Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Olympics, A Past Final & A Future Decision

(La Voz/archive)

It is something that happens from time to time here on VD. Or more specifically, it tends to happen when David is at home and there's nothing for me to report. I mention that there's nothing for me to report, and the very next day - ta dah - a new interview gets published.
In this case, David, who's still in Unquillo at the moment, spoke to Fabián Sacarelli for MundoD/La Voz. The interview starts with David, talking about what's next for him:
It'll be great to take part in the [Olympic] Games in London and it's going to be a bit strange to be doing it at Wimbledon, but it'll be very something very special. Fortunately, we've received a wildcard [invitation by the ITF] for the doubles with [Edu] Schwank so I'm going to play singles and doubles. It's going to be a great week to be at full throttle at the Olympics.

Q: What do you think makes the Olympics so special?

David: They're different. Though the format is the same as with any other tournament, representing the country and what it means to be among the best athletes in the world, those are unique experiences.

Q: What's the interaction between the athletes like, during the Olympics?

David: There's a lot of respect between the athletes. It's spectacular because you get to meet everyone, from all the differents sports and the different countries. You get to be in a very professional atmosphere because everybody is focused on their sport.

Q: These will be the last Olympic Games for you, how does that make you feel?

David: I'll try to enjoy them, to do the best job I can. I won't be seeded so I could play against anybody in the first round, the way it happened at Wimbledon. Hopefully, I'll be fortunate enough to achieve something and to enjoy what are going to be my last Olympic Games.

Q: Some people are obsessed with wanting to win a medal, others want to enjoy the Olympics. To which sort do you belong?

David: To both. If you don't have a goal you don't take part. To play like that, I don't do that, I stay at home and enjoy something else. Because you end up doing badly if you think that way. You try to win and to achieve things, in this case winning a medal, in the case of the Davis [Cup] it's winning the Cup. If you don't play with some goal or purpose you start to lose the essence of competing and once you lose that you don't have the fire it takes to compete at the highest level. So I'll go with a bit of both. If you don't enjoy it there's not much sense in going crazy. You have to deal with it the best way you can but you have to try and enjoy trying to to achieve a goal.

Q: You had a good week at the Queen's Club and you played Wimbledon, both on grass. How well are you going to be prepared for the Olympics?

David: I've been playing well on grass. The Olympics are of course a big goal this season and fortunately I qualified because I kept checking the whole year, to see whether I'd make it, whether I wouldn't make it, whether I'd qualify.

Q: Playing for your country, is it anything like playing Davis Cup, for example?

David: There are some similarities but it's different. Though in both cases you're representing your country those are different competitions. Davis [Cup] you play four times a year and this [the Olympic Games] is one week every four years. The format is different, in Davis Cup you play on the weekend, 5 points, and if you win a match it doesn't mean anything.
I suppose what he means by that is that winning one of those five points in a Davis Cup tie doesn't guarantee a place in the next round and that you also depend on your teammates.
Anyway, the Queen's Club final has become old news by now. But in his first interview for the Argentine press since his arrival back home, there was of course no way around at least a brief statement on what happened:
What happened there was an accident, a lot of bad luck, in the heat of the moment and nothing more than just that. I think that everyone understood and saw it that way. There's no justification for what I did but I didn't see the linesman, I took it out on that board and unfortunately, he got hurt.
From recent events, it's now over to the more distant past. At now 30 years of age, more and more often David gets asked to take a look back and review his career. In this particular case also because of a certain match that he played almost exactly ten years ago.
Q: When you were a boy, did you imagine that you were going to have a life with all this tennis?

David: Let's see... As a child, you always have big dreams. After that, the difficult part is to achieve those things. We don't all have the same luck, the same qualities or the same means to do so. But with hindsight, I realise that I've achieved a lot in this sport, in my life, and that's incredible. To think that what I dreamed of as a boy was accomplished step by step, that's something spectacular that not many people get to achieve. So it's very satisfying.

Q: At the All England [Lawn Tennis] Club, where the Olympics [tennis competition] will be held you reached the final, a decade ago.

David: It was an amazing experience. I was 20 years old and I gave everything I could. I had never played on Centre Court before, always on the outside courts. I didn't get there by chance but because I was winning matches. But my appearance there [in the final] was unexpected. Walking on Centre Court, with all that this meant, for my first Grand Slam final and against Hewitt, the number one in the world, who was unbeatable at that time, there was a very high level of stress and strain. But then I think it would've been the same for anybody. The strain is there for everyone. Some players, in some moments handle it better or worse and in that moment the emotional pressure was huge and I wasn't able to free myself of that. Apart from that, Hewitt played a great match.

Q: Reaching the final at Wimbledon is something that only few players achieve. Now, with hindsight, do you appreciate what you did back then?

David: I've said it several times, while you're inside the maelstrom and inside the tennis bubble you don't stop and you don't get to enjoy it. You can never stop the ball and say, "look what I've achieved, what I've done". Tennis players end their week on Sunday and on Monday or Tuesday, they're playing a different tournament. So you never have the time to relax and be happy about all that you've achieved. That's why the vast majority of tennis players, when they retire, spend a year without doing anything because it's only then that you realise what you've done in your career. While you're still playing it's a full-time job, things happen, happen, you have to move forward, and add to that the travelling and training and it's very difficult to step on the brake and enjoy those moments.

Q: Is that what you're doing right now?

