Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Waiting Game (continued): Paris Memories

Another week without any news from David. And another tournament that takes place without him. A situation that's not exactly new, as it happened way too often during the last couple of years. But while it's never great when David can't play there are certain occasions when it's even more frustrating than usual. And this week has to count as one of those - as the tournament that's taking place without him is the Paris Masters.
David has played this event only five times in his career. And three out of those five times he didn't make it past the second round. That this is so very easy to forget has a lot to do of course with his other two appearances.

(Getty Images)
In 2008, David came to Paris-Bercy as the defending champion, at the end of a pretty successful indoor swing. He had won the title at Stockholm and reached the final at Basel (with an early exit at Madrid in-between). At Paris, he didn't catch the best of starts against Nicolas Kiefer but then went on to make short work of Delpo in the next round. Their third meeting in as many weeks only lasted about an hour and the first thing David did afterwards was to ask Delpo if he was okay (that was before Mar del Plata). The first real test David faced in the quarterfinal against Andy Murray and it turned out to be the best match he played that week (highlights here). The semifinal match against Nikolay Davydenko proved to be much more of a challenge. After dominating the first set David seemingly lost the plot and barely managed to win the match in three sets. Back then, nobody knew about his hip injury. Or that he almost withdrew before the final. Looking back at it now, it was a great account that David gave of himself, under the circumstances. Even though he lost to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, continuing the tradition that no Paris champion has defended his title since the 70s .

(Getty Images)
In 2007, David came to Paris-Bercy at the end of a horrible season but also after his surprise run at the Madrid Masters (and the first-round exit at Basel against Stanislas Wawrinka that followed). And it would turn out to be a week to remember. A week that David began with a straightforward win over Nicolas Almagro, followed by an equally uncomplicated victory over Carlos Moya. In the third round, however, David found himself up against the number one player in the world, Roger Federer
- again. Less than two weeks had passed since they met in the final at Madrid and just about everybody thought that Federer would take revenge. In the end, it was a little bit closer than it would've needed to be. But it was David, who prevailed again and this time, he did so in straights. The only set he dropped during that week he dropped in the quarterfinal, where it was time for another Battle of the Davids. After splitting the first two tiebreak sets it was "our" David, and not David Ferrer, who held up better and won. The semifinal, however, was anything but a battle. It took David little more than an hour to beat Richard Gasquet in what can only be described as a true masterclass (highlights here). The final was another repeat of a match that had taken place at Madrid, two weeks before: David against Rafa Nadal. It was a relatively even match - until 4-4. From then on, Nadal didn't get another game (highlights here; all highlights by Andvari). Those were the days at Paris-Bercy...

Last but not least, and as a cure for withdrawal symptoms, here's a look back at what's still my favourite out of all the great matches that David has played at Paris:

Saturday, October 27, 2012

David to Play the Copa Argentina


This year marks the 10th anniversary edition of the Copa Argentina Peugeot de Tenis, also simply known as Copa Argentina. For the first time in the history of the event, it'll be held in cooperation with the AAT. And it was the Argentine federation that published the good news yesterday, spread by Fue Buena (thanks, Guille and Noha) and other journalists:
David is listed as one of the six players, who will take part in this year's Copa Argentina (December 6-9). So he's obviously planning to play the exhibition event at the BALTC again this year, just like he has done every year since 2004.

What this means in the grander scheme of things, I can't really say. As different interpretations would be possible. But for now, I'll take it as a sign that he's making progress with his recovery and that he wants to go back to playing matches. And that's great news.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Rankings Update

It's not clear yet whether it's going to matter in the end but what's clear now is the region of the rankings where David is going to finish this season. Today, his last points from 2011 disappeared from David's count. With his 90 quarterfinal points from Stockholm gone, he loses 12 positions and is now ranked #77. And with no further points to defend and no further events to play, that's pretty much where he's going to be ranked at the end of the year.
And at the start of the next season - if he decides to play another one.

Apart from that there's no further news from David. After his guest appearance at the Challenger event last Friday, he has now dropped off the radar again.

Meanwhile, and even though the first round against Germany next year is still months away, there's been another round of Davis Cup drama, with reports about Delpo skipping the first round (which he usually does, anyway) and then an official denial issued by the AAT. This time, though the drama hasn't been limited to the Argentine team. Only days later, Philipp Kohlschreiber announced that he'll definitely skip the tie, due to his ongoing feud with the German captain. Which is of course good news for Argentina. At the same time it's a step that David wouldn't have taken, also not during his more tumultuous times with Tito Vázquez.
Here's hoping that David will be there in February when the two drama teams get to meet.

Finally, here's a look back at how David gained those Stockholm points he dropped today (courtesy of Andvari):

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Waiting Game


Update (19/10)
Good news - David hasn't disappeared from the face the earth, after all.
(Edit: Photographic proof now added.)
You'll remember the Inés Gorrochategui Academy in Villa Allende, where he trains when he's at home.
This week, it hosts a Challenger event and today, David showed up to watch Leo Mayer's match. He didn't say anything about his plans for the future but apparently he's making some progress with his recovery.
Little by little I'm recovering from my injury. Fortunately, I feel better.

It's not always easy to try and keep up with David.
Not even at the best of times. He values his privacy, especially when he's at home. And it's not at all unusual if there's very little to be heard from him while he's spending some time in Unquillo.

At the moment, however, it's as if David has managed to disappear from the face of the earth. No interviews,
no sightings, whether on the practice court or off of it
- and no news concerning his decision.

The waiting game continues...

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Where Do We Go From Here?

