Monday, April 9, 2012

Davis Cup Quarterfinal: Argentina Beats Croatia - An Epilogue

It was Argentina's first home tie in almost a year and it ended in victory and celebrations. After the drama and the long hours of play on the first two days, on the third and final day, Delpo had no difficulties, beating a visibly exhausted Marin Cilic to win the decisive third point for the Argentine team. To finish things off, Pico defeated Antonio Veic 6-1, 6-1 in the dead fifth rubber, finalising the score at 4-1 for Argentina. A great result but also one that makes this quarterfinal victory over Croatia seem easier and more one-sided than it actually was.

For this tie, captain Martin Jaite chose the same strategy that had paid off in the first round against Germany, with David playing on the first two days. And he made it known well in advance that he would go with David and Delpo on the first day, which of course made things easier for the players, knowing what was ahead. But Jaite probably also wanted the Croats, and especially Marin Cilic, to know what was ahead for them. After all, going into this tie, David had a flawless record against Cilic, including the crushing defeat he inflicted on him in the Davis Cup quarterfinal 2006. So by playing David against him on the first day, Jaite was probably counting on a certain "intimidation factor". But Cilic refused to let himself be intimidated. And especially during that first match, David found himself struggling with adversity of a different kind. In the words of Martin Jaite:
He's okay, physically. But this wasn't his best tie. I think what also affected him was the weather, with so much wind swirling around [on court]. It's bad for David's game.
After David's five-hour loss to Cilic and after Delpo then levelled the score at 1-1 with his straight-set win over Ivo Karlovic, in the doubles rubber David and Edu Schwank showed once again why they are such a great doubles team for Argentina in Davis Cup. Although David must've been tired after his marathon match on the first day, and even though it was a rather patchy match from both of them, together they weathered the storm (not just figuratively speaking) and fought their way through this match and to victory. Making this the third doubles rubber they've now won for Argentina in as many appearances together.

A few words about Delpo. In the past, he has often enough been criticised (also by David) for a lack of commitment to the Davis Cup cause. During the weekend, Delpo overcame sickness, fever, allergies and an eye infection to play and
win both of his singles matches. Showing again just how important he is for the Argentine team. And the team, including Martin Jaite, can continue to count on him.
After his decisive victory over Cilic, Delpo promised that he'll be there for the semifinal, as well as for a possible final.

It was a difficult tie, closer than the final score indicates and tougher than expected. But what helped the Argentine team in its battle against the opponent, the conditions and physical problems was the once more simply amazing crowd at the Parque Roca. Those 14.500 at the Estadio Mary Terán de Weiss, whose undying and, as always, very vocal support spurred on the Argentine players (Delpo called it "the best remedy" for his ailments) but also deeply impressed the Croats (both Cilic and Karlovic called the crowd "incredible").
Five months from now, the Argentine team will return to the Parque Roca for the semifinal against the Czech Republic (September 14-16). And so will the Argentine fans with their flags, their drums and their chants. During the weekend, they premiered a new one, about Martin Jaite, leading the team and the whole country to the long-awaited Davis Cup title.
But Jaite remains humble:
The players are the ones who make history. Fortunately, I've been chosen as captain but I don't win anything. I'm with the team, nothing more than that. And now... We've just finished the quarterfinal, we're not yet thinking about the semifinal.
And not only David's fans suffer during his matches, his captain does, as well...
It's difficult to say whether I enjoyed myself more than I suffered... On the last day, yes. During the doubles, no. It's a mixture of emotions. On the one hand, you suffer during the matches but on the other, you enjoy the atmosphere. But you suffer a lot, that's for sure. (Source.)
It really wasn't the best Davis Cup tie David has ever played, and least of all at home. But after over ten hours spent on court, and after at least winning the doubles with Edu Schwank, David gets the break now that he said he was going to take after the Davis Cup tie. Three weeks, the majority of which he'll probably spend at home, getting some rest before preparing for what will hopefully be his first complete European clay-court swing since 2008.
After playing three weeks in a row during the Golden Swing, David is planning to the same in Europe, following the current pause. Starting at Belgrade (April 30 - May 6) and then the two Masters events at Madrid and Rome before, if all goes well, playing Roland Garros. It would be the first time in four years. But first of all, a well-earned break for David.

Finally, without having gained any additional points for his singles ranking, David remains at 905 points for the moment but still moves up one spot this week to #49.