Tuesday, July 31, 2012

David: I Don't Want To Be A Robot

(Ignacio Colo/La Nacion)
Before we move on to Toronto and the US hardcourt events here's something we haven't had in a while, a long interview that's about David, the person and not only about David, the tennis player.

Ahead of David's departure for London, Flavia Fernández interviewed him for the magazine supplement of La Nacion.
A conversation that took place at the set of the new Rexona Men commercial that David was filming that day (a "backstage" video about it you can watch here).
And one that, according to the article, saw David in a relaxed and friendly mood.

The interview is very long, therefore I've decided to include only a small part here and post the rest in form of an additional, backdated post, linked below.

It starts with a question about the mental aspect in tennis...

Q: At which point do you overcome the tension?

David: Who says that you overcome it? No, the nerves are always there. If not, you're not of this world. Stomach pain is a classic. The tingling sensation that appears twenty minutes before you play is another. I guess that if you lose these things then nothing matters to you anymore. There's always that bit of tension, also during the match. But well, you have to deal with it and try to be as cool as possible.

Q: You've recently shown yourself to be not all that cool...

David: I made a mistake and I said that I did. That kick happened in the heat of the moment and nothing more than just that. I let off steam. I didn't see anything and I didn't realise that there was a guy behind it [the board]. It was bad luck that I ended up hurting him. I wanted to kill myself, the truth is that I wasn't in control what I was doing. I'm not trying to justify what I did but these things happen to me because of how competitive I am.

Q: One would think that at your level, being competitive is a virtue.

David: Yeah, that's for sure. But you have to control yourself.

The interview continues here.

Update (01/08)
It was to be expected and now it's official - David is in the main draw at Toronto.
And together with Martin Jaite, Mariano Zabaleta, Tito Vázquez, Pico, Charly Berlocq and a few Argentine basketball players (including superstar Manu Ginobili) he watched Delpo's singles match against Gilles Simon today.
Some photos of David in the stands you'll find on the Photo Page.

Monday, July 30, 2012

"It Was A Tough Day..."

(Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images)
- David's first day at the Olympic tennis competiton that ended up also being his last. Here's a look back at this "Black Saturday" for David and at his take on his defeats in both singles and doubles.
I didn't play well, or rather, I didn't play the way I wanted to, in neither of the two matches.
The first of which was the singles against seventh seed Janko Tipsarevic. In their previous match at Wimbledon, a month ago, Tipsarevic had managed to unnerve David with some strong and most of all clutch serving. A performance that he was able to repeat, again leaving David without answers on return.
I couldn't find the solution for the serve. I tried but I couldn't do it.
Also in general, the match turned out to be rather too similar to their previous Wimbledon encounter. Again, David found himself trailing most of the time, after dropping his serve (again on series of unforced errors) early on in both sets. In the first set, he managed to recover the break immediately, on his first break point. But any hope that the match would now take a different turn proved to be short-lived. David lost his serve again in the following game and he didn't get another break point in the match. In the end, Tipsarevic prevailed 6-3, 6-4.
I had problems, reading his serve. I think he played better in the important moments and that made the difference.
- Which is pretty much exactly what he said after their previous match. What was different this time was that David made a few more unforced errors. Going for too much with his shots, especially on the forehand, and sometimes struggling with his shot selection. But at the same time also struggling with something else, namely his footing on court.
The courts are not as good as they seem, they're wet and there were a few strange bounces.
A problem that also Tipsarevic complained about and that could be observed during other matches.
It was a tough day because I had an extremely tough draw. I didn't play well in the singles match. He served very well, I had my problems returning and there were few rallies because it was a very short match. It's a bitter pill you have to swallow.
But the loss to Tipsarevic turned out to be not the only bitter pill for David on Saturday. Later, he also lost the doubles with Edu against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Michael Llodra. There was no coverage for this match. But here's a clip of the final stages, filmed from the stands:

We knew that it was going to be difficult and they took advantage of those chances that they got.
While David and Edu didn't have a single break point throughout the match, for Tsonga and Llodra a break towards the end of both sets was enough to secure a fairly easy 6-3, 7-5 victory. Leaving David out of the London Olympics and faced with questions (in the mixed zone) about his remaining goals for this season.
What matters is that in Davis Cup, we're in the semifinal.

