Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"I wasn't able to take the initiative" - David's Loss to Ungur

"Throughout the match I wasn't able to take the initiative the way I would've liked to."
A statement from David that sums up his performance yesterday and also what went wrong during this match that ended with Adrian Ungur prevailing 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 7-5, sealing David's first ever first-round exit at Roland Garros. The vast majority of those three hours the match took, David spent trapped a few metres behind the baseline, chasing down Ungur's shots or rushing forward, trying to counter his drop-shots. Reacting to his opponent rather than acting, himself. Never really finding a way of executing his own game and growing increasingly frustrated in the process.
You always, until the very last moment, think about what you can do to come back, what to change. Today, it didn't work out.
(Jacques Demarthon/AFP/Getty Images)
From the start, Ungur dominated most of the rallies. And it was especially his backhand that caused David all sorts of trouble and would continue to do so throughout the match. Early on, at 2-1 for Ungur, David dropped his serve on a couple of unforced errors. And also because David couldn't seem to find his returns, this one break proved to be enough for Ungur to take the first set 6-3.

During the second set, David was still playing too passively but at least managed to hold serve more easily than before. They stayed on serve until at 6-5 for David, Ungur, serving to stay in the set, went down 0-40, granting David his first break points of the match. Eventually, he took the fifth he got in this game and with it the second set, 7-5.

(Bernat Armangue/AP Photo)
At this point, it seemed like David might gain some momentum now but at the start of the third set, he immediately lost his serve again, once more on a couple of unforced errors. David saved further break points at 3-1 and unlike at the beginning of the match he now had some chances to break Ungur, at 3-2 and then also when Ungur served for the set at 5-4. David had but couldn't convert two break points during that game and eventually, Ungur closed out the third set, 6-4.

During the fourth set, David visibly tried to play more aggressively and get closer to the baseline. At 2-1, he had two chances to break but once again didn't make it (he ended up converting only one of the eleven break points he had in this match). With David playing a bit better now, especially during his own service games, they remained on serve until at 5-5, David handed Ungur a break point with a drop-shot into the net and then committed his eighth double fault of the match. With Ungur serving for the match afterwards, David had one last break point. But Ungur responded with an ace and then finished off what was a very good match from him by converting his second match point.

Sometimes, David plays matches where it doesn't necessarily look like he really cares about what comes out of it in the end. Matches, where he seems disinterested. But this was not one of them. David was obviously frustrated, smashed his racquet several times and kept berating himself for the "shit" (quote) he was playing. Still, he fought, even deep behind the baseline, and actually, he was moving as well as I've seen him move on clay since hip surgery. More often than not, his movement is the main cause for concern and usually also the reason if he makes too many unforced errors. But many of those 37 unforced errors he made in this match, often at crucial moments, seemed to be more the result of, quite simply, helplessness. Most of the time, David was unable to put Ungur under pressure with his shots, so he ended up taking more and more risks - and also often going for the wrong shot.
Obviously, I didn't play a good match today and I also didn't feel really good. I have ups and downs, I come and go during matches. I can't find a precise explanation, it's rather complicated. I also haven't won that many matches this year, so I don't have confidence. That's what's been happening. Year after year it gets more difficult for me, new players arrive on the scene all the time, the pace gets higher and that costs you.
The last two seasons were most of all a struggle with constant injuries, pauses and comebacks. And yet, in-between all of that David managed to play some great tennis. Occasionally even while being injured, like with his victory over Ungur in Davis Cup last year. This season, there have been no injuries and pauses but two semifinals and two quarterfinals for David, with his run at Indian Wells as the highlight, so far. But still, it seems that his results don't really match the expectations he probably had for an injury-free season.
After three surgeries it's very difficult to regain the high level that I had at some points [during my career]. And that's natural, that's what happens to everybody. It's a process I have to deal with but I'm in the middle of the season, there's still a lot of events to play. I have to keep moving forward and see what happens.
Now, if David talks about looking ahead at what's still to come this season, it's clear of course what he's really talking about:
It's still ages until Davis Cup, it's May now. I need to keep on working in order to be in the best possible shape by September.
(David's quotes from the clip above, this clip, La Nacion & Infobae.com)


  1. I feel for David. The fact that he was frustrated makes me sad because we know he wanted to do good but wasn't able to.
    Good thing is he's healthy.

    and Davis Cup, of course :)
    (It makes me think of a tweet sent by the DavisCup twitter account, mispelling David Nalbandian as DaviS Nalbandian lol :)

    oh, totally out of context : Edu is now leading 2 sets to 0 against Karlovic, with a 6-0 in the second set!!! wow! think I'll watch the 3rd set now!