(AP Photo)

Merely a few days ago, it seemed like this season might still end on a positive note for David. It seemed like he'd soon be on his way to Europe for the indoor events, a chance to play in the conditions he likes best (and has done so well in, in the past). It would've also been a chance to draw a line under the the last few months, to forget about the Queen's Club final and everything that has happened since. It would've been a chance to enjoy himself on court.
But what began as a "minimal discomfort" during a practice session ahead of the US Open has now put an end to all those hopes and to David's season. It's the only injury he has suffered this year but it could've hardly come at a more inopportune moment. Now that David is going to decide whether or not to play another year.

Basically, that's been the deal from the start - play until 30 and then see if he wants to go on. There were some variations (for example after he won Washington) but that was the main version, the one he kept returning to during the last couple of years. Ahead of this season, David talked about having two years left of playing at a good level, saying that as long as he managed to stay healthy he'd go on playing. The change came in May. It was around the time of the Madrid Masters that David first said he'd make his decision about retirement at the end of the year. Though back then, he still named his health and fitness as the decisive factors. Since the Queen's Club final the decisive factor has been whether he wants to go on playing.

The last time David answered the question about his possible retirement was at the press conference he gave during the Davis Cup semifinal, a month ago. His reply was:
At the end of the year, I'm going to evaluate how I feel and I'll see what I want to do. Right now, I still want to compete. (Source.)
Back then, he didn't know yet that for him the season was already over. Now he finds himself caught up in another lengthy recovery process, as his injury is obviously more complicated than expected. Sidelined again, like he was far too often during the last two years. At the end of a season that I think has been a severe disappointment for him, and not just the second half of it, because he had very different hopes and expections. So where do we go from here?

There's one thing that could keep him going, despite the disappointment and the latest injury trouble - the Davis Cup, of course. The great dream he's always had and that's still within his reach. Perhaps, watching the Argentine team from the stands during the semifinal has made him realise that he's not ready to give up his dream just yet. He could focus on Davis Cup next year and play a reduced schedule outside of it. Though that would mean abandoning the other goals he had for this year. If he decides to retire then I don't think he'll leave without saying goodbye to his home crowd at the Copa Argentina or at the Copa Claro.

The one thing that's certain right now is that nothing is certain. Also not when David is going to inform us about his decision. So it's some nerve-wracking weeks ahead for us...


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Season is Over - David out of the Indoor Swing

(AFP/Getty Images)
For months, there were no updates of any kind on David's official website. Last night, a new press release was finally added.
But one with devastating news:
David Nalbandian announced today that together with his team he has decided not to take part in the European indoor swing, as a result of not having received the okay from his doctors, concerning the tear in his left abdominal oblique muscle.

Intially, David was planning to play the tournaments in Stockholm, Valencia and Paris-Bercy. However, the injury is not a simple one as the tear caused a small rupture in the area between the rib and the costal cartilage with an estimated recovery time of 6 to 10 weeks.

"The recovery from this injury was slow from the start and I haven't been able to get fit enough to return to the Tour as I had planned with my team."
So for David, the season is over. But while the press relase confirms the worst case scenario for 2012, you'll notice that it doesn't make any mention of a return in 2013. Tamar (thanks!) talked to Bernardo Ballero, David's spokesman, who told her that David still has to decide what he'll do next year and that there's still reason to hope.

Fue Buena add that if possible, David will play the Copa Argentina, the exhibition event in Buenos Aires, in December. But that, apart from his physical state, this will also depend on what his plans are going to be for the next year. And right now, no one can say with certainty.

Monday, October 8, 2012

In Place of an Update...

And to show you that I haven't forgotten about VD - but there's very little to blog about for me at the moment. With David still stubbornly refusing to make any news.
Those who seem to have forgotten about their site, or about the rankings pages at least, are the people in charge of the ATP website... Edit: The new rankings are finally out. David's quarterfinal points from Tokyo last year are gone now, he loses ten positions and is now ranked #63. Though at this stage, losing ground in the rankings is only going to matter if he plays another year.

As for the chances of David, returning at Stockholm next week, there's still no definitive statement from him or his camp. There's only "I think Nalbandian will return at Stockholm" from Argentine journalists (e.g. here). But there's also David's name that's still on the entry list, and his photo and name on the tournament website's player page.
In other words, there's no guarantee and no official confirmation but right now, it looks like David is planning to play Stockholm next week. If so, I'd expect him to travel to Sweden later this week, maybe around Thursday. And of course I'll keep an eye out for any news, as well as for possible sightings of David at Ezeiza airport, getting on the way to Europe.
The draw for Stockholm will be released on Saturday - hopefully with David's name in it.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Uncertainty Continued

(photo by Tamar)
During the last few days, the only news David made was on Twitter, in form of tweets about where he had been spotted. At the races, at the movies, at a Starbucks
- but not on court.
Yesterday, David's foundation held what seems to have been a rather exclusive event at the Estancia Villa Maria on the outskirts of Buenos Aires.
And those who were fourtunate enough to get invited were given the chance to hit a few balls with David after dinner. Tamar was among those who got invited and she took this photo of David, as well as this one of herself, ahead of her turn to hit with him.
A great experience for her and one that I'm sure she must have thoroughly enjoyed.

But while, thanks to Tamar, there's now a couple more photos of David, armed with a racquet and on a tennis court, the actual state of his recovery and with it his chances of playing Stockholm is still a mystery, as apparently this wasn't addressed at the event yesterday.
Right now, the only thing I can say with certainty is that while David's name has by now been officially removed from the entry list for Shanghai, it's still on the list for Stockholm.

Update (04/10)
No news from David but here's Tamar, hitting with him: