Monday, April 30, 2012

Welcome to Belgrade & An Interview

Update (01/05)
What was planned as David's first match at Belgrade ended up not taking place. David and Edu Schwank withdrew from their doubles match today, granting their opponents Kerr and Sela a walkover. So far, I've only seen the result (after some searching) and it's a little difficult to find out what's going on in Belgrade. But in any case, David's singles match against Aljaz Bedene (who beat Martin Klizan today) is scheduled to take place tomorrow.

And welcome to the European clay-court swing, which will keep David and us here on VD busy for the next few weeks. Today, Belgrade officially begins with the first matches of the main draw. But for David, still ranked #49 this week, it's going to be another day of training on the practice courts at the Novak Tennis Center. Ahead of his first-round doubles match (Edit: which will indeed take place tomorrow) and his first singles match in the second round.
Edit: Which is scheduled for Wednesday, 8pm local time.

In the meantime, here's something we haven't had in a while - an interview with David. The first one he has agreed to since the Davis Cup quarterfinal. And not surprisingly perhaps, it wasn't one of the big newspapers or sites that he chose for it. Instead, David talked to Verónica Casasola for El Tribuno, a local newspaper from the Salta province (where he's been on holiday before). Here's the interview, it took place shortly before he left for Belgrade:
Q: 2012 is a year of many challenges. Which one of them is key for David Nalbandian?

David: It's true, there are plenty of challenges. But this year, the fundamental goal for me is to win the Davis Cup. There's a chance to play the Olympics but the Davis Cup remains to be my great obsession.

Q: Were you expecting to get a wildcard for the Madrid Masters? It's a very important tournament and one that you've won before. How do you feel, compared to 2007?

David: It's always very nice to receive a wildcard and even more so for a tournament as important as Madrid, an event that I've won. Compared to 2007, first of all and most importantly, the surface has changed. When I won it in 2007, it was on hardcourt and indoors, now it's on clay. As for myself, I'm five years older now and I've also had several surgeries.

Q: What does it mean to you that Argentina has reached another Davis Cup semifinal?

David: That much is certain, it's very important for the Argentine team to have come through as it allows us to be at the decisive stage, once again. For me, it's very motivating to be in another Davis Cup semifinal. As I've said, the Davis Cup remains to be my obsession.

Q: What are your thoughts regarding the next opponent, Czech Republic?

David: Czech Republic has a great team that just eliminated the 2010 champion [Serbia], with two very tough players in Berdych and Stepanek. Berdych has been in inside the Top10 for several years now and he's able to do well on all surfaces. Stepanek is a very experienced player and together, they form a very good doubles team. A tough opponent and one to be wary of, no doubt about that.

Q: You know Martin Jaite well, what do you think he brings to the Argentine team as its captain?

David: I think that Martin is a person who brings a lot to the team because of his experience on the circuit. He does as a [former] player but also as someone who has organised tournaments [like the Copa Claro].

Q: How would you define the presence of Juan Martin Del Potro on the team?

David: It's very important that Argentina can count on having a player like Juan Martin on its team. He's a great player who, at the moment, is ranked among the best in the world and that's very valuable.

Q: How is your relationship with him?

David: My relationship with Juan Martin is very good.

Q: How did the differences between the two of you start and what caused them?

David: I think that what's important today is that apart from playing individually on the circuit, we form a team and that we both do our best for Argentina to win the Davis Cup.

Q: Do you dream about London 2012? Representing Argentina at the biggest of all sporting events, what would that mean to you?

David: Yeah, of course. I'd be very happy to qualify. I still have a little time left and if I continue on the circuit without injuries then I can hope to represent our country at the London Olympics.

Q: In order to make it to the Olympics it'll be important for you to play Roland Garros and put in a very good performance there. Does that put you under pressure?

David: I hope to be playing Roland Garros and I don't think that everything depends on my performance there. I'm going to play two or three very important tournaments ahead of it, where I can also gain many ranking points. Especially since last year, I didn't play this [clay-court] swing.

Q: For more than ten years now you've been the Argentine point of reference in tennis. Do you think that it's because of the way you are, or why do you think that's the case?

David: I think that most of all, people see me in connection with the Davis Cup and they recognise the efforts I've made for many years, trying to win it.

Q: So there's still going to be a lot of David on court?

David: I'd say it's still David Nalbandian on court but each time a little less...

Q: We've seen you in Salta a couple of times, do you come here often?

David: To be honest, I haven't been to Salta that often as the circuit takes up a lot of my time. The last time I went, I went fishing with a group of friends and we had a really spectacular time. Salta is a very beautiful part of the country and I hope to visit it again soon, whether playing tennis or simply as a tourist.

Q: How would you define the player and the man David Nalbandian?

David: I'm the same person. A simple type of guy, from a small village, who likes to be surrounded by family and friends.

Q: Are there any dreams left for you to fulfill?

David: Winning the Davis Cup. That's my dream.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Belgrade Draw

After more than a month, here it is at last - a draw for an ATP tournaments with the name David Nalbandian in it. This time, as the fourth seed at Belgrade, David has "his own" quarter of the draw, namely the top quarter of the bottom half. And that half looks like this:

[7] Ryan Harrison (USA) vs Joao Souza (BRA)
[WC] Evgeny Donskoy (RUS) vs [WC] Dusan Lajovic (SRB)
[Q] Aljaz Bedene (SLO) vs Martin Klizan (SVK)
BYE vs [4] David Nalbandian (ARG)

[8] Gilles Muller (LUX) vs Lukas Lacko (SVK)
[Q] Eduardo Schwank (ARG) vs Dudi Sela (ISR)
Ivan Dodig (CRO) vs Adrian Ungur (ROU)
BYE vs [2] Andreas Seppi (ITA)

A look at the complete draw you can take here.

It's not clear yet who will get the qualifier spot, of course but what is clear is that David has never played against any of the players in his quarter before. His first opponent in the second round could be Martin Klizan (#98), who recently won two clay-court Challengers in a row.
Going by the seeding, in a possible quarterfinal David could then face Ryan Harrison, currently ranked #58, whose last result was the quarterfinal he reached at Houston.
In the bottom quarter, there are a couple of players David has met before and some of them not too long ago, like Ivan Dodig and Adrian Ungur. I'd say that quarter is pretty much wide open but in case David gets to face second seed Andreas Seppi (#46) in a possible semifinal, he'll do so, knowing that he has won both of their two previous encounters.
As I wrote in my preview post, the weaker field was probably the reason David chose to play Belgrade. Now he also has a good draw, so here's hoping he can make the best of it.

Update (28/04)
The doubles draw is now out as well. David and Edu will play their first match against Jordan Kerr and Dudi Sela. After that, in what would be the quarterfinal, they could meet the second seeds Scott Lipsky and Rajeev Ram. The doubles draw you'll find here.

(tournament website)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Getting ready for Europe

(Team Greco/FB)

During the last couple of weeks, practically nothing was to be seen or heard of Mr. David Nalbandian. Now, there's at least visual proof that he's preparing for the European clay-court tournaments - as he was spotted, training at the Vilas Club in Buenos Aires. (Some more photos, taken during his training session yesterday, you can view here.)

With Belgrade due to start on Monday, I guess he'll be on his way to Serbia soon, probably already tomorrow. For although Novak Djokovic's withdrawal means a spot as the fourth seed and a first-round bye for David, there's also the doubles to think of.

Update (26/04)
According to Danny Miche, David will fly to Belgrade tomorrow, i.e. Friday. Also according to Miche, after Roland Garros David is going to play the same tournaments on grass like last year, which is to say Queen's Club and Wimbledon (plus the Boodles exhibition, probably).
A short clip of David, training at the Vilas Club here.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Look ahead at the European Clay-Court Swing

Update (23/04)
David (still ranked #49 this week) will receive a wildcard for the Madrid Masters (source).

That is to say a look at the tournaments on clay that David is going to play ahead of Roland Garros. Four years have gone by since the last time he was able to play a full clay-court swing. But already back then, in 2008, David's hip injury was troubling him. After that, hip surgery in 2009, a hamstring injury suffered at Monte Carlo in 2010, and the double surgery last year never allowed David to play more than a handful of matches during this part of the season - if he was able to play at all.
This year, however, there's reason to be optimistic about David's chances of playing the European clay-court swing and finishing it at Roland Garros. And in the meantime, there's been another addition to his schedule. The week before Roland Garros, David will take part in the Masters Guinot Mary Cohr exhibition at the Paris Country Club in Malmaison (May 23-25), an event for which there's been coverage in the past.
At the moment, there's still no news from David.
But here's a look at the tournaments where we'll get to see him in the coming weeks:

Serbia Open, Belgrade (April 30 - May 6)


UpdateII (25/04): Novak Djokovic has pulled out of Belgrade for personal reasons.
For David, this means he's the fourth seed and he'll get a bye in the first round.