There are still goals. There's still the US Open and we're in the semifinal of the Davis Cup.
But he was also asked whether there's any chance of him, playing the Olympics 2016 in Rio.
I don't see myself playing in four years. Getting a good result at Olympic Games would've been very nice but unless they advance the Rio de Janeiro Games (laughs), that was it.
At least, there's still the chance to spend a couple more days at the Olympic Village.
You don't come here to make friends but it's always a very good experience to stay at the Olympic Village because you get to share things with other athletes.
(Quotes: Olé, Yahoo, SitioAndino & Clarin)
And there's also the chance to attend other events and support the Argentine athletes. Yesterday, David (along with Edu, Charly Berlocq and Gisela Dulko) paid a visit to the Argentine basketball team and got to celebrate its victory over Lithuania (source).

Next up for David in tennis terms is the Rogers Cup, the Canadian Masters event held at Toronto this year. Right now, he's still two withdrawals away from making the main draw (reduced in size because of the Olympics). But some withdrawals are to be expected.
The draw will come out on Saturday.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

London Olympics R1: Double Disappointment for David

Following his defeat in the first round of singles, David has also lost his first-round doubles match with Edu Schwank. After only 73 minutes, during which David and Edu didn't have a single break point, second seeds Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Michael Llodra won 6-4, 7-5. Putting an end to David's Olympic campaign already on the first day and after merely two and half hours on court.

Edit: More on Monday...

(Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images)
Ahead of David's first-round encounter with Janko Tipsarevic, the hope was that this match would look and turn out differently from their previous meeting in the first round of Wimbledon. But in the end, it was, unfortunately, more of the same. And after an hour and 23 minutes, it was once again Tipsarevic, who prevailed in straights, 6-3 6-4.

So the Olympic singles competition is already over for David. - Which leaves the doubles. And the only good thing about this defeat is that the match didn't take too long...

6.36pm local - The doubles match is underway now.

Friday, July 27, 2012

London Olympics Start Today

Tonight, the Olympic flame will be lit and the XXX Olympic Summer Games will officially begin, though some of the competitions have already started. And tonight's opening ceremony is one of the topics David talks about in the clip above. Here's what he says in it.

He's happy to be in London, together with the other guys, training. And the weather is very nice as well, something they're not used to in London
Asked about Wimbledon in its new Olympic guise, David thinks it's very strange. Also to see Wimbledon not working at its full capacity, with some parts of it shut off. But the courts are in a very good state. The colour (purple) is strange but it doesn't bother him, as that's simply down to the different rules and that it's a different event.
All the best players are going to be there, there are plenty of points at stake, and you're representing your country, something that everybody likes. It's a totally different kind of competition.
It's going to be very tough draw, like at a Masters event, with the 64-player field. You have to go match by match. Each round will be tough and you have to approach each day as if you're playing a final.
Asked about the opening ceremony, David says that those he saw in the past were spectacular. He doesn't know what's going to happen in this one but he thinks it's going to be great. As for special memories from the opening ceremonies he attended in the past, he says it's most of all getting together with all the other athletes that's special for him, especially at Beijing, where everybody was jumping around and singing.

This video was shot on Wednesday, David's first day at Wimbledon, ahead of yesterday's draw ceremony. And also ahead of David, finding out that he'll have to play both of his first-round matches tomorrow. Still, I can't imagine that he'll let this keep him from attending the opening ceremony tonight. And perhaps, with a bit of luck, we'll get to spot him when the Argentine athletes enter the stadium.
The opening ceremony starts at 9pm London time.

(AP Photo)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

London Olympics - The Draws

(Getty Images)

A very busy day ahead for David on Saturday - he'll have to play both of his first-round matches on the first day of the competition (see sidebar). His "luck" continues...

One day ahead of the opening ceremony and two days ahead of the start of the Olympic tennis competiton, today the draw ceremony for the singles and doubles took place at the AELTC. And here's what came out of it for David.
In singles, he has been drawn into the top half, top quarter. And in the first round he'll get to face the same player he met in his first-round match at Wimbledon, almost exactly one month ago:

[1] Roger Federer (SUI) vs Alejandro Falla (COL)
Julien Benneteau (FRA) vs Mikhail Youzhny (RUS)
Adrian Ungur (ROU) vs Gilles Muller (LUX)
Denis Istomin (UZB) vs [14] Fernando Verdasco (ESP)

[10] John Isner (USA) vs Olivier Rochus (BEL)
Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE) vs Malek Jaziri (TUN)
Lukas Lacko (SVK) vs Philipp Petzschner (GER)*
David Nalbandian (ARG) vs [7] Janko Tipsarevic (SRB)

Complete draw here.

