Saturday, March 31, 2012

First Training at the Parque Roca

(José Luis Dominguez)

While I'm posting this, David and Eduardo Schwank (Edit: Delpo will join them tomorrow, Pico on Monday) are having their first practice session at the venue, after training at the Tenis Club Argentino yesterday. Here's a look at David, "live" from that session.

There was no press conference today but on Argentine TV channel TyC Sports, Martin Jaite confirmed that he's planning to rely on David and Delpo for playing the first two singles rubbers on Friday (source) and that David will play the doubles with Eduardo Schwank (source).

A few more photos from today now on the Photo Page.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Destination: Parque Roca

Update (29/03)

The Parque Roca is ready and it won't be as empty as this for much longer. The Croatian team arrived in Buenos Aires tonight and will have its first on-site training session tomorrow. David and the rest of the Argentine team (except Juan Monaco) on the other hand will also train in Buenos Aires tomorrow but will make their first appearance at the Parque Roca on Saturday, when there's apparently also going to be a first press conference (source).


It's only a little more than a week now until Argentina's Davis Cup quarterfinal against Croatia (April 6-8). And after contesting three away ties in a row, this one will mark the return of the Argentine team to playing at its home venue, the Estadio Mary Terán de Weiss at the Parque Roca in Buenos Aires. Also simply known as Parque Roca.

Martin Jaite already announced his line-up on the day the draw was made for Miami and apart from David, he nominated Juan Martin Del Potro, Juan Monaco and Eduardo Schwank (with Juan Ignacio Chela as a fifth, reserve player). Yesterday, Croatia's captain Zeljko Krajan followed suit and this will be his team for the quarterfinal: Marin Cilic, Ivo Karlovic, Antonio Veic and Lovro Zovko. (With Ivan Dodig absent due to a back injury.)

Ahead of his first home tie as Argentina's captain, Martin Jaite gave a couple of interviews during the last few days. Apart from answering the inescapable questions about David and Delpo ("I don't think there's going to be any problem") and admitting that being captain was his dream for many years, Jaite also talked about his strategy for the tie, concerning David.
Our plan has always been to have David play on two days. For me, it's not a good thing if a player plays on all three days because a Davis Cup tie like that leaves the player exhausted, physically and mentally. So it's better to be able to get some rest. For David, we always had in mind playing a singles and the doubles.
And just like at Bamberg, this could mean playing on the first two days:
Given our situation today, if the tie took place tomorrow then David and Del Potro would play on the first day. (Source.)
In this case, David would face Marin Cilic on Friday (while Delpo would take on Ivo Karlovic) and then play the doubles with Eduardo Schwank on Saturday. An offensive strategy, aimed at deciding the tie already in the doubles, like in the previous round against Germany.

But whether or not Jaite is going to stick with this strategy, for David, returning to the Parque Roca also means returning to the scene of his most horrific and momentous match last year. It was in the first round against Romania that David played against Adrian Ungur, despite being injured. A few days later, he had to undergo a double surgery.
Fortunately, a lot has changed since then and this season, for the first time in three years, David has so far been able to play a normal schedule. Which, according to his physio Claudio Galasso, is the result of hard work and having had a proper pre-season, with David no longer having to limit his fitness training to swimming and biking. At the same time, his early exit at the Australian Open made it possible to get in another round of training to prepare for the Golden Swing. And breaks like that, also to get a bit of rest, will continue to be a necessity. In David's words:
As I've been playing more matches and tournaments I have to take more breaks because I can't go on playing as much as I have until now. After the Davis Cup I'm definitely going to pause, to rest and recover a bit. How long? Two or three weeks. (Source.)
It looks like it's going to be three weeks, until the European clay-court swing will start for David at the Belgrade Open (April 30 - May 6). But first of all it's - destination Parque Roca.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A New Interview

Having added another early exit to his long history of early exits at Miami, David gets a bit of a break now, ahead of the upcoming Davis Cup quarterfinal against Croatia.
And I assume that he's at home at the moment, before next week, the team will get together to prepare for the tie in Buenos Aires.

However, before leaving Miami, David took a moment to talk to Miguel Angel Bertulotto for Clarin.
About his chances of winning that elusive Slam, Delpo's comeback on the Davis Cup team, playing the Olympics and a few other things.

Here's the interview...

Q: At Miami, you lost to Janko Tipsarevic, a Top10 player you beat the week before at Indian Wells. Still, in the light of your excellent run in California and your move up the rankings, where you've gone from 74 up to 50, and with your tennis back in full force - can you still hope to win a Grand Slam?

David: No, I cannot in any way hope to win a Grand Slam. Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Murray, the four at the top, have a very high level and there's a clear difference between them and the rest. Beating them at a tournament of this kind, and in what would basically have to be consecutive matches, that's impossible. At 30 years of age and having had three surgeries, I can't aspire to that sort of thing. I've come to terms with that.

Q: Do you think that for your career, not having won a Grand Slam is an unresolved matter?

David: I don't know if I think of it that way. When I came very close to winning one I didn't make it. Because my opponents were better, because they made the most of their chances, or whatever it was. I'm a contemporary of Federer, of Nadal... Now there are Djokovic, Murray... Basically no chance. With them around it wasn't easy to win a Slam. What can I do... Actually, I don't feel it's like an outstanding debt. It simply didn't happen.

Q: How do you like Del Potro's return to the Davis Cup team?

David: Very well. It's great that he's coming back because you always need to be able to rely on the best players. Hopefully, we can all do our part for the good of the team.

