Saturday, September 29, 2012

Future Uncertain?

It was a relatively well-documented return to the practice court that David made. With a handful of photos from his first training session a week ago. And then those two video clips included with the previous post, a few days later. But since then - nothing, no further photos or clips. It could be that this is not a coincidence.

During the last couple of days, the rumour appeared that David's recovery isn't really progressing the way he and his team were hoping it would and that he's still in pain when he's training. The clips in the previous post show David practicing. But it was only a light practice and rumour has it that he hasn't been making much, or even any progress since.
With the start of the indoor swing now two weeks away, this raises the question whether David will manage to get fit in time for Stockholm. In the words of Danny Miche, who's among those saying that things aren't really going well for David - "future uncertain".

How uncertain David's immediate future really is and how things are going now, I'd love to know myself. But there's nothing to be heard from David or his camp. At least, this silence doesn't necessarily have to be a bad sign, as it's the normal way of things.
Right now, we can only wait for what's hopefully going to be good news...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Preparing for the Indoor Swing

Maybe you've been wondering why there's so little news at the moment. But that's simply down to David, spending his days on the practice courts in Villa Allende.
As visual proof, these two little clips here were posted today via Nalbandian Tenis (Javier's own academy). And their descriptions confirm that David is preparing for a return at the European indoor swing, which means at Stockholm in two and a half weeks.
Edit: After that it's on to Valencia. He's in the main draw now (and won't need a wildcard).

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Back on the Practice Court

(Inés Gorrochategui Tennis Academy/FB)

At his press conference during the Davis Cup semifinal, David said he was hoping to return to the practice court next week, i.e. this week. And yesterday, he finally did. Accompanied by his physio Claudio Galasso and supervised by his brother Javier (seen here with him) David trained on the hardcourts at the Inés Gorrochategui Academy in Villa Allende, his usual training grounds when he's at home. Practicing, like he usually does, with a junior player.

So David is training again, getting ready for what's left of the season. But what exactly is left of the season for him? Ahead of the Davis Cup semifinal, the news came that David wouldn't be travelling to Shanghai for the Masters event, due to start in two weeks. Right now, his name is still on the entry list. But apparently, as reported before, he's not planning to play Shanghai but to make his comeback a week later at Stockholm (source)
After that, David will be playing Valencia (apparently with a wildcard if there are no withdrawals; he still is the first alternate on the entry list at the moment). That much is fairly certain. But whether or not David is going to play the Paris Masters I can't say at this point. His name is on the entry list but so far down on the list of alternates that he'd have to play qualies to get in, unless he gets a wildcard.

Finally, a few words about the news that was spread on Twitter this week (it's also been mentioned in the comments). Namely that David will play next year, a selection of events he'll choose and that he hasn't made any decision or immediate plans for retiring.
As much as I hope that it turns out to be true and David plays another year there's no confirmation for this. If there was, it would make headlines all over the Argentine press. But there are no headlines of the sort and none of the sources I know to be reliable is reporting it.
As for the second part, that David hasn't made any definitive plans about retiring is what he has been saying for months now. Most recently a week ago at the press conference he held at the Parque Roca. - No decision yet, he'll decide at the end of the year, after the season is over. That's the official version. And when it comes to news as hugely important as this, I'm going to rely on the official version, coming from David, himself.

(Inés Gorrochategui Tennis Academy/FB)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Davis Cup Draw 2013


It's one of the traditions in Davis Cup: The week after the semifinals, the draw gets made for the following year. An important date for David, shaping his plans, his schedule and probably also his expectations for the next season.
- Or at least, that's how it used to be.
This time, nobody knows whether David will play another season, another year of Davis Cup.
In the words of Martin Jaite:
We have to wait and see what David decides about his future. He has been a leader these last few years and it depends on whether he continues to play, or not. If he wants to, he'll be part of the team.
In other words, Jaite as well doesn't know yet whether or not David will go on playing. David probably doesn't know yet, himself. But just in case, here's the Davis Cup draw 2013.
Argentina has been drawn into the bottom half (* indicates home team):