So the first round will see what's going to be already the fourth encounter between David and Janko Tipsarevic, this season. David lost his last two matches against Tipsarevic (at Wimbledon and Miami) but beat him at Indian Wells. Their overall match record: 2-2.
I'm finding it difficult to look beyond this first-round match...
*Edit: Ivo Karlovic has withdrawn due to injury, Petzschner replaces him.

In the doubles, David and Edu Schwank have been drawn against one of the top-seeded pairs in the first round (in what's the lower quarter of the bottom half):

[5] Berdych/Stepanek (CZE) vs Bracciali/Seppi (ITA)
Isner/Roddick (USA) vs Melo/Soares (BRA)
Haase/Rojer (NED) vs Paes/Vardhan (IND) 
Nalbandian/Schwank (ARG) vs [2] Tsonga/Llodra (FRA)

Complete draw here.

But perhaps the chance of meeting the Czechs ahead of the Davis Cup semifinal tie will mean some extra motivation for David & Edu.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hello (again) London!

David arrived at London Heathrow this morning, having been on a flight together with Delpo and the Argentine male field hockey team. And by now, he has obviously moved into his accomodation at the Olympic Village and has had his first lunch there.
From Pico's Facebook (from which the photo above has also been taken):
With David. we've finished eating and now we are going to practice at Wimbledon

(AP Photo)
- And that's exactly what they went on to do. Despite having arrived in London only this morning (after a 13-hour flight), David and also Delpo joined the other Argentine players for a first training session at Wimbledon.
For David, that meant practicing together with Charly Berlocq on Court 9, one of the courts players can train on at the AELTC (two more pics on the Photo Page).

Tomorrow, at 11am local: the draw ceremony for singles and doubles.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The London Olympics - A Preview


The Centre Court at Wimbledon is ready for the Olympic tennis competition, as can be seen in this photo (and the same goes for Court 1, pictured below). And tomorrow, David, ranked #39 as of this week, will be on his way to Britain. Time to get ready for the London Olympics, also here on VD. So here's a look at what awaits David - and us.

The Draws
The draw ceremony for the singles and the doubles will take place at the AELTC on Thursday, at 11am London time. Whether there's going to be any coverage I can't say yet.

The singles competition will have a 64-player draw with 16 seeds (seeded according to today's rankings). In doubles, it's going to be 32 teams with 8 seeds. A complete list of the players you'll find here. Rafa Nadal and Gael Monfils (who defeated David at the Beijing Olympics) have withdrawn. Rafa will be replaced by Feliciano Lopez in singles and Marc Lopez in doubles, while Monfils will be replaced by Julien Benneteau.

As he won't be seeded, David can meet anyone from the first round on - except for Delpo, Pico and Charly Berlocq. Unlike at "normal" tournaments, the Olympic rules forbid players from the same country to be drawn into the same quarter. So David, Delpo, Pico and Charly Berlocq will find themselves getting evenly distributed across the four quarters of the draw.

The Competition
Both singles and doubles start on Saturday, July 28.

Play starts at 11.30am local until the semifinal stage. From then on, it's 12pm, local time.

All matches will be best-of-three without a tiebreak in the third set. The only exception is the singles final, which will be best-of-five, also without a tiebreak in the final set.

The matches will be played on 12 of the altogether 19 courts at the AELTC.
Edit: Apparently, there will be five show courts (Centre Court and Courts 1, 2, 14 and 18).
The TV coverage will differ from country to country, of course. Here on VD, I'll link streams for David's matches - if possible. Any help with finding streams (if there's coverage) will be very much appreciated.

Something that probably won't be appreciated, at least not by David, is that there's going to be a so-called "mixed zone", where journalists get the chance to talk to athletes directly after their matches. Which is normal in other sports but not in tennis, where players usually get a moment to take a shower (and calm down, if necessary) before facing the assembled press.

(Getty Images)
While other players, like Roger Federer and Delpo for example, prefer to stay away from the bustle (and the somewhat spartan accommodation; a gallery here) for David, the Olympic Village will be one of the highlights. And I think that's pretty cool. That the experience is more important to him than residing "in style". Whether he'll get a chance to show off again - we'll see. But no watching TV with Lionel Messi, this time.

Last but not least, this is the photo from David's official athlete's profile at the London 2012 website. It's one of the best, actually, in the tennis department (the complete tennis gallery of "mugshots" you can view here).
The profile itself is good fun, too. According to it, Luis Lobo is still David's coach. And the only language David speaks is English. Just like with most Argentineans...

Anyway, so that's what's ahead - London 2012. Chances are it's all going to be a bit chaotic. And I have no idea what the stream situation will be like. With the other, "normal" events, I know by now what I'm dealing with. But this is no normal event... Well, I'll try my best to keep you posted.

Update (24/07)
Yesterday, David attended the presentation of this painting (which was obviously painted after this photo here; it will be auctioned for the benefit of UNICEF, along with a handful of other paintings of Argentine athletes) in Buenos Aires.
Today, he'll be on his way to London Heathrow, where he's due to arrive early tomorrow morning.
Meanwhile, Edu Schwank (seen here with Gisela Dulko) has already taken up training at Wimbledon, with Martin Jaite and Mariano Zabaleta also present. About the doubles with David, Edu told Clarin that they're a "competitive team", they "know each other very well" and have had "good results" and therefore he thinks that they'll "have a chance".

Friday, July 20, 2012

Ahead of the Olympics - More from David


A week from today, the opening ceremony for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games will be held at the new Olympic Stadium in London (seen here in the background). And during the so-called Parade of Nations, Argentina will be the 9th of the more than 200 nations to enter the stadium. Or rather, the Argentine athletes will, led by flag bearer Luciana Aymar (a field hockey player). Including Delpo, Pico, Charly Berlocq, Edu Schwank and of course - David.

For David, these will be the second Olympic Games he gets to take part in. Back in 2004, he pulled out of the Athens Olympics at the very last minute. Four years later, he was again in doubt for Beijing 2008 but eventually took part, reaching the third round in singles (where he lost to Monfils) and losing in the first round of the doubles that he played together with Guillermo Cañas (to the Belgian pair Darcis/Rochus). But although he didn't get to spend that much time on court, he had a pretty good time off court (how good exactly you can see in this little clip).
Q: What are your memories of previous Olympic Games?

David: Though I didn't get there in my best physical shape the memories I have of the Beijing Olympics are excellent. I won two matches and had the wonderful experience of staying at the Olympic Village, together with thousands of other athletes. That's something I have good memories of, even if I didn't manage to win a medal.

Q: A lot is going to depend on what shape you're going to be in and also on the draw but looking at it now, what is your goal for London 2012? Is it good for you that the tennis competition will take place on grass?

David: My goal obviously is to win a medal for my country. I want to enjoy the Olympics with the same mentality as always - winning. As for the surface, it's true that I feel comfortable, playing on grass and I'll try to use that.
Having spent the last few weeks training on hardcourt (as there are no grass courts to be found in the vicinity of Unquillo), David, who's currently in Buenos Aires, will be on his way to London next Tuesday.
Playing the Olympics also means representing your country. Something David is famous, if not to say legendary for in Argentina, though mainly because of a certain other competition.
Q: Tennis is an individual sport but in your case, there's an admirable commitment - what does Argentina mean to you?

David: It's the country where I was born, where I grew up and where I took my first steps as a tennis player. I'm a great admirer and lover of my country. So every chance I get to play Davis Cup or represent it otherwise is very important for me.

Q: In sports, we often talk about "mystic qualities". When you're playing for Argentina you seem unbeatable. What do you think is the reason for this change that can be observed with you in those matches?

David: I think what you get to see is my great motivation in those matches. In every single tie you see my desire to win the Davis Cup and how proud it would make me to win it for the country for the first time. In each Davis Cup match I feel the weight of representing Argentina on my shoulders and that's an enormous boost.

Q: Is it normal for the Davis Cup to be a player's priority? Is it for you?

David: I don't think it's common as tennis basically is an individual sport. But at some point in their career, everyone should think about playing for their country. The obvious difference is that for me, playing Davis Cup is the priority.
I've said it in my review post, during this year's quarterfinal I didn't think that David seemed unbeatable, the way he usually does in Davis Cup. And not just because he ended up losing.
We've already had a longer interview and my extensive review about David's season so far. Here's a short version in form of three questions and answers:
Q: The first half of the season just ended. What's your analysis of the first part of 2012?

David: I began the season with a couple of good results and others that were not so good. I've managed to get in good physical shape again, something that's very important at this stage of my career and with the team we've had a good start in the first two Davis Cup ties against Germany and Croatia.

Q: In what way do you feel you're close to the Top3 and in what way you think you're far away from them?

David: It's difficult to think about the Top3 these days, because of my age and most of all because of the surgeries I've had. Apart from that, there are players today who are playing at an extremely high level and it gets more and more difficult to deal with them.

Q: What are your goals for the rest of the year?

David: Knowing that I've qualified for the Olympics I'm very much looking forward to the experience of staying at the Olympic Village again. And then in September, we'll play the Davis Cup semifinal against the Czech Republic. There are still good things ahead in this second half of the season, I'll be motivated.

So much for the first interview but there's another one, in form of a video (this is a screencap) that you'll find in this additional, backdated post.
In it, David talks about Rafa Nadal's withdrawal, about what's ahead in the second half of the season, the Olympics, and possible ways of spending his time after retiring.

Coming next Monday: Everything about tennis at the London Olympics.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Brief Update

A day later than usual, here's a brief look at the rankings. As far as David is concerned, nothing has changed compared to last week and he remains to be ranked #41.
But while for David nothing has changed, there is somebody for whom the rankings this week have a very special importance. And that's of course Roger Federer, currently spending a record-breaking 287th week as the world number one.
When I posted the last interview with David, I admittedly left out a certain part of it. And deliberately so - I wanted to post it in time for Federer's new record. So here's the previously missing part, with David's take on Roger Federer and his return to the top of the rankings. Something he apparently discussed with Fabián Sacarelli (the interviewer) before. And while back then, Sacarelli didn't think Federer could pull it off David predicted his return to the top.
You see? That's something I know a bit about (laughs). I told you that he would come back at some point because he's the best in the history of the sport. Now he's also again in terms of numbers but Rafa took the number one spot from him before and then came Djokovic. Federer is a player who possesses an incredible consistency. And I tell you, when the others fall off a little he'll be there. It's amazing, extraordinary, to tell you the truth I don't know any other guy who's been in the same kind of physical shape. He's 30 or 31 [he'll turn 31 next month] and the worst he's had has been a sprained ankle [and back problems, also recently]. You see, everybody else, they all suffer lots of injuries. He must have some problems because of his age but he always reached finals, semifinals, never lost touch. He was going to come back and he did.

Federer is breaking all-time records. What Djokovic did last year was incredible. But Roger did it for four or five years. It's fantastic what he has achieved and continues to achieve.

And one that matches today's David/Federer topic. As has been known for a while, on December 12, Federer is going to play an exhibition match against Delpo. By now, Federer has apparently agreed to play a second match in Argentina on December 13 (Edit: or maybe 16), giving rise to speculations (like in this article) that on that second day, his opponent might be David.
But at the moment, it's really just that - speculation.

Right now, there's no further news and for all I know David is still in Unquillo. But with the next post, due later this week, I'll start to look at what's ahead - the London Olympics.

David is still in Unquillo and continues to train in Villa Allende as this new clip shows.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Hopes & Fears... David's Season So Far

In a way, it's the season David must've been dreaming of: For the first time since hip surgery, he has been able to play a normal schedule without injury pauses. In numbers: Until now, halfway through the current season, David has played 12 tournaments. Last year, he played 13 and the year before that 11 - in total.
At those 12 tournaments, he's had some good results, reaching the final at the Queen's Club, the semifinal at the Copa Claro and Belgrade and the quarterfinal at São Paulo and Indian Wells. And yet, it doesn't really seem like David is happy or content with how things have been going for him.
Here's an attempt at explaining why
I think that's the case.

After the last two seasons with their constant cycle of injury, recovery, playing, injury etc this time, from the start, it looked like everything was going to be different. For the first time in years, David was able to do a proper pre-season, and the former limitations to his fitness training no longer applied. Allowing him to think that he was entering this new season well-prepared and with a chance of finally doing what he had been wanting to do these last couple of years: going back to being the player he was before hip surgery.

That he was physically in much better shape already became obvious at the Australian Open, during his unfortunate second-round defeat against John Isner. At the same time, the "water-throwing incident" that followed perhaps not only showed how angry and frustrated David was after that match but also just how urgently he wanted to be successful again, especially on the big stage.
After that, David won two points for Argentina during the Davis Cup first-round tie against Germany in Bamberg and then went straight on to play what would become the second best Golden Swing he's had in his career (second only to 2008). The last two years, this part of the season ended with injuries, this time it ended with a quarterfinal and a semifinal - and what must've been the continued hope that great things were ahead.

Then came Indian Wells. David fought his way through the rounds and for the first time since Toronto 2010, he managed to beat a Top10 player. Two of them, that is, in Janko Tipsarevic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (after saving a match point).
David's run ended in the quarterfinal with his three-set loss to Rafa Nadal, after having once more come fairly close to beating him. Proving that he can still keep up with the top players. But with hindsight, I believe that David was after proving more than just that. After all, he always had his chances against Nadal, during the last two seasons, as well as when he was playing with his hip injury. This time, he was healthy, going into the match. And I believe that David was determined to prove that he can still beat a top player, the way he used to in the past. But although this time, his fitness didn't let him down and he fought until the very end, it was not enough to beat Nadal.

After David's exit at Miami, it was time for the Davis Cup quarterfinal tie against Croatia. During which Marin Cilic became only the second player to ever defeat David in singles at the Parque Roca. (The first was Nikolay Davydenko in the semifinal 2008 when David played on all three days despite his hip injury.) It was a difficult and somewhat chaotic match due to the blustery conditions. Still, what did strike me during it was that David didn't seem to have that special aura he usually has, playing Davis Cup, and even more so at home. A phenomenon I like to describe by distinguishing between "Davis Cup David" and "ATP David". In this particular match, however, David couldn't seem to find a way of summoning the confidence and the determination he usually has in Davis Cup.

The European clay-court swing began with Belgrade, the tournament that David must've seen as his big chance to win his first title since Washington 2010. In his semifinal match against Andreas Seppi, however, the first real test he faced during that week, he ran out of gas towards the end of the match and consequently ended up losing it.
Another three-set match David lost, though in very different fashion, was his loss to Andy Murray in the second round at Rome. After a horrible start, David played perhaps his best tennis of the season so far in sets two and three and just like against Nadal he came fairly close to winning. But also like against Nadal, in the end it was not enough to beat Murray.

Then there was the chaotic week Queen's Club, with the rain delays, the schedule changes, the point penalty David received in his third-round match - and the grand finale. Over the whole fuss that was being made about the incident with the linesman it gets easy to overlook what's probably the more important question - why did David lose it at that moment when he had just lost his serve but still had a good chance to win the match?

(Andrew Yates/AFP/Getty Images)
Three years ago, while doing rehabilitation after hip surgery, David said that back on the Tour, he'd "fight to be among the Top5 again" (source). Which was rather too optimistic. Still, what must've kept David going during the last two, injury-riddled seasons was thinking that he could go back to being the player he was before hip surgery - if only he found a a way of staying healthy and playing regularly again. Or in David's words: "With continuity, the rest will take of itself." (Source.)
At this point, halfway through the current season, it's safe to say that the continuity is finally there. But if David's hope indeed was that this year, he could finally go back to being the player he was, winning titles, going deeper at the big events and able to beat anyone - then it hasn't really come true so far.
Since Indian Wells, which with hindsight seems to have been the turning point, David has reportedly been "very angry, talking back again, upset and nervous" (source). I believe that's because he's fighting what to him apparently seems like an increasingly uphill battle. Not just against his opponents but also against umpires and their decisions, tricky weather conditions and schedule changes, physical problems of the unforeseen kind (Roland Garros), and bad luck with the draws.
In the end, though, I think all of this shows that David had different expectations for this season. And that he has grown more and more frustrated with the way things have been going. Frustrated enough to blow his top during the Queen's Club final, where there was a lot at stake for him, also at 7-6 and 3-4, namely the hard work he put in that week and proving that he's still able to win a title - all of which he ended up ruining for himself.
It's not that, objectively speaking, his results have been all that bad. And it's also not like in the past, also before hip surgery, David never had even longer periods where he was less successful. Still, I think that most of all David is struggling to come to terms with the realisation that he cannot turn back time and be the David of old again.
With the Olympics, the US hardcourt events, the Davis Cup semifinal and the indoor swing still to come, I don't think he has given up his hopes for this season just yet. But unless he wins a title, goes deeper at the big events, or manages to beat one of the top players, I think that retirement at the end of the season will become an increasingly likely possibility.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Olympics, A Past Final & A Future Decision