Q: There's a phrase that's been established about the chance of finally winning the Davis Cup: now or never. Playing at home fuels those kinds of expectations. Do you also think that it's now or never?

David: The journalists came up with that phrase. And I don't know if people think the same. We [the team] never said that. Playing in Buenos Aires, all you need is a good opportunity but we didn't say anything like that. It's true that the home advantage means we're the clear favourite against Croatia and we have to make the most of that situation. But the matches have to be played and won. We have to stay very calm and not put ourselves under any additional pressure.

Q: Would winning the Davis Cup be the perfect end for your career?

David: I don't know. What I want is to win it. Then we'll see what I'm going to do...

Q: Did you expect a performance like the one at Indian Wells? You reached the quarterfinal and there lost to Rafael Nadal but before that you beat Marin Cilic, Janko Tipsarevic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

David: I played rather well, that's true. But I have to keep improving in the two aspects, tennis and fitness, in order to be more consistent against players like those who are at the top of the rankings. I know that this is the way, the right track, and hopefully, I can continue on it.

Q: Do you hope to be playing the Olympics?

David: Yeah, of course. But right now I'm not qualified. I hope that I can qualify and play there. That would be great.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Goodbye Miami - David's Loss to Tipsarevic


A picture says more than a thousand words, as the old saying has it. And the picture above surely says a lot about David's loss to Janko Tipsarevic in the second round at Miami. Without having seen the match, it's impossible to say what was different this time, compared to David's victory over Tipsarevic at Indian Wells, ten days earlier. But in David's opinion, it was a matter of not taking his opportunities - and the opponent playing better than him.
I had many chances, in the second set I was ahead. I had chances all the time but I couldn't take those opportunities. I also think that I played very well in some moments.
But I think he played better than I did.
After Tipsarevic held for 1-0, David faced but managed to save a couple of break points. But already in his next service game he was under pressure again and this time, Tipsarevic took the first opportunity that presented itself to him, he got the break and a 3-1 lead. In the following game however, Tipsarevic went down 0-40, granting David his first break points of the match. He took the third one, getting them back on serve at 3-2, and then afterwards saved another break point in the next game before drawing level at 3-3. At 4-4, David had two further chances to break. But Tipsarevic saved the first break point with an ace, fended off the second one as well and scraped through to 5-4. Serving to stay in the set, David was taken deuce but managed to hold for 5-5. After Tipsarevic held easily for 6-5, David came within a point of reaching the tiebreak but double-faulted on his first game point, failed to convert a second one as well and then ended up losing his serve - and with it the first set.

(Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
In the first game of the second, Tipsarevic was already up 40-15 before David took him back to deuce and then managed to break him, helped by a couple of double faults from Tipsarevic. Afterwards, David consolidated his break for a 2-0 lead, holding serve to love for the first (and also last) time in this match. At this stage of the match, the momentum had shifted - or so it seemed, until 3-2.
From that moment on, David lost his serve twice, both times to love, allowing Tipsarevic to first draw level at 3-3 and then get the decisive break to go up 5-3. With Tipsarevic serving for the match, David saved the first match point but then couldn't keep Tipsarevic from converting the second and sealing his 7-5, 6-3 victory.

And so David adds another chapter to his "special" history with this tournament. He has played Miami eleven times now and
only twice did he manage to win more than one match at Crandon Park (2006 & 2010).
If he won one, at all.

But there's another series that ends with this defeat, and in this case, that's not at all something bad. With a complete Golden Swing plus Indian Wells and Miami, David has played five consecutive tournaments without a pause. Something that hasn't happened since 2003, according to Fue Buena. David's take on it:
You have to analyse it tournament by tournament. The good thing is that I've been able to compete on a continuing basis. That's important for having some continuity and to keep on working and trying to improve. (Quotes via Fue Buena.)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Miami R2 - David vs Janko Tipsarevic

(Alfonso Cueto)
Update II
For the first time, a match between David and Janko Tipsarevic ended in straight sets and also for the first time, it was Tipsarevic, who prevailed in the end, 7-5, 6-3 after an hour and 45 minutes.
- David's "Miami Curse" strikes yet again.

The next event for him will now be the Davis Cup quarterfinal tie against Croatia in two weeks' time.

Photos later, the rest tomorrow...

(AP Photo; montage by VD)

12.44pm local - David's match has just appeared on the scoreboard and will now start soon...

More than five years went by between David's first match against Janko Tipsarevic at the Australian Open 2007 and their second encounter, in the third round at Indian Wells.
Now, exactly ten days later, they meet again today at Miami.

For Tipsarevic, who's the ninth seed at this tournament and had a bye in the first round, this means playing a second consecutive match against David. While for David, it means another meeting with Tipsarevic, a player he's had two pretty tough matches against, both of which went the distance but also both of which he won in the end.

But whether during today's match, there'll be those long and hard-fought rallies again, whether Tipsarevic will maybe try something new this time, or whether David can manage to play as well as he did during the first set at Indian Wells - we won't get to see any of it. Once again, it'll be the scoreboard for following this match, as coverage won't start until tomorrow...