It'll be David's first appearance at this still fairly new event (first held in 2009) but to the venue he's been before. Last September, the official dinner for the Davis Cup semifinal took place at the Tennis Center Novak, home of the Serbia Open. Occasionally nicknamed the "Nole Open" as Djokovic's family not only owns the venue but also the tournament itself. Held during the same week as Estoril and Munich, Belgrade usually has a weaker field than the other two events (except for Novak Djokovic). And after pausing for three weeks, and in need of matches as well as ranking points, that's probably the reason David has decided to kick off this year's clay-court swing at Belgrade.
Apart from singles, David will also play doubles at this event, together with Edu Schwank.
On the entry list: Pablo Andujar, Andreas Seppi, Jarkko Nieminen, Lukasz Kubot
The draw will take place next Friday, at 7pm local.

Mutua Madrid Open, Masters 1000 Madrid (May 7-13)

(tournament website)

The last time David played the Madrid Masters, back in the autumn of 2008, it was still an indoor tournament. In 2009, however, tournament owner Ion Tiriac transformed Madrid into a clay-court event, held at the futuristic Caja Magica. At the expense of Hamburg - and also at the expense of what used to be David's best Masters event (two semifinals, a final and the title he won in 2007). The clay-court version of Madrid still is unchartered territory for David, having missed all previous editions due to injury. But this time, playing at the Caja Magica will be something new for everybody, not just for David: This year's edition of Madrid will take place on blue clay. A decision that was made in spite of rather than together with the players. So the question is going to be, who will do best, dealing with these new conditions.
Edit: As mentioned in the update above, David will receive a wildcard for Madrid.

Internazionali BNL d'Italia, Masters 1000 Rome (May 14- 20)

(BNL per il tennis/FB)

The Rome Masters is the only one out of these three events that David has played before and that hasn't completely changed since the last time he did. Since then, the centre court at the Foro Italico has undergone extensive renovation and rebuilding - but that's as far as the changes go. For David, it's going to be the seventh appearance at Rome, a tournament where he's had very mixed results in the past. Ranging from early exits (four times, including 2008) to reaching the semifinal in 2006, where his run ended with a third-set tiebreak defeat against Roger Federer, and finishing as runner-up in 2004, after losing to Carlos Moya in the final.
In other words, and judging by his past results, at Rome pretty much anything seems to be possible for David, from a first-round exit to going deep.
At the moment, David is three withdrawals away from making the main draw. He might still receive a wildcard but if not (and not enough players pull out) he'll have to play qualies.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Olympic Intermezzo - David's Chances of Qualifying

(Getty Images)
This summer, Wimbledon will not only see the 126th edition of The Championships. Three weeks later, it'll also be the site of the tennis competition that's part of the London Olympics. A singular occasion, or so might seem. But it's actually the second time that Wimbledon will host an Olympic tennis event. It's just been a while since the first one - back in 1908.
Now, 104 years later, Olympic tennis returns to SW19 but the question is, what are David's chances of taking part in the singles competition?

For David, the problem is that while his ranking (#49) is high enough to make the cut (which is #56), there are four Argentine players ahead of him in the rankings and only four players per country are allowed in the draw. This rule also applies for ITF entries and wildcards.
Therefore David's only chance of qualifying is to overtake at least one Argentine player in the rankings until June 11. As it's the ranking the week after Roland Garros that counts.
Until then, if all goes well, David will play Belgrade, the Masters events at Madrid and Rome and Roland Garros - without any points to defend, so everything he gains will be added to his count. But his chances of qualifying will also depend on the results of the other Argentines. Delpo (#11) and Pico (#14) are too far ahead, which leaves Chela and Berlocq.

Ranked #33 this week with 1165 points, Juan Ignacio Chela is 260 points ahead of David. And it's a packed schedule that Chela has planned for the clay-court swing. After his first-round exit at Monte Carlo yesterday, he'll now play every week until Roland Garros (Barcelona, Estoril, Madrid, Rome plus the World Team Cup). So there'll be plenty of chances for him to gain points. But Chela also has plenty of points to defend in the coming weeks - 585 in total. The biggest chunks of which are from the World Team Cup (125) and above all Roland Garros, where he'll defend 360 points from making the quarterfinal last year. In other words, an early exit at Roland Garros could make Chela fall behind David in the rankings.

Ranked #37 this week with 1076 points, Carlos Berlocq is 171 points ahead of David. And not as far away as Chela. But unlike Chela, Berlocq has hardly anything to defend in the coming weeks, having gained the majority of his ranking points during the second half of the last season (when he won altogether five clay-court Challengers). Berlocq is apparently having some injury troubles at the moment and retired in the first round at Monte Carlo today. After pausing next week he's scheduled to play Estoril, Madrid, Rome and the World Team Cup ahead of Roland Garros, with merely 71 points to defend until June 11. So David can't really speculate on early exits making that much of a difference for Berlocq's ranking.

In the end, it'll be up to David of course to try and play a good clay-court swing. With results that will hopefully earn him a place as one of Argentina's four players at the Olympics. He won't play as many events as Chela and Berlocq in the coming weeks, so each tournament will be crucial for David's quest for ranking points, especially the three big ones.
I'd love to be able to tell you how David is doing at the moment, ahead of the clay-court swing. But so far, there's still no news from him...

Friday, April 13, 2012

Not really an Update...

(Sergio Llamera)

All is quiet on the David front... And by quiet, I mean totally and completely quiet. No news of any kind for me to report at the moment. Now, there have been pauses (and posts) like this one before. Even if in the past, those pauses often enough came to an end as soon as I had posted that there was nothing for me to post, for example because a new interview with David was published. But this time I'm not so sure that the current silence will be ended by a new interview, or at least probably not in the next couple of days.
Apparently, the Davis Cup quarterfinal tie has seen some discord. Not between David and Delpo but between David and the Argentine journalists, with various complaints about a "lack of respect" on David's end. What exactly happened there, well, that's impossible for me to say but I seem to remember reading that David told the journalists their coverage of the Davis Cup "grows worse every time". What this is going to mean for any future coverage - we'll see.

In the the meantime, I assume that David is currently at home in Unquillo, training at the Ines Gorrochategui Academy in nearby Villa Allende and getting ready for the clay-court swing.

A final round of further photos from the Davis Cup quarterfinal weekend (from which this one has also been taken) you can view on the Photo Page.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Davis Cup Quarterfinal: Argentina Beats Croatia - An Epilogue

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Davis Cup Quarterfinal Day 3: Argentina in the Semifinal


With his 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 victory over Marin Cilic, Delpo has secured a spot for Argentina in this year's Davis Cup semifinal. So the Argentine team will return to the Parque Roca to take on the Czech Republic in September (14-16). In the second semifinal, Spain will host the USA.
A summary of the quarterfinal and a look ahead at the coming weeks tomorrow...

It's the third and final day of the Davis Cup quarterfinal weekend and that means it's time for the reverse singles - which will take place without David. Or rather, they will take place with David courtside, cheering on his teammates.

As always, the last day of the tie starts with the two #1 players, facing off in the fourth rubber. In this case, that means Delpo (struggling with allergies and an eye infection) against a probably very tired Marin Cilic.

If the tie goes down to a live fifth rubber, Pico will face Ivo Karlovic in the last match of the day.

With the semifinal now just one point away and even though David won't get to play today it's - Vamos Argentina!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Davis Cup Quarterfinal - Day 2 Review

(AP Photo)

It was an emotional match, it was not a good one. (Source.)
That's David's personal verdict on his and Edu Schwank's 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-3, 6-7(6), 8-6 victory over Marin Cilic and Ivo Karlovic. A match that, as both David and Edu told the press, they couldn't have won without the support of the indefatigable crowd at the Parque Roca.
With Argentina now in the lead and after a combined total of ten hours and eight minutes on court, David has done his share. In tomorrow's reverse singles, Delpo (troubled now by an eye infection but fit to play, according to Jaite) will take on Marin Cilic, who has also already spent more than ten hours on court. In case there's a live fifth rubber, Pico will face Ivo Karlovic.

Just like yesterday, during David's singles match against Cilic, the strong and changing winds at the Parque Roca, including further sandstorms, made things rather difficult for the players. And for David, on serve. Apart from that, there was a lot of pressure and consequently a lot of nerves on both sides of the net. Resulting in a rollercoaster of a match that had everything from spectacular rallies to gruesome errors and altogether 25 double faults for both teams.
To quote David, it was a "strange match, very strange".

(Alejandro Pagni/AFP/Getty Images)
The first set began with the Croats going up 2-0 after Edu Schwank dropped his serve. But David and Edu recovered the break immediately by breaking Cilic. At 4-3, David threw in one of his bad service games and lost his serve on a double fault. And with the Croats up 5-3 now, Karlovic served out the set.
At the beginning of the second, Edu got broken again but once more the re-break came immediately (against Karlovic, this time). After that they remained on serve until the eventual tiebreak. There, David and Edu wasted two set points before David converted the third with a clean return winner, 7-6(6).
In the third set, David and Edu managed to break Cilic for a 4-3 lead before securing another break against Karlovic as he served to stay in the set, taking it 6-3.
The fourth set was probably the most dramatic one of the match. After saving three break points in a row, David still lost his serve (on a double fault) to give the Croats a 4-3 lead. At 5-4, Karlovic got broken, serving for the set. But another bad service game from David, including another double fault on break point, then meant another chance for Cilic to serve it out at 6-5. David and Edu broke straight back again and forced the tiebreak but only to lose it, due to a series of unforced errors.
The Croatian team served first in the fifth and deciding set and at 5-4 and 6-5, first Edu and then David had to serve to stay in the match but they both held easily. At 6-6, David and Edu then managed to get the decisive break against Cilic before Edu served out the match to love.

Exactly how David, the "Marathon Man" as the press is now calling him, managed to play another five-setter after his epic battle against Cilic yesterday - that's still beyond me. Even more so because after the chaotic fourth set (and the horrible tiebreak that ended it), David and also Edu were still able to take it up another notch in the fifth - with the help of the crowd.
I don't know if I played well or badly. The conditions were not the best because of the strong wind and the pressure to win. I think the support that we got from the crowd was the key. I want to thank them because there were moments when it was spectacular. (Source.)
David's post-match interview for the Davis Cup website (in which he talks about the "strange match" that it was and says that he feels good after it) you'll find here.

As far as I've been able to see, David hasn't said anything about further problems with his adductor. Then again, those might not manifest themselves until all the adrenaline is gone.
In any case, David now gets a much-deserved break until playing his first tournament of the European clay-court swing, the Belgrade Open (April 30 - May 6). But first of all a third day, courtside, when Delpo (or Pico) will hopefully secure a spot for Argentina in the semifinal.

(Alejandro Pagni/AFP/Getty Images)

Davis Cup Quarterfinal - Day 2

David and Edu Schwank have won the doubles rubber for Argentina. After just under five hours, they defeated Marin Cilic and Ivo Karlovic 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-3, 6-7(6), 8-6 to give Argentina a 2-1 lead after the second day.
David's work in this tie is now done - after over ten hours on court. Tomorrow, it will fall to Delpo (or, if necessary, to Pico) to get Argentina to the semifinal.

More soon...

(Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images)

There's been a line-up change - but on the Croatian side. Ivo Karlovic replaces Lovro Zovko.
But David will play together with Edu Schwank (source: AAT).

It's the second day of the Davis Cup quarterfinal weekend, time for the doubles rubber.
And these are the four players, who will contest the doubles. - Theoretically, at least.
As always in Davis Cup, both captains still have the chance to change the line-up or their doubles team. Changes like that can be made until one hour before the match. So it might not be until then that we'll know for sure whether it's going to be David and Edu Schwank against Marin Cilic and Lovro Zovko for the doubles.
David will want to play, there can be absolutely no doubt about that. How well he has been able to recover from his five-hour match yesterday (including alleged adductor problems)
- we'll have to wait and see.

I'll keep you posted.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Davis Cup Quarterfinal - Day 1 Review

(Daniel Garcia/Getty Images)

This surely wasn't how David will have pictured his return to the Parque Roca: After a record-breaking five hours and nine minutes on court, Marin Cilic sealed his first ever victory over David, prevailing 5-7, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-3.
Afterwards, it was reported that David suffered an adductor injury during the match, a claim that he denied during his post-match press conference. But although there's apparently no actual injury, it seems that David did experience some problems with his left adductor during the match (source). However, it looks like these problems are not too serious and they won't keep him from playing the doubles, tomorrow.
In the second match of the day, Delpo (who had been sick in the morning but still played) won the first point for Argentina by defeating Ivo Karlovic 6-2, 7-6(7), 6-1. So after the first day of play, Argentina and Croatia are tied at 1-1.

It was a difficult match, for David and for Marin Cilic, and not just because of its epic length. Both players not only had to battle against the opponent but also against the elements, in form of strong and constantly changing winds, sweeping through the Parque Roca, occasionally causing little "sandstorms" on court and often making it difficult enough to merely keep the ball in play. With a staggering amount of unforced errors on both sides and eleven double faults for David (whose serve is particularly vulnerable to windy conditions) as the result. In short - it was a rather ugly match.