(La Voz/archive)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, July 9, 2012

Rankings Update

As it's the Monday after Wimbledon, here's a brief look at the rankings after the third Slam of the season. David's first-round exit has cost him 80 ranking points (since he reached the third round last year) and one position in the rankings. So as of this week, David is now ranked #41.

- And that's it for news at the moment. Whether David is still at home and training in Villa Allende, I can't say. Perhaps he is. But I guess at some point he'll move to Buenos Aires, to train on grass ahead of flying back to London for the Olympics.

Edit: David is still in Unquillo and there's a new, extensive interview - post coming soon...

I'm also not quite sure yet what the next three weeks will look like here on VD, in case David insists on remaining "in hiding". But I'm planning to post my review of the season so far (and its implications) by the end of the week.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

What's Ahead

Update (05/07)
Here's a video of David, practicing today at the Inés Gorrochategui Academy in Villa Allende, around the corner from Unquillo. So he's indeed at home at the moment.


Hi there, everybody - I'm back and so is Vamos David. :)
Who isn't back yet, well, that's David. After making international headlines of the not exactly desirable sort, he's currently taking a break, also from the media. And that means - no news of any kind. So I can only speculate that he's probably still at home in Unquillo right now. Reviewing, perhaps, his season so far (something I intend to do in a future post). And he'll definitely be trying to recharge his batteries, gathering strength for what's to come...
It's still more than three weeks until the Olympics and I can't say whether in the meantime, there's going to be much to report. But once this current pause ends busy times are ahead, with a packed schedule for David from the Olympics all the way through to the Davis Cup semifinal in September. Here's a look at what's ahead.

London Olympics
Four years ago, David and the rest of the Argentine team had to travel to Beijing for the 2008 Olympics. This year, he'll be going back to where he came from
- Wimbledon. Only that this time, he won't have to wear white, all matches will be best-of-three (except the final) and apart from singles, David will also be playing doubles with Edu Schwank, who, after learning about the ITF invitation, tweeted the following:
Lost for words after finding out that David and I have received an invitation to play the Olympic Games!!! More than happy!!! just that!!! a dream!

US Hardcourt Swing
Directly after the Olympics, the US (or, more accurately, the North American) hardcourt swing will start for David at the Rogers Cup, the Canadian Masters event that will be held in Toronto this year. At the moment, David is two withdrawals (or a wildcard) away from the main draw. But a couple of withdrawals are to be expected.

From Toronto it's then straight on to the second Masters, leading up to the US Open - Cincinnati. Which is not exactly David's favourite Masters event but thanks to the bigger draw (compared to the Rogers Cup) he already has his place in the main draw. After Cincy, David will get a week off ahead of the big one...

As always, this part of the season will culminate in the US Open (August 27 - September 9), the Slam that David has played more often than any of the other Slams and that he only missed in 2009 (for obvious reasons). Whether David might have a chance of being seeded at the US Open will depend on his results until then. Though especially Toronto and Cincy could be a chance for him to gain points and improve his ranking as he has only few points to defend at both of them.

Davis Cup Semifinal
After the US Open, for David it'll then be straight over to Buenos Aires for the Davis Cup semifinal tie against the Czech Republic (September 14-16). And after playing on grass and hardcourt, that will mean playing on clay. Whether captain Martin Jaite is going to rely on David for playing singles on the first day, or whether David will play the doubles with Edu Schwank and then perhaps the fifth rubber - we'll see.

So that's what's ahead in the coming weeks and months. - A lot. And that's why David is taking a break at the moment. The next three weeks will probably be somewhat uneventful. But after that...


Last but not least, Istabraq's photos from Wimbledon, of David's match against Tipsarevic but also of him, warming up with Juan Carlos Ferrero (and sharing a laugh with Jelena Jankovic) you can now view on the Photo Page.

Here, I'd like to take a moment to thank Istabraq and Denise for the great photos they've taken and for allowing me to post them here on VD. Thank you both!