Here's a look back at their match ten days ago, courtesy of Andvari.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Welcome to Miami - David Overcomes Darcis

(Al Bello/Getty Images)
Having to follow David's matches on the scoreboard
is never great. But sometimes, it can be particularly nerve-wracking - and it was again, yesterday, during his 6-4, 7-6(0) victory over Steve Darcis.
A match that saw David going up a break only to then lose his serve altogether four times. The last two of which happened when he served for the match.
But David overcame these difficulties and got the win in the end. And that's what matters.
I still need to improve my tennis and my physical fitness. I'm doing well but I have to get better. (Source.)
Already in the first game, David had but failed to convert four break points. After holding easily the first couple of games, he showed the first signs of struggling on serve at 3-2 when he had to fend off the first break point. Having levelled the score at 3-3,
David converted what was his sixth break point at
that stage to go up 4-3. But only to immediately drop his serve afterwards, the first of the four re-breaks Darcis managed to get in this match. Still, David went on to break him again, for a 5-4 lead and the chance to serve for the set. And eventually, after having been up 40-15 and then missed three opportunities to close it out, David converted his fourth set point, 6-4.

(Al Bello/Getty Images)
The second set began like the first, with break points for David. But this time he took the third he had in the first game and then held serve afterwards for a 2-0 lead. More solid now on serve than towards the end
of the first set, David seemed to take control of this match - until Darcis broke back to draw level at 3-3. But once again David was able to recover the break immediately (for 4-3) and then, after saving a couple
of break points, managed to get through to 5-3.
With Darcis now serving to stay in the match, David held a first match point but couldn't stop him from getting to 5-4. What followed was a truly catastrophic service game from David (that's how it was described on Twitter by people who saw the match), who dropped his serve to love, on a double-fault. But he rallied afterwards and broke Darcis again, for 6-5 and another chance to serve out the match.
And then came - the drama. After going up 40-0,
David failed to convert altogether five further match points before eventually losing his serve yet again.
So in the end, the set went to a tiebreak. And after all the chaos and all the missed chances - David won it 7-0.

It's impossible to say what exactly happened, for example with those six missed match points, without having seen the match. But generally speaking, I'd say that this was the kind of rough start that had to be expected from David at Miami. On the scoreboard, it looked like he made things a lot more difficult for himself than they would've needed to be. But he pulled it off in the end and now he still has the chance to win more than one match at Miami, this time around. Though it's going to be a tough one that awaits him tomorrow, in form of another encounter with Janko Tipsarevic.
Tomorrow [i.e. today] I'm going to rest. In the evening, I'll think about Tipsarevic. (Source.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Miami R1 - David vs Steve Darcis


Update III
More often than not, David struggles in the first round, having done well at the previous event. And at Miami, he tends to struggle in general. Still, this really was one chaotic match, even by his standards...
But in the end, after just under two hours, after getting broken twice when serving for the match and wasting a total of six match points, David came through, after all and beat Steve Darcis 6-4, 7-6(0).
In the second round on Friday he'll face Janko Tipsarevic - again.

More tomorrow...

(Getty Images; montage by VD)

Update II
5.00pm local - David's match is now about to begin... on the scoreboard.

After his run at Indian Wells and the big match against Nadal in the quarterfinal, today it's back to the beginning for David, back to making a new start in the first round of Miami.
And his opponent in his first match at Crandon Park will be new for David as well, as the two of them have never played against each other before.

Steve Darcis, 28 years old and currently ranked #68 (his highest ranking was #44, in 2008), prefers playing on hardcourt and usually moves back and forth between playing Challenger and ATP-level events. After early exits at Auckland and the Australian Open, in form of a walkover he had to give and a retirement, Darcis made the final at the Challenger in Dallas before reaching the quarterfinal at San Jose (lost to Julien Benneteau) and then losing in the second round at Delray Beach (to Ernests Gulbis). At Indian Wells, Darcis beat Donald Young in the first round and then lost in three sets to Alexandr Dolgopolov.

I'm not going to pretend that I know more about Darcis and his game. And that's not going to change today as coverage won't start until Saturday (so if David wins today - no coverage of his second-round match, either). But this could be a difficult match for David. Not just because it's Miami but also because keeping it up after having done well at the previous tournament, that's not always the case with David. Hopefully it will be, this time.

And now for a surprise addition to David's schedule: For the first time ever, his name is on the entry list for Belgrade (April 30 - May 6), which takes place the week before the back-to-back Masters events at Madrid and Rome. No sign of David on the entry list for Monte Carlo.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Miami Draw

(Getty Images)

From the Californian desert over to the Florida Keys: After Indian Wells, it's now time for the second Masters event of the season - Miami. Once again, David doesn't need the wildcard he was supposed to receive from the organisers, as altogether ten players from the main draw have pulled out.

And here's what's ahead for David at Miami, this year. He has been drawn into the bottom half once again but this time not into Nadal's but Andy Murray's quarter:

[7] Tomas Berdych (CZE) vs BYE
Nicolas Mahut (FRA) vs [WC] Fernando Gonzalez (CHI)
Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) vs Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ)
BYE vs [29] Juan Ignacio Chela (ARG)
[18] Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR) vs BYE
[Q] Antonio Veic (CRO) vs [WC] Denis Kudla (USA)
David Nalbandian (ARG) vs Steve Darcis (BEL)
BYE vs [9] Janko Tipsarevic (SRB)

[13] Gilles Simon (FRA) vs BYE
[Q] Roberto Bautista-Agut (ESP) vs Andreas Seppi (ITA)
Robin Haase (NED) vs [WC] Marinko Matosevic (AUS)
BYE vs [22] Jürgen Melzer (AUT)
[26] Milos Raonic (CAN) vs BYE
Dudi Sela (ISR) vs [Q] Arnaud Clement (FRA)
Alejandro Falla (COL) vs Denis Istomin (UZB)
BYE vs [4] Andy Murray (GBR)

The complete draw you'll find here.