(Daniel Garcia/Getty Images)
In the first set, David managed to get the first break of serve to go up 4-3. At 5-4, he had the chance to close out the set but then dropped his serve with a couple of errors. But he broke Cilic again afterwards and on his second attempt, David served it out, taking the first 7-5.
In the second set, he got an early break (for 2-1) but then handed it straight back. Cilic broke David again for a 4-2 lead but then failed to serve it out at 5-3. David got the re-break and to 5-4 but only to drop his serve in the following game, allowing Cilic to take the second set, 6-4.
The third set was the only one in the match that saw only one break of serve. It was David who broke to go up 3-2 and then closed out the set, winning it 6-4.
Early on in the fourth, David was under a lot of pressure on serve but managed to scrape thorugh after saving altogether nine break points in his first two service games. They stayed on serve until the eventual tiebreak, where a series of errors ended up costing David the set, with Cilic taking it 7-6(2).
In the fifth set, it was Cilic, who managed to get an early break (for 2-1). At 3-2, David had three break points but failed to convert any of them. Serving to stay in the match at 5-3, David saved two match points but couldn't keep Cilic from converting the third one. 6-3.
It was a tough match for both of us. In the fifth set I had the chance to draw level but I couldn't make it. He played a great match, especially in the fifth set, so he won. (Source.)
And it was especially in the fifth set that David was no longer able to keep up with Cilic, physically. Even though he tried, as best as he could. But from the fourth set onwards, David's movement deteriorated, which led to even more errors, also at inopportune moments.
I made lots of errors at crucial moments during the match and I'm angry that I've lost. (Source.)
David's post-match interview for the Davis Cup website you can listen to here.

So that was it - the second ever defeat that David has suffered at the Parque Roca (after losing to Nikolay Davydenko in the semifinal 2008). A bad match but hopefully one without consequences.
I'm fine. I simply had a bad day. (Source.)
Let's hope he's right.


Davis Cup Quarterfinal - Day 1

(Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images)
David has lost the first rubber against Marin Cilic, who prevailed 5-7, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-3 after five hours and nine minutes.
The conditions were difficult for both players and the wind (as well as quite a lot of bad bounces) was to blame for many, if not most of the countless unforced errors that both David and Cilic committed in this match.
But the question is now of course how fit David will be for the doubles rubber tomorrow, to be played less than 24 hours from now (see below).
Still, this is not where the trouble ends for Argentina. As reported by Argentine journalists, Delpo is sick but he's now playing the second rubber against Ivo Karlovic.

At his post-match press conference, David just told the assembled media that he is not injured (source) but simply grew tired towards the end of the match. He also said that he's planning to play the doubles tomorrow.
I guess we'll find out whether everything really is okay when or if he plays the doubles.
Edit: Here's the latest version (via Fue Buena):
Nalbandian has an adductor problem but for the moment it's not serious enough to keep him from playing. The plan is to try and then see what happens tomorrow.

Edit: Bad news. Apparently, David suffered an adductor injury (left side) already during the early stages of the match (source). At the moment, it's not clear whether he'll be able to play the doubles tomorrow. In case he can't Pico will play with Edu Schwank (source).

(Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images)

Welcome to the first day of the Davis Cup quarterfinal weekend. One that's unprecendented in the long history of Davis Cup: For the first time ever, all four quarterfinal ties will be held on clay. Whether indoors, at the O2 Arena in Prague, or outdoors at Marina D'Or in Spain, the Monte Carlo Country Club and last but not at all least the Parque Roca in Buenos Aires.

Today, it's time for the first two singles rubbers. And it'll fall to David to get things under way against Marin Cilic in the first match of the day. Afterwards, Delpo will face Ivo Karlovic.
More about the match-ups in the previous post by Krystle.

After missing the quarterfinal last year and then playing three away ties in a row David returns to the Parque Roca today for his first match at Argentina's home venue in well over a year.
- A special occasion for him. And hopefully also a successful one.

(Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Davis Cup QF Draw

The draw is out now for the Davis Cup tie - Argentina vs Croatia.

(Sergio Llamera)

The draw is as follows:

David Nalbandian vs Marin Cilic
It wasn't that long ago that David played against Cilic on the ATP level.  It was just two tournaments ago in Indian Wells where David triumphed in a tight match littered with errors 7-6(3) 7-6(4).  You would think that at the Davis Cup level, that the match would be played at a higher quality.  One of Cilic's earlier memories on the professional level was in 2006, when David beat him in Croatia 6-1 6-1 6-2.  It seemed like a horrible match-up when David beat him convincingly in Washington 6-2 6-2, but the matches have been more closely contested since, though David maintains that mental advantage.  David has the ability to take advantage of Cilic's laboured movement, particularly on clay where he can use the angles.  Cilic might have more time to react to the ball, but clay is really not his strongest surface.  I'd say he is probably a hardcourt specialist, though these days being a hardcourt specialist doesn't usually involve being incredibly weak on other surfaces.