    1. um, no I can't, no camera on their court, of course :$ (haha)

  2. That's a very common typo, by the way. I've seen it before, on various news sites - and I've also done it a few times on VD here, myself... ;)

    Of course he was very much frustrated with his performance and with not being able to do better than he did. It's just that since David will make his decision about retiring at the end of the season, the question is - how content or frustrated is he with the way things are going now, in general.

  3. The day when tennis died...it is so frustrating to see an extremely talented player, and yet to know, that no GS, masters or even ATP 500 will be won...it's a great joy to be amazed with some great rallies and classy attacks, but is it worth feeling the pain after losing to absolute mediocrities such as Ungur...i have never been more sad from tennis perspective...maybe it's time to call a day for the great David after this season...what do you think guys? any positive ideas besides welcoming David to full clay season? Any chances he will regain some of his physical explosiveness?

  4. Ungur was the better player in this match. I'm not happy to say it but that's simply a fact. But it's not like in the past, David never suffered any shock defeats, against players you wouldn't have necessarily thought he would or could possibly lose to. As such, a defeat like that is nothing new.

    But I think it's the grander scheme of things that matters here. And David's expectations for this so far injury-free season. The last two years (or three, actually) he couldn't play RG. Now he finally gets the chance - and goes out in the first round. I think that based on what he was able to do between all those injuries the last two years, he must've thought that if only he could stay healthy he'd be able to do rather well again. But judging by his reactions after the match, that's obviously not the way he sees his results, this year.
    As he has said himself, his best years are behind him. To me, he looks as fit as he can be at this stage and under the circumstances. If that's no longer enough to get the results he wants, well, then it could all be over in a few months.

  5. in other news, Chela has lost his 1st round match. This means David has almost one foot in London Olympics :D

    All I can hope is that David will be luckier on grass, draw-wise. Win a couple of matches the way he'd like to win them, it always saddens me to see him frustrated during a match :(

  6. Yeah, Chela will fall back in the rankings when last year's RG points come off on Monday.
    Which leaves Leo Mayer. He was never part of my calculations but he managed to sneak up in the rankings during the last few weeks. Still, he as well would have to make semis in order to replace David as the fourth Argentine player. He's still in the draw now but when he loses it'll be official.

  7. He should be one of the 16 seeds in Queen's Club, right? I hope he could reach SF or QF.

    And I wonder how many players in the top 30 will choose not to take part in Wimbledon (e.g., those clay court specialists). If Nalby's ranking moves up to +-#35 after Queen's, he would still have a chance to be seeded.

    I just think clay is now Nalby's weakest surface and it is too much for him to play best-of-5-set matches on clay. In fact, his stamina (esp after surgeries) is no longer enough to deal with 5-set matches. That explains his poor GS results since 2007. We should really be proud if he reaches R3 or R4.

    Perhaps grass is better. Fast and short rallies. But the drawback is the difficulty to deal with the huge serves of some players (I dont wanna see him playing Raonic in R1 at Wimbledon!!!)

    1. Results-wise, grass is his weakest surface.

    2. It is very ironic that his only GS final appearance was Wimbledon 2002. Very funny...

      I just hope he will do well in Queen's next week!!!

      But this year's results are not bad at all - 2SF + 2QF, and close matches against Nadal, Murray and Isner.

      I will pray intensively in the next 10 days that he will do well in Queens and will be seeded for Wimbledon. I want to see him playing a qualifier ranked #300 in R1 of Wimbledon.

      But at least he is almost certain to be seeded for US open...

    3. Well, Wimbledon 2002 was unique in many ways. For one thing, you don't usually get to a Slam final without meeting anyone inside the Top20.

      I don't think his results this year are bad, either. But as I wrote in my post, the impression I get is that David had different expectations for this season.

      Of course it would be nice if he could be seeded at Wimbledon. But it wouldn't guarantee anything. As for the USO, well, depends on what happens until then.

  8. And I also think he should not give himself too much pressure - since he said his best years are behind him, then he should have no more pressure on his shoulder. Just train + play for fun.