Against his opponent in the first round, Steve Darcis (currently #68), David has never played before. In the second round however, he's bound to meet someone he faced only last week - Janko Tipsarevic. In a hypothetical third round, it could then be time for another premiere, a first encounter between David and Alexandr Dolgopolov. - That's as far as I'm going to look ahead at this stage.

As mentioned before, there are Masters events where David has had more success than at Miami - let's put it this way. Still, Miami also is where he played his first ever match on the Tour, against Jim Courier, back in 2000. And here's David, during that match, 18 years old...

Back in the Top50 & Davis Cup Line-Up Announced


Maybe you've already seen it, on the ATP website, or on some other rankings page - as of today, David is ranked #50, thanks to his quarterfinal points from Indian Wells. It's the first time he has cracked the Top50 since dropping out of them last August (after losing in the first round at Washington). A big step ahead for David and one that he can continue to build on, as he won't have any points to defend, neither at Miami nor at the clay-court events in Europe. But most of all because after two injury-riddled seasons, he's now finally able to play a regular schedule again.
I have to continue on this path. I hope that my physical fitness doesn't let me down. I'm doing well, in terms of my tennis as well as physically. I keep getting better. (Source.)

Argentina's captain Martin Jaite has officially announced the line-up for the upcoming Davis Cup quarterfinal tie against Croatia (April 6-8 at the Parque Roca in Buenos Aires):

Juan Martin Del Potro
Juan Monaco
David Nalbandian
Eduardo Schwank

Apart from that, Juan Ignacio Chela has been named as a fifth (or reserve) nomination.
After initially there were rumours about Delpo not wanting to play this tie, he first announced his participation on Argentine TV during Indian Wells before calling Jaite yesterday to confirm that he will be part of the team (source). To quote Martin Jaite:
I'm happy about Juan Martin's return. Also about Nalbandian and his improving performance. (Source.)

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)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Indian Wells QF - David vs Rafael Nadal


At 6-4, 5-4, there was a moment in this match where David was two points away from defeating Rafael Nadal in straight sets. In the end, Nadal prevailed 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 after two hours and 39 minutes. But even if it wasn't enough to pull off the victory today, it was another great match from David at the end of what has been a spectacular week at Indian Wells for him. And he also proved again today that he's fitter and physically stronger now than he has been in a long time.

Some pics from the match now on the Photo Page.
More photos and the rest tomorrow night (European time).

(Getty Images/AP Photo; montage by VD)

Prior to their most recent meeting, which took place at the US Open last year, Rafael Nadal was asked about his record against David. And back then, Nadal was convinced that David beat him three times when in fact it's been only two. Confronted with the same question ahead of today's match, he got the numbers (almost) right:
I've played many matches against him. US Open last year, Indian Wells 2009, Miami 2009 [that was in 2010], Madrid, Paris-Bercy... Those are all memories of difficult matches, especially the last ones because in the first ones he always beat me easily.
For Rafael Nadal, #2 in the world, this is only the third tournament of the year. After starting the season at Doha, where he went out in the semifinal (against Gael Monfils), Nadal lost the final of the Australian Open against Novak Djokovic, a match that famously lasted almost six hours. He then took a month off before coming to Indian Wells, where he has cruised through the early rounds, never dropping more than five games against Leonardo Mayer, Marcel Granollers and Alexandr Dolgopolov.

As specified by Nadal in the quote above, they have met five times, so far. And on the first two occasions, at Madrid and Paris 2007, David did beat him easily. Their three encounters since then, however, all went Nadal's way, from Indian Wells 2009 (the match where David held five match points) and Miami 2010 to last year's US Open. But it's not only because of those five meetings that there are no secrets between these two. They often practice together, they know each other well and there's a lot of mutual respect between them.
In their previous matches, including those that he lost, David has shown that he's able to deal with Nadal's game in what's basically a direct battle between their best shots - Nadal's forehand against David's backhand. But keeping up with Nadal and trying to put him under pressure also means long rallies and covering a lot of ground during them. The last three times David was only able to do this for a certain amount of time before running out of gas. Whether it's going to be different, this time around - today's match will give the answer.
The last words I'll leave to Rafa:
It's going to be a difficult match because if he's physically fit and without injuries he's one of the best in the world. He beat Tipsarevic and Tsonga and that means that this is the case so I know that I have to play at a high level if I want to win. We'll see what happens. (Source.)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Comeback King - David Defeats Tsonga

David and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had been on court for around 90 minutes when Tsonga, up 6-3, 5-4 and serving for the match, at 40-30 was one point away from what would've been a fairly easy victory for him. Another 50 minutes and an incredible comeback later, David converted  his first match point to beat Tsonga 3-6, 7-5, 6-3. Having defeated three seeded players in a row now, David gets a day off today before facing Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinal, tomorrow.

Catching a better start than his opponent, David broke Tsonga's serve in the first game of the match. But the break and David's lead turned out to be short-lived as Tsonga broke back to level the score at 2-2. At 4-3, David then threw in one of his poor service games, granting Tsonga break points with a series of unforced errrors and then finally dropping his serve on a double fault. Up 5-3 now, Tsonga served for the set and although David hit an amazing forehand winner during that game (see clip above), on set point he failed to make a second-serve return, Tsonga took the first set 6-3 and David fired his racquet into one of the ad banners.

(Harry How/Getty Images)
Early on in the second set, David had a chance to break at 1-0 but Tsonga responded with an ace. At 3-3, it was time for another poor service game from David, going down 0-40 on a double fault and after courageously saving the first break point losing his serve on a backhand error. Though visibly frustrated now, David struck back in the following game when Tsonga gifted him a break point with a double fault, forcing the error with a great first-serve return to draw level again at 4-4. But David was still making far too many unforced errors at this stage and in the following game, with three of those in a row plus another double fault he handed Tsonga another break and the chance to serve for the match at 5-4. And at 40-30, Tsonga held a match point. David saved it with great running forehand that drew the error and it was most of all his defense during this game that earned him two break points, on the second of which Tsonga double-faulted, 5-5. After David held for 6-5, Tsonga went down 15-40, serving to stay in the set. And on the second set point, David's second-serve return was good enough to draw the error and take the set 7-5.

Having been on the brink of defeat, in the third set David now managed to clean up his game and execute the game plan he had from the start but that often fell victim to those many unforced errors he initially produced. Keeping Tsonga mostly on his much weaker backhand side, David also threw in the occasional slice to his forehand, making it difficult for Tsonga to unleash the kind of forehand winners he had been able to hit earlier in the match. At 2-1, David broke serve with a great backhand passing shot (also to be seen above) and this time, unlike in the previous sets, he held on to the break and didn't face another break point until the end. At 4-2, David missed the chance to go up a double break but then at 5-3 he served for the match - and he served it out to love.
I think that I didn't serve well at times. At times I served a little better. I think that I didn't play a great match. But the result is great for me. I played well in the important moments and that makes a big difference in a match.
It wasn't the prettiest of matches, with a total of 104 unforced errors for both players (45 of those from David). And it has to be said that Tsonga didn't serve anywhere near as well as he's able to. But still, this doesn't take anything away from the amazing comeback that David pulled off in this match. One that was reminiscent of the good old days. After he spent much of the first two sets being half a step slow and making errors and then berating himself or throwing his racquet in various directions, David not just hung in there but managed to turn around the match completely and get his game back on track. All of which made possible by something that's different this year, compared to the previous two:
I've been getting better. I had a very difficult year, many pauses, surgeries and the truth is that this made me lose ground, physically. Now I'm gaining confidence, also in my physical fitness. Now I feel pretty good and hopefully I can continue playing more matches. (David's quotes via Fue Buena)
Or in the words of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga:
The problem with Nalbandian is... that he's good! Very good!
(Harry How/Getty Images)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Indian Wells R4 - David vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Update II
Before this match the question was how much David would've left in the tank after yesterday. The answer - enough to save a match point in the second set, turn the match around and eventually beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 in two hours and 18 minutes.
David repeats his so far best result at Indian Wells (from 2008) by reaching the quarterfinal. There, he will meet the second seed Rafael Nadal.
Edit: And that will be on Friday, not tomorrow. (Sorry for that.)

More tomorrow...

(Getty Images; montage by VD)

2.02pm local - after two fairly quick matches, David's is now up next on Court 2.

In today's fourth-round match David gets to meet another player he has only met once before, in a match that took place years ago. But in the case of sixth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, that one match was a final, at the Paris Masters in 2008. And back then, it was Tsonga, who prevailed and won the title. But although David almost withdrew before that match (as became known only much later) he managed to make it close.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 26 years old by now and ranked #6, won the title at Doha, the first tournament he played this season but he went out early, by his standards, at the Australian Open, where he didn't make it past the fourth round (lost to Kei Nishikori). Afterwards, he played and won two rubbers for France against Canada in the first round of Davis Cup and then (just like Tipsarevic, by the way) reached the semifinal at Marseille and the quarterfinal at Dubai. At Indian Wells, Tsonga's first match in the second round lasted only for five games (then his opponent Llodra retired). Against Radek Stepanek in the third round yesterday, however, Tsonga needed three sets, after losing the first in a tiebreak.

The major problem David had during their only match so far was Tsonga's serve, especially the first but also the second. And Tsonga served spectacularly well that day, it has to be said. Still, much will depend on whether today David can find a way of dealing with his serve or whether on the back of it, Tsonga will be able to overpower David. But the biggest question is of course how much David will have left in the tank after yesterday's match. - We'll find out.

David Fights Through against Tipsarevic

Five years after their first meeting, the second one between David and Janko Tipsarevic also went the distance. But although there was no retirement this time, in a way David once again outlasted Tipsarevic, sealing his 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 victory after an hour and 56 minutes. After a brilliant first set, David had a hard time, keeping it up physically but in the end he managed to hang with Tipsarevic long enough to get his chance in the third set. And when that chance finally came, he made the most out of it.
How much this match and this effort haven taken out of David we'll see later today when he gets to face sixth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the fourth round (match record: 0-1).

The first set of this match has to among the best tennis that David has played in recent times. From the first rally on, and in a stark contrast to the previous round against Cilic, both David's serve and his groundstrokes were working excellently and he was able to dictate play from the baseline. At 2-1, he had his first break points and after some great defense from David, it was Tipsarevic, who made the error, granting David the break and a 3-1 lead. This break David carried through the set without any difficulties on serve before converting his first set point to take it 6-3.

(AP Photo)
Early on in the second set, David was still dominating the majority of the rallies but he didn't manage to get another break, with Tipsarevic now serving better than he did in the first set. David remained solid on serve but in the course of this set his dominance during the rallies began to dwindle, slowly but steadily. And David began to be a step slower. Still, they stayed on serve and up until 4-3, he still hadn't faced a break point in this match. But then at 4-3, David played his worst service game of the whole match and ended up losing his serve. Moments later, Tipsarevic served out the second set and David threw his racquet in frustration.

In the first game of the third set David faced another break point but then had a bit of luck as Tipsarevic netted a drop-shot. David looked increasingly tired now but he fought on and although he didn't have much of a chance during his return games, he managed to hold serve. Tipsarevic seemed to be lying in wait for another service game like the one at 4-3 in the second. But this time, it was Tipsarevic's turn to serve at 4-3. And that was the moment David got the chance he had been waiting and fighting for. Two errors from the Serb and a great passing shot from David meant 0-40 and then David converted the first of those break points with an easy forehand winner. Up 5-3 now, David served for match and quickly went up 40-0 before closing it out on his first match point, as Tipsarevic made the error.

It was a tough match, with lots of long and intense rallies and a lot of ground that both players had to cover during them. And after the glorious first set, David did have his difficulties, trying to keep up his level of playing (e.g. from 7 winners/8 unforced errors in the first set to 7/17 in the second). But although he grew increasingly (and visibly) tired, David kept on fighting and he kept believing in his chance to win this match.

(Note: For some reason there are practically no photos of this match - sorry.)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Indian Wells R3 - David vs Janko Tipsarevic

Update II
David has reached the fourth round at Indian Wells by defeating Janko Tipsarevic 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in just under two hours. Tomorrow, his opponent will be sixth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

More tomorrow...

(Getty Images; montage by VD)

6.25pm local - David's match is now next up on Court 2. At last...

It's been more than five years since the one and so far only time that David and Janko Tipsarevic played against each other. Back then, in the first round of the Australian Open 2007, the heat ended up playing a decisive role for the outcome of the match. And after well over three hours, it was Tipsarevic, who was forced to retire. But that was five years ago and today, Tipsarevic's stamina and his game could mean all sorts of trouble for David.

27-year-old Janko Tipsarevic, currently ranked #10, began this season by reaching the final at Chennai (lost to Milos Raonic) before suffering a third-round defeat at the Australian Open against Richard Gasquet (David's training partner yesterday). A seasoned Davis Cup player, he won two rubbers during Serbia's first-round tie against Sweden and then added a semifinal at Marseille and a quarterfinal at Dubai to his record before coming to Indian Wells.

As mentioned above, the record between these two stands at 1-0 for David. But a lot has changed since 2007 and nowadays Tipsarevic is the kind of player, who's able to cause David a lot of trouble. Because he's physically stronger than David and with his defense he's going to make it very difficult for him to finish points, forcing him to play long, exhausting rallies, because he's able to punish poor second serves and he's able to serve rather well, himself.
In short, this match is going to be quite a test for David. And this time, he won't get away with playing the way he did against Cilic.

Monday, March 12, 2012

"A Little Strange Match" - David Muddles Through against Cilic

(Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

It was a little strange match.
That's David's very own assessment of his 7-6(3), 7-6(4) victory over Marin Cilic. A match that saw only few good rallies but lots of unforced errors, shaky serving, re-breaks and missed opportunities. Still, at least in the two tiebreaks David was once more able to take it up a notch. And although he really wasn't playing his best, he managed to get the win in the end, and that's definitely not a given with David, on days like the one he had yesterday.
In the third round against tenth seed Janko Tipsarevic tomorrow, however, a tougher test is going to await him.

(Enrique Carrión)
After saving two break points in the first game of the match David broke Cilic in the second and then consolidated his break for a 3-0 lead. At this stage he looked to be in control of proceedings. At 4-1, David had altogether five break points (including three in a row at 0-40) but he missed the chance to go up a double break. At least he kept his focus afterwards and held serve and at 5-3, David served for the set. From 30-0 onwards, a series of unforced errors by David allowed Cilic back into the game and granted him break points. On the second, David considered challenging the serve-call then changed his mind - and made the double fault. Back on serve now, David had a first set point on Cilic's serve at 6-5 but squandered it with an error. But the tiebreak that followed saw David confirming again that tiebreaks are his specialty these days: From 3-3 on he won four points in a row to take the first set 7-6(3).

Often enough there are early breaks after tiebreaks. But in this case it wasn't until 3-3 that David managed to break serve again - but only to hand the break straight back with what was once more a series of unforced errors (4-4). Cilic's service game at 5-5 then saw a lengthy deuce battle with several break points for David the fourth of which he was finally able to convert for a chance to serve for the match at 6-5. And David had a match point in the following game but Cilic saved it with courageous play and then once again broke back to force another tiebreak. At 5-4, up a mini-break, David set up his second match point with an ace before a last backhand error from Cilic ended the match, 7-6(4).

We both play a match with a lot of mistakes. It wasn't really good one. But happy to win, to keep going and I know I have to improve my game to get better or longer [go deeper] in this tournament.
(Quotes from David's post-match video interview, you'll find it here.) 
18 winners, 36 unforced errors for David and 22/44 for Cilic. Numbers that say a lot about this match and also about how difficult David found it to try and take control of the rallies, the way he did against Cilic in the past. And successful strategies from their previous matches, like keeping Cilic on the backhand and then going quickly to his forehand often enough didn't work - because another unforced error got in the way. Apart from that David did seem a bit sluggish, defending well when he had to but often not moving well to hit his groundstrokes.
In short, it was a rather bad day that David had but he still found a way of winning this not exactly pretty and "little strange" match.