Juan Martin Del Potro vs Ivo Karlovic
This will probably be one of the few times that Del Potro will face an opponent who is taller than he is.  Karlovic reached a career high ranking of 14 in 2008, and used to be known as a far more dangerous player than he is right now.  Currently he doesn't spring as many upsets as he used to, but he has done well to get his ranking back up to 52 from 239 which he was ranked at Indian Wells last year.  Del Potro already played against Karlovic in Miami this year, and Del Potro prevailed 7-5 6-4.  Del Potro leads the head-to-head 2-1 with the only win Karlovic has had being in Nottingham 2007 on grass which is Karlovic's best surface and Del Potro's worst.

David Nalbandian/Eduardo Schwank vs Marin Cilic/Lovro Zovko
Jaite has decided to go with the doubles combination of David and Schwank again, and perhaps this is a good idea against an inexperienced team like Cilic/Zovro.  David and Schwank get along well together and know each other well. They have a lot of positive energy, and Schwank has proven himself to be a good doubles player, and he performs well under pressure.  It is possible that Croatia may want to change that doubles combination.  Argentina will probably want to wrap up this tie after 3 rubbers.

Juan Martin Del Potro vs Marin Cilic
Probably the closest match on paper of the entire tie, except that first they would have to get to this rubber.  Both players used to be compared quite frequently coming from the same generation - bigger and taller players with limitations with movement.  Both players like to control points, but in different ways.  Cilic hits closer to the lines and is more accurate.  Del Potro uses his power and is more reliable.  Del Potro leads the head-to-head 4-2, but probably has a bigger advantage on clay.  Again, like all the other singles matches previously, Del Potro already played against Cilic earlier this year in Miami and won 6-3 7-6(3).

David Nalbandian vs Ivo Karlovic
Juan Monaco would play this tie if they were to get to a live fifth rubber, but it is unlikely they would get that far I think.

I guess considering that both David and Del Potro are favoured to win their matches, it's not really a big deal who plays first.  Apart from that, there aren't any real surprises in the line-up.

As usual, following Davis Cup protocol, the players listed on Sunday for the moment have to be those listed for Friday's singles.  However, as Julia covered in the press later in the week, it is unlikely that David will play on that third day.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tuesday Training & Press Conference

(Charly Díaz Azcué)

David may look rather pensive here but he can't have been wondering which matches he's going to play. During today's press conference, captain Martin Jaite confirmed once again that his strategy for the weekend remains to be same it has been from the start. Which means that on Friday, David (against Marin Cilic) and Delpo (against Ivo Karlovic) will contest the first two singles rubbers. On Saturday, David will play the doubles together with Eduardo Schwank (they had another training session in the morning). But there won't be a third match for him on Sunday - in case there's a live fifth rubber it'll be played by Juan "Pico" Monaco.

Despite Pico's run at Miami, Jaite not only plans to play David and Delpo on the first day. He has also never made any secret of this, even though in Davis Cup these things are often only revealed at the very last minute. But Jaite wanted his players to know what's ahead for them.
All of my players are important and I know that Pico is ready to play on all days and against any opponent. But Mariano [Zabaleta] and I, we think that the best way is to go with Delpo and David and to make this known as soon as possible so that there's peace of mind. (Source.)
David on the other hand acknowledged that it's easier to prepare for the tie, knowing exactly which matches he's going to play. More about that in the clip below. Apart from that, he stressed once more that the Davis Cup has a very special meaning for him.
I enjoy playing Davis Cup and even more so in my country. I always say that it's something totally different, unlike anything your get to experience on the Tour and it motivates me a lot more.
And apparently, he can hardly wait for the tie to begin...
We're fine, the preparations have been going well and we know the court well enough. The only thing that's left is to play. (Source.)
In David's case, that means first of all playing against Marin Cilic.
He's a tough opponent. We know the potential he has and how well he plays. I have to be wary, try to take advantage of every opportunity I get and be ready to fight. (Source.)
Here's a clip of first Delpo and then David, talking to the press after the press conference. David's part starts 59 seconds into the video:

Each captain has a different way of doing things, a different style. Martin [Jaite] said what's going to happen in advance. Of course things can still change, in case anything happens during the week. But as a player, it means you can be more calm and prepare in a different way than you would if you didn't know who's going to play and in that case there would also be more nerves in general. But he thinks there are ties where the captain can announce it in advance and others where that's not possible. Playing at home, that's very good for them. And they're obviously the favourites. But they have to stay calm and win those matches. The Croats are opponents they respect.