    Doing what you love, and loving what you do is most important!

    Think about those who train hard everyday for the Olympics - there are only 3 people winning medals, yet thousands of people are training hard, even if they know they have 0% to medal.

    Nalby should 'learn' from these people, just relax and enjoy the twilight of his career!!!

    I just hope he will beat Nadal once (indoor?) before he retires...

  9. In the last quote he says what it's all about for him at this stage. And has been, throughout his career.
    I know that many find it difficult to understand his obsession with DC. Or how DC can be more important to him than Slams. But he still has a shot at winning the title he always wanted more than anything else and that he suffered so much for. And as he said, that's the goal he'll keep on working for.

  10. Just saw Ungur squander two set points against Federer. At least he's giving a good account of himself. Don't know that that will make David feel any better. Nice summary of the match and David's situation right now, Julia. Yeah, it's got to be really frustrating for him. No injuries, but not the results. I think it's kind of what we're also seeing with Kolya, Roddick and Hewitt. Juan Carlos, too. Sad, but reality.

  11. Geez, Ungur just took the set in a tiebreaker.

  12. Thanks, John. Yeah, it's the changing of the guard now...
    And yeah, not sure it'll make things easier for David but Ungur definitely proves he's playing well at the moment.

    Did you notice who's umpiring the Fed/Ungur match? Kader Nouni, David's special friend.

  13. No, I didn't. Hadn't seen any umpire exchanges at that point. Nouni wouldn't dare do anything with Federer.

  14. I just need to hear his voice to recognise him.

    Which reminds me - no idea what happened with David's $8000 fine and his appeal.

  15. I had the sound down, otherwise I would have too. Yeah, they must have forgotten about it.

  16. Well, that we didn't get to hear anything more about it makes me think he probably didn't have any success with his appeal and had to pay. Because you never hear anything about those fines that players pay, only about those that are successfully appealed.

    By the way, it looks like David won't be playing Boodles this year, at least not as in taking part in the "tournament". Maybe he'll play a one-off match. In any case, that's very unusual...

  17. Hmmm strange with Boodles... do I read too much into things, don't I?

  18. I don't know what to make of it. But he could still go there to train on grass and maybe play one of the extra matches. We'll see.

    Only one thing is certain, his next tournament won't be Birmingham, as the latest article on the official site claims, repeating its (rather silly) mistake...

  19. hahaha Birmingham, he would be the only man in the draw :D (that can make headlines for sure lol)

    oooh too bad for Boodles :(

  20. yee-haw!! looks like David is in London already :)
    I just saw a tweet from Diego Torres who had a show in London yesterday and took a pic with David, who attended the concert <3


    to be honest, I only know Diego Torres by his name and really don't know his music, might as well check out as David seems to enjoy it lol :)

  21. Thanks for the link. :)
    Adolfo Cambiaso, who's also on the pic (and apparently friends with Diego Torres), is a good old friend of David and they usually meet in London at this time of the year. I guess he'll accompany him to QC and Wimbledon again. Cambiaso is arguably the best polo player in the world and a big star in Argentina.

    Well, at least David has time now to train on grass. :)

  22. I always wonder if Nalby would have a better career if he was born 10 years earlier? In the 1990s, we could still see players without strong serves could win GSs mainly based on their beautiful rallies, and no need to to hit the ball extremely hard. Just think about Agassi, Chang and Courier.

    His serve is extremely weak in today's standard, yet it would be regarded as very strong in the 1990s or even 2000s.

    I REALLY REALLY REALLY hope that Argentina would win Davis Cup, then he achieves his career goal. Then his body is still okay, and he could play full-time 1 more year in 2013, focusing on individual success + pure enjoyment on court.

    He really should not put too much pressure on himself and get frustrated. He should enjoy every moment on court.

    I am already thinking of the day we won't see the surname 'Nalbandian' on the scoreboard on TV...

    And I hope he will win 1 more tournament and beat Nadal before retired...

  23. Would he have done better in the 90s? We'll never know.
    I'm not sure he'd stay on the Tour for another season after winning DC. In that case, I think he'd get pure enjoyment out of other things, like rally driving. I mean, he has never focused as exclusively on tennis as Fed, for example.
    Speaking of whom, if I got to choose, I'd love to see one more great match against and victory over Fed. :)