(Enrique Carrión)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Indian Wells R2 - David vs Marin Cilic

Update II
It really wasn't pretty and I think it's safe to say that David didn't have the best of days today - but in the end, it was enough to defeat Marin Cilic 7-6(3), 7-6(4) in two hours and six minutes.
In the third round on Tuesday, David's opponent will be tenth seed Janko Tipsarevic.

More tomorrow...

( Images; montage by VD)

3.57pm local - David's match is now next up on Court 3...

It's an important match for David today, his second-round encounter with Marin Cilic. But a much more important match between these two could take place in three weeks when Argentina faces Croatia in the Davis Cup quarterfinal. It would be their second Davis Cup meeting after the first one (quarterfinal 2006) that made a lasting impression on Cilic.

After suffering a severe knee injury at the end of last year, Marin Cilic, ranked #24, missed the first two months of the current season. And less than two weeks have passed since his comeback match at Delray Beach, where he lost to Jarkko Nieminen in the first round. So for Cilic, it's only the second match of the season that he gets to play today.
David has won all of his three previous encounters with Marin Cilic, starting with the first one in Davis Cup 2006. And their second meeting, in the semifinal at Washington 2010, was rather one-sided, as well. During their most recent match however, at Basel 2010, Cilic managed to take a set off David for the first time.

As their last encounter has shown, in order to trouble David Cilic has to take risks with his groundstrokes (especially the backhand, his stronger wing). And he also has so serve really well and consistently so. Whether Marin Cilic can pull that off in his second match of the season, and how well David is playing at the moment, now back on hardcourt again - this match will provide the answers.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Tale of Two (Very Different) Sets - David Beats Starace

(Enrique Carrión)

It's always very difficult, if not to say impossible, to know what a match was really like, having followed it on the scoreboard. But in the case of David's first-round victory over Potito Starace, at least one thing is clear - it was a match that consisted of two completely different sets, as the scoreline already suggests: 7-6(4), 6-0. After a dramatic first set that took over an hour and was full of missed chances, David went on to steamroll Starace in the second in what can't have been more than twenty minutes.
This victory grants David a place in the second round where he'll meet 24th seed Marin Cilic on Sunday. A match of special importance for him because of the upcoming Davis Cup quarterfinal against Croatia (April 6-8).

(Enrique Carrión)
David caught a good start in this match, making more first serves than usual in those early stages and generally seeming more solid on serve than his opponent. At 1-0 he took Starace to deuce and when at 2-1 he had his first two break points it looked like this might be an easy set for David. But he not only missed the chance to go up an early break - afterwards he lost his serve to love, a break that seemed to come out of nowhere. Starace extended his lead to 4-2 and when David went down 0-30 in the following game things looked grim for a moment. But it was in that exact moment that David got back on track again. After winning the next four points to hold serve he went on to also win the following four on Starace's serve, breaking back to love and levelling the score at 4-4. Holding serve now easily again, David went up 5-4 and with Starace serving to stay in the set David held three set points. But whether Starace saved them with good play or David squandered them, the Italian managed to scrape through in the end. And he did so again at 6-5 when David couldn't convert three further set points. In the eventual tiebreak, after trading mini-breaks early on, at 5-4 another, timely mini-break earned David two further set points. And this time, he finally took his chance, converting set point #7 to take the first set 7-6(4).

At the start of the second set, David immediately broke Starace again to love but then struggled to consolidate his break and found himself facing another break point. And for a moment it seemed like the second set might become as close as the first. But David saved the break point, consolidated his break with an ace - and from that moment on, Starace only won four more points. Up a triple break and 5-0, David served for the match, began with two aces in a row and then closed out the match on his first match point, 6-0.

What exactly happened on those six set points that David didn't manage to convert in the first set - we'll probably never get to know. But the most important things is that he still found a way of winning that first set, once more displaying what's still a relatively new strength of his - tiebreaks. Apart from that, David posted some very solid numbers on serve, making 61% first serves and winning a healthy 64% of his second serves. Overall, a very good start for David at Indian Wells. Despite the drama...

Friday, March 9, 2012

Indian Wells R1 - David vs Potito Starace

Update II
David has begun his campaign at Indian Wells with a 7-6(4), 6-0 victory over Potito Starace in an hour and 25 minutes. In the second round on Sunday he'll face 24th seed Marin Cilic.

More tomorrow...

(; montage by VD)

2.40pm local. The second match on Court 2 has just ended. Next up: David...

Actually, this match is late by a few weeks. The paths of David and Potito Starace usually cross during the Golden Swing, especially at Buenos Aires. And it was there that David played a very memorable match against Starace, a little more than two years ago - his comeback match after the hip surgery pause. Today, however, it's time for something new: their first ever encounter on hardcourt.

For Potito Starace, 30 years old and currently ranked #68, Indian Wells is already the eighth tournament of the season. But whether on hardcourt, indoors or on clay, he didn't make it past the second round at any of the events that he played.
All four previous encounters between David and Starace took place on clay, during the Golden Swing, and David won all four of them. Three out of those four times they met at Buenos Aires, including the only real battle they had (quarterfinal 2008, on David's way to winning the title), the comeback match, and their most recent encounter, last year. A match that David played an won without any apparent difficulties - or so it seemed.