I have added more pics on the Photo Page and what I can tell you about today's training is that apart from practicing doubles with Edu Schwank (playing against Juan Ignacio Chela and Diego Schwartzman) in the morning, David again put in a second session in the afternoon, training with Pico.
That's it from me for the moment. I'll be away on family business so there won't be any updates tomorrow. On Thursday, Krystle will cover the draw ceremony and I hope to be back in time for the matches on Friday.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Week ahead in Davis Cup

It's been a busy day for the Argentine team. Well, except for Pico, who was given the day off. But the rest of the team was busy, training at the Parque Roca and on an additional outside court. There, David had his first session of the day together with Edu Schwank (while Delpo trained at the stadium with Diego Schwartzman, the junior player functioning as hitting partner). David's second session of the day took place on the main court, and apparently he played a test match against Schwartzman, while Schwank trained with Zabaleta and Delpo got the afternoon off (source). And there was, of course, also some football-tennis (see Photo Page).
Edit: A brief clip from David's first session here.

First of all, a look at the rankings after Miami. With 905 points now (including 25 for the second round at Miami), David remains at #50 this week, still thirteen places behind Carlos Berlocq, the fourth-highest-ranked Argentine player. I'll be taking a closer look at the rankings, and the results David will need to get past Berlocq and qualify for the Olympics, in time for the European clay-court swing, after the Davis Cup quarterfinal.

Speaking of which - the Davis Cup week has now officially begun. Yesterday, the complete team, including Juan Monaco, got together for the first time at the team's hotel in Buenos Aires (source). And from today on, the Argentine and the Croatian players will take turns, training at the Parque Roca, with each team getting two sessions per day.
From yesterday's training there are apparently no photos but today and in the days until the tie I expect there to be more photos and probably also videos, from the AAT and other sources.

Apart from that, between the two practice sessions tomorrow, it'll be time for the traditional Tuesday press conference (at noon, local time). Before on Thursday morning (10.30am local) the draw ceremony will take place. For the tie itself, the starting times are as follows:

Friday: 10.30am local
Saturday: 12pm local
Sunday: 10.30am local

Edit: Ahead of Argentina's first home tie in almost a year and his debut at the Parque Roca as captain, Martin Jaite talks about all that goes with the upcoming quarterfinal tie, from the public's expectations to the old question of David and Delpo.
Here's the interview he gave Marcelo Andreotto (for La Gaceta).
Q: Is the fact that Argentina still hasn't managed to win the Davis Cup an additional burden for the players?

Jaite: The burden is something that comes more from the outside than from the players, themselves. That has to do with the final of Mar del Plata, which was lost even though everything was set for winning it.

Q: In the last couple of years, tennis has undergone a kind of "footballisation" in Argentina, particularly when it comes to the Davis Cup. Some compare Federer, not having won the Davis Cup with Messi and his "debt" [to perform as well as he does for his club] on Argentina's national team. Do you regard that as a positive phenomenon or as something that's counterproductive for tennis?

Jaite: If I take a taxi or I'm at the newsstand and people talk to me about how well Del Potro has been playing or they ask me if I saw Nalbandian's last match then that's something positive. It's great for us, who are part of the tennis world and it also is, specifically, for Davis Cup. It's good if it fills the stadium because that makes the players feel great. What we have to take care of as coaches is that this euphoria gets conveyed to the players in a positive way and not as something negative, and that it doesn't create an obligation for the team or makes them feel under pressure to win because of what people think.

Q: The fans look at the draw and think they're already in the final in November. Are you worried that this triumphalism could be transferred to the court and hurt the team?

Jaite: I don't think that there's triumphalism among our players because we understand how difficult it is to win each and every point in Davis Cup. That's why we say that we take it match by match. Fortunately, we won in Germany and now we're focusing on Croatia. We can't think about hypothetical matters. Luckily, we understand tennis a little better than that. The public, in general, is more passionate. The players can't afford to be passionate in that moment, they have to be rational. Apart from that, the players are the ones who know their opponents best. It's not like Mariano [Zabaleta] or I have to watch videos to see how the Croats play. The players meet them on the Tour. That makes them more wary, it makes them respect their opponents and keeps them from being overconfident.

Q: Many Davis Cup captains would like to be on your place, with two players of the caliber of Del Potro and Nalbandian. It's known that they're not friends and that they've had some differences in the past. Against Croatia, it's the first time that both of them will be at your disposal. Have you scheduled a talk with the two of them to clarify certain things?

Jaite: I don't have plans for a specific talk with them. In Germany, we had many talks with the players, among the team as well as individually, and we'll continue to have those. But this is not something I'm worried about. It's not necessary for the players to be friends. They only need to respect each other and share the same goal. We're not planning to have a "little birthday party". We're simply going to get along for one week and have talks, just like we did in Germany.