David: I'm more aware of myself, I'm starting to think differently but I'm still active as a player. You live at a very high speed, though I no longer keep up the same kind of rhythm like at 20 or 21 years of age, which was madness. So it's difficult to get there and even more difficult to stay there. You're permanently up against everybody else.
Which brings us, once again, to the big one, in terms of questions for David:
Q: You haven't planned your retirement yet but what do you think it's going to be like to get to that moment?

David: I'm going to play for as long as I still enjoy it and want to compete. On the day I lose these things it won't matter whether I'm doing fine, physically, or not. It's all about what goes on in your head and if you lose that desire and the motivation to compete then you ask yourself why you're doing all of this. I still want to play and I'm still motivated to compete, despite my physical problems and the rest. I want to play, I have goals and the season ends at the end of the year. And only then am I going to assess whether I want to play another year, if I want to do the pre-season, or not. I haven't set a date but I won't do things by halves. When I finish the year, at that moment I'm going to decide whether I'm going to set goals for myself in the next tennis year.
Until now, David's reply to questions like this one was that at the end of the year, his decision concerning retirement would depend on his physical state. While the mental aspect, his desire and motivation to go on playing never seemed to be an issue. That he now talks about these things as the decisive factor is new. And in my opinion, it's not a good sign. I have mentioned it before, the impression I get is that so far, this current, injury-free season has failed to live up to David's expectations (more about this in my upcoming review post).
The good news in this context is that the second half of the season is still ahead, with the Olympics, the US hardcourt events and the indoor swing. And the latter are traditionally good parts of the season for David. But this time, I think, an awful lot could depend on them.

Edit: On a lighter (but not necessarily prettier) note, here's a first impression of what the courts at Wimbledon will look like during the Olympics:

(Reuters)





14 comments:

  1. I didn't expect to see a new post when I checked the blog but it's certainly always good to hear from him.
    I feel the same way you feel about the "motivation and desire" part. I can't take that as a good indication! I honestly hope things start to brighten up for him starting the Olympics because the kind of luck he's been having lately can kill anybody's motivation! And his pic above is giving me bad vibes :p
    Since purple is the colour of Al Ain FC which is my city's football club I'm going to say wow what a beautiful court :p

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  2. The pic is from their archives (from a shoot they did last year). I just used it because there are no new photos at the moment.
    I think what's probably killing his motivation is that he's injury-free now but he isn't really doing better than during the last two seasons. I'm still going to write a post about that.
    Anyway, okay, I don't like pink in general (nothing against your city's club). But come on, it does look weird at Wimbledon... ;)

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    1. It's purple not pink. I hardly can think of pink for a football club colour ;)

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    2. Well, I have to admit that I like neither pink, nor purple... :P
      But some football teams play in in pink shirts or have done so in the past, including Juventus Turin...

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  3. I rather think his 2012 season (1 runner, 2 SF and 2 QF) is better than his 2009, 2010 and 2011 results (when he played on a 'part-time' basis).

    His only problem in 2012 is that he lost some matches to lower ranked players that he should have won.

    I would not expect him to beat Tipsarevic / Tsonga / Berdych / etc. (top 20 players) all the time, but rather hope he would post occasional upsets, and he did this year, beating top10-20 players like Cilic, Tipsarevic, Monaco and Simon.

    Perhaps he is disappointed that he still failed to score 1 BIG victory in the last few years? For instance, he should have a chance to beat Murray in Rome and Nadal in Indian Wells...

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  4. I'd say his problem is that with the sole exception of IW, he has only managed to get past the second round at 250 events. Something that has never happened before to David, who has always maintained that he prefers and focuses on the big events. Apart from that, I doubt that he'd regard beating Cilic, Pico or Simon as a big achievement and pulling off an upset, regardless of the rankings.

    I think his expectations were very different when he was playing on a "part-time basis", as you call it, in 2010 and 2011 (2009 is a different matter as that was before surgery).
    And that he thought once he gets to play on a regular basis again, he'd be able to go back to being, more or less at least, the player he was in the days before the problems with his hip began. But that's obviously not the case.
    More about this in my upcoming post.

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  5. To he honest, the game has passed him by. Not unexpected really, but he missed so many opportunities, past and present. Currently, the crop of players he faces these days are bigger and stronger and have more weapons to hurt him with. The way he plays is not sustainable anymore, and it has taken a mental as well as physical toll on him. I have the feeling that this WILL be his last season, but, as he says, it will come down to the end of the year....whether feels he can hang in there or not.

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  6. I don't think it's his way of playing that's the problem, not as such. And if you look at the players he has lost to this season, then only a couple of them belong to that new, "bigger and stronger" generation.
    I think David is faced with the realisation that he's an "old man" now and that he won't ever be the player again he was prior to hip surgery. The feeling that the end is near I've had for a while now (and I'm not the only one) but I still hope he'll prove me wrong.

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  7. He was one game away from beating both Nadal and Murray in Masters Events. He's beaten Tsonga, a Top 5 player. He reached the Queens final. And the game has passed him by?

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  8. If you still expect him to make semis or better at Slams or beat any of the Top4 on a good day, well, that ship has sailed. But to say that the game has passed him by is way too harsh, I think.

    In this particular case, I agree with you, Chris. And since there's already been a reply to your comment, I'll let it pass this one time.

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  9. I don't believe at all that the game has passed him by! Yah he isn't what he used to be but he still has what it takes to play at high levels and take out top level players!

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  10. Aaaargh! That is VERY purple! And I do like the colour... just not such a sea of it.

    I will be going on the first Sunday. Fingers crossed David plays either his singles or doubles that day. :)

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  11. Fingers crossed Istabraq! Have fun :)

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