Although Potito Starace has won all of his four career titles on clay he also likes playing on hardcourt. And he has a stronger serve than most classic clay-courters, even though David did well, dealing with it in the past. In their previous matches, the one thing Starace was able to trouble David with were the drop-shots that he likes to play. But whether he'll also try to use them on hardcourt today - we won't get to see it. As usual, there's no coverage during the first round at Indian Wells, so for following this match it'll once more be the scoreboard.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Indian Wells Draw

Update (08/03)
Here's a little clip of David practicing at Indian Wells, filmed yesterday.
His first-round match against Potito Starace will take place tomorrow (Friday).

So here's what awaits David at Indian Wells this year. He has been drawn into the bottom half and there into the bottom, that is to say Rafael Nadal's quarter, which looks like this:

[6] Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) vs BYE
Michael Llodra (FRA) vs Ernests Gulbis (LAT)
Xavier Malisse (BEL) vs [Q] Bobby Reynolds (USA)
BYE vs [28] Radek Stepanek (CZE)
[24] Marin Cilic (CRO) vs BYE
Potito Starace (ITA) vs David Nalbandian (ARG)
Bernard Tomic (AUS) vs Gilles Muller (LUX)
BYE vs [10] Janko Tipsarevic (SER)

[15] Feliciano Lopez (ESP) vs BYE
Jeremy Chardy (FRA) vs Marcos Baghdatis (CYP)
Donald Young (USA) vs Steve Darcis (BEL)
BYE vs [21] Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR)
[26] Marcel Granollers (ESP) vs BYE
Jarkko Nieminen (FIN) vs Tommy Haas (GER)
Alejandro Falla (COL) vs Leonardo Mayer (ARG)
BYE vs [2] Rafael Nadal (ESP)

The complete draw you'll find here.

I guess it's safe to say that Tommy Haas, who was present at the draw ceremony, must have brought David luck. And not only because he won't have to face one of the Top4 in the second round. If all goes according to plan (and often enough, it doesn't with with David but anyway) in the first three rounds he's bound to meet three players he has never lost to before.
Against Potito Starace, his opponent in the first round, David has a match record of 4-0, with all of their previous encounters having taken place on clay, Starace's best surface.
For Marin Cilic, the first seeded player David can meet in round 2, this will only be the second match of the season after an injury pause. David's match record against Cilic: 3-0.
In the third round, David could then meet Janko Tipsarevic. They've only met once before and that match was a real battle but in the end, it was David, who prevailed.
In short - this is about as good a draw as was possible under the circumstances.
So let's hope that David can make the most out of it.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Look ahead at Indian Wells & Miami

Update (05/03)
It's Monday, time to take a look at the rankings. David hasn't lost any points but he has been overtaken by other players who gained points last week, so he drops down four places to #74.

They are the only tournaments in the calendar that take place over the course of ten days and they feature the biggest draws outside of the Slams - Indian Wells and Miami.
Last March, his hernia/adductor surgery kept David sidelined. But this time, he'll be part of the action at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden and at Crandon Park once again, also thanks to the wildcards he has received from the organisers of both events.

BNP Paribas Open - Masters Indian Wells (March 8-18)

(Getty Images)

When it comes to David and Indian Wells, there's that one match everybody remembers:
his loss to Rafael Nadal and those five match points he famously held - but failed to convert.
At that time, in March 2009, it was the latest example in a series of matches where David struggled more than usual with closing it out. And this, as well as his inability to keep it up physically, was something of a mystery... Two months later, David had hip surgery. And as became known later, those problems started at Indian Wells - but already back in 2008.
But the 2009 edition not only saw David's famous loss to Rafa, it was also the backdrop for what I called "an unexpected alliance" back then: David and Delpo played doubles together and reached the quarterfinal.
For David, this year is going to be his ninth time of playing Indian Wells since his first appearance back in 2002, with his match record at this event standing at 13-8. So far, David's best result has been the quarterfinal he reached back in 2008 (despite hip problems; lost to Mardy Fish), with making it to the fourth round as something like his standard result at Indian Wells (four times). The remaining three times he went out early, including his last appearance in 2010, which ended with a second-round defeat against Jürgen Melzer.
The draw for Indian Wells will be pulled next Tuesday, at 3pm local (11pm GMT).

Sony Ericsson Open - Masters Miami (March 21 - April 1)


When David played this event for the first time, it was also with a wildcard. But back then, it was one for the qualifying event. That was all the way back in 2000. And David, merely 18 years old at the time and having only just turned pro, made the most of this chance that had been given to him. He won both qualy rounds fairly easily and was rewarded with a place in the main draw - and his first ever match at ATP-level. In that match, he got to face Jim Courier. But although David lost he didn't do so without taking a set off the former world number 1. In other words, Miami is where David's career on the Tour began.
Now, twelve years later, he'll return for what's going to be his altogether eleventh appearance. But although David has a long history at Miami, it's not exactly an impressive record that he has at this event, with an overall match record of 9-10. And over the years, there has only been one occasion where he managed to go deep. That was back in 2006, when he reached the semifinal (lost to Ivan Ljubicic). But apart from that, with the sole exception of his last appearance in 2010, David has never won more than one match at Miami. As long as he was still seeded and got a bye that was enough to reach the third round (three times). But altogether five times he lost the first match that he played, whether in the first round or in the second (with a bye). Which makes his third-round defeat against Rafael Nadal in 2010 (without a bye) David's second-best result at Miami.
The draw for Miami will be pulled on Monday, March 19, at 12.15pm local (5.15pm GMT).