to comfort his friend. It was a well-meant gesture but it didn't seem to help much in that moment. For that, David had been too close to victory, himself. But once he gets over the intial disappointment, and according to his team that never takes more than a couple of hours, he can look back at this match and be proud of himself. Not just because he had Nadal on the brink of defeat. This time, he didn't break down physically towards the end.

(Harry How/Getty Images)
Doing well against Rafael Nadal especially in the first sets of their matches is a tradition with David. And yet, it's been a while since the last time he was able to put Nadal under constant pressure, the way he did it during much of this first set. Solid on serve from the start (he saved a single break point at 2-2) and making only few unforced errors at this stage, David refused to let himself be pushed too far behind the baseline. Instead he took the ball early and relied mostly on his backhand for getting Nadal out of position or for going down the line, into Nadal's often wide-open forehand corner. David was mostly in control of proceedings, the only thing missing was a break. But when he finally got the chance, with Nadal serving to save the set at 5-4, David immediately converted his very first break point that was also a set point.

Early on in the second set, David had the chance to go up a break but Nadal managed to save both break points David had at 1-0. A similar situation occurred when they met at Miami 2010 and back then, David fell apart, afterwards. He didn't, this time around and he remained solid on serve. But during the rallies, David was now starting to find it more difficult to stay in control. It was only a slight shift but it was noticeable, also in the way that David now tried to finish points earlier but not always selecting the best shot to do so. Still, after a great service game from David to go up 5-4, Nadal served to stay in the match and at 30-30, David was two points away from victory. But Nadal won the next two points easily and made it to 5-5. Until that point, David still hadn't played one of his poor service games in this match - but this was the moment he chose for the first. Setting up a break point with a drop-shot into the net and then making the double-fault to grant Nadal the break. A turn of events that Nadal took advantage of, of course, winning the the second set 7-5.

(Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)
Going into the third set now, the question was of course how well David would be able to hold up, physically. And when he immediately lost his serve and then faced further break points at 2-0,
it looked like this match might go down the same road as their previous encounter at Indian Wells, back in 2009, with Nadal now taking control of proceedings and with David no longer able to
keep him from dictating with his forehand. But
this time, David saved those break points, showing that he was still willing and above all
able to fight. And he did, even after he lost his serve again to grant Nadal a 5-2 lead. Although the match was virtually over at this stage, David managed to break Nadal as he served for the match in the following game. And when Nadal tried to close it out once more at 5-4, David again held break points. But the shot that earned him the set point in the first set, the drop-shot, didn't work this time, Nadal saved the second break point as well and then closed it out, after all.

It's most of all the third set that sets this match apart from the other ones that David has lost to Rafael Nadal. At a stage of the match where all seemed lost, David was still able to make a final stand. And even if in the end it wasn't enough to turn things around, this time at least he had the chance to try, without his body making it impossible for him. Last season, his body made all kinds of things impossible for David. Now, he's finally able to concentrate on his game again and on playing matches.
I think I played well. I've been improving my game step by step throughout the week. I think that I attacked and played aggressively rather well at times.
(Quotes via Fue Buena.)
So that was it, David's run at Indian Wells. With four victories, including back-to-back wins over two Top10 players. On Monday, those 180 ranking points for making the quarterfinal will see David moving up what should be 24 positions to #50. Inside the cut for the Olympics, though at the moment, there are still four other Argentines ahead of him in the rankings.
Also on Monday, Martin Jaite is going to officially announce the Argentine team for the Davis Cup quarterfinal tie against Croatia (April 6-8). And last but not least, Monday is also the day that the draw will be made for Miami, with David once again in the main draw without needing a wildcard. Will he be able to pull off another surprise run at Miami, where he usually doesn't do that well? Who knows, but at least, he'll have the chance to try.

(Harry How/Getty Images)


  1. Sorry for the extensive editing and the incomplete paragraphs... I had to write this one in a hurry but I'll have more time again next week. :)

    1. Initially incomplete, I should say...

  2. nalbandian had so many chances to win yesterday, i dont understand how he keeps letting nadal get away with it.

  3. David came very close to having a chance at 6-4, 5-4, 30-30. It's not like he wasted several match points, or something.

  4. Julia deutsch ??

    1. Ah ok :) wollte nur mal wissen :)

    2. Interesting way of asking... lol

  5. thank you Julia! I'm happy David is one of those players who don't remain disappointed during long days after a loss. I'm happy he has a great mindset that keeps him being proud of his week in Indian Wells, being aware that he had some chances but well, he was just not lucky, and playing Rafa is always tough.

    Will DelPo join the team for the Croatie tie... I hope so!
    And good luck David for the Miami draw, hope he'll get to play and win a couple matches again :)

  6. And his backhand is such a thing of beauty. I'm always amazed on how it looks easy to him to hit a backhand in every position, and place the shot almost anywhere he wants to place it.
    Time may fly so fast, injuries may have ruined his chances to win a Grand Slam, but talent will always be there.

  7. If David has forgotten the defeat I am happy about that and that makes me happy too.

  8. i want to confess i know that in ten years time every one will still remember nadal but will forget nalbandian but i will never forget him because every true tennis fan knows nalbandian is the greatest talent the sport has ever seen his game his tactics his pure technic on the shots are astounding when you see comments on the latest highlights from tennis fans and to hear robbie koenig speaks about nalbandian saying that when is in good shape he is as good as anybody to ever play the game is making you feel you are not alone and that there are allot of people that loves his game
    i really believe that in terms of beautiful game groundstrokes and talent nalbandian is superior to nadal and everyone maybe except federer which is maybe equal to him
    and you know what let them have their grandslams and titles because i would not trade davids game to play like nadal and have 10 grand slams i want him to stay the way he is
    i will always want to see nalbandians highlighs
    bottom line is nalbandian made me love tennis again
    nalbandian made me buy a raquet and go play
    nalbandian is tennis for me
    and always will be

  9. iam really curious about David performance in Miami?The Davis cup tie is coming soon.Only one week from the Miami final weekend. I hope he got energy left for another good run on a master series tournament.Aware of that davids priority is davis cup.

  10. I'm really happy that he did so well in Indian Wells. Practice is so important and also important for his confidence.
    Let's see how he will do in Miami. Hopefully he will have a good draw again!

  11. So nice that we don't have to wait long till David plays his next tournament since the begin of this year :)