Israel vs France*

Germany vs Argentina*

Austria vs Kazakhstan*

Switzerland* vs Czech Republic

Another Davis Cup season, another first-round tie against Germany for Argentina, only that next year (February 1-3) they'll meet at the Parque Roca. In the quarterfinal, Argentina would have another home tie against France but would have to travel to Israel. While another possible semifinal against the Czech Republic would of course mean an away tie for Argentine, this time.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Davis Cup Drama - A Look Back at the Lost Semifinal

On the day after the lost Davis Cup semifinal, let's start with the clear facts. With David's 65 ranking points from last year's semifinal in Belgrade gone now, he loses another five places and is now ranked #54.
But that he's losing ground in the rankings (and will continue to, in the coming weeks) is probably not what's on his mind right now.

Also without David taking to the court, it was supposed to be another triumphant weekend at the Parque Roca. The stadium where the Argentine team, cheered on by its famously vociferous fans, had so far always emerged victorious. This time, however, the weekend at the Parque Roca ended with a defeat. And with the realisation that the major factor in Argentine Davis Cup tennis was, is, and perhaps always will be - drama.

(AP Photo)
Before I turn to the latest instalment of Davis Cup drama, it's worth taking a look at the team Argentina lost to. For years now, Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek have constituted the Czech two-man team. They play every tie, and they play on all three days whenever they need to. While the other players, Lukas Rosol and Ivo Minar in this case, attend the draw ceremony, support Berdych and Stepanek during their matches and play the dead rubbers. Jaroslav Navratil used to be Berdych's coach for many years before he became captain. - And yet, about none of these things any kind of fuss is made. And neither Berdych nor Stepanek talk about how much they do for the team or for their country.

On the Argentine team, however, the drama once more began already during the week before the tie. While the rest of the team prepared for the semifinal together, appeared on team photos and at a press conference of the new team sponsor, Delpo was training at a club in Buenos Aires. On Wednesday, two days ahead of the tie, he joined the others. And he gave several interviews, saying that he'd play "for the people". Wednesday was also the day of the official dinner that Delpo apparently didn't want to attend. Reportedly, Jaite told him that if he didn't show up he'd be excluded from the team (source).

Then came the tie itself. The facts are simple, Delpo played despite being injured, like David has done on several occasions. He aggravated his injury and had to pull out of the tie, just like David had to in the first round, last year. But to a very different general reaction. And the way these things were presented to the public surely didn't help. Delpo left it to Jaite and team doctor Miguel Khoury to break the news about his withdrawal. And prior to the fourth rubber, he apparently told Charly, "I'm not in the shape to beat Berdych" (source). A quote that only seemed to confirm his suspected lack of commitment, even if it's clear by now that Delpo will be out for a month as a result of having played the tie. Jaite on the other hand, when asked about the whistles and boos Delpo received when he left the stadium after the fourth rubber, said that he "didn't like" those things, that they were "not good", though not without adding that "we can't tell people what to do" (source).

After three years with Tito Vázquez, at the end of last year the AAT decided to appoint Martin Jaite as captain. A dream come true for David, who had wanted his former coach for the job ever since Luli Mancini resigned. Delpo on the other hand was reportedly not amused that the AAT made this decision without consulting him. The appointment of Mariano Zabaleta as vice-captain (who hails from Tandil, just like Delpo) was apparently an attempt at building bridges between the two formerly opposed factions (Jaite was still David's coach at Mar del Plata). But now, the relationship between Jaite and Delpo is described as very strained.

Still, over all of this, it gets easy to overlook what shouldn't be overlooked - Pico, Edu and Charly. And all the other players who never took part in any of the drama, those who were simply there, who played and did the best they could. Those, who had (and still have) to put up with the antics of Delpo and of David, who's also no saint in this regard.

On Wednesday, the draw will be made for the Davis Cup 2013. Martin Jaite will continue as Argentina's captain, he's under contract until 2014. But will Delpo play next year?
And above all - will David?


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Davis Cup Semifinal - Argentina Out

(AP Photo)
Charly gave his best but it wasn't enough. Tomas Berdych has won the third and decisive point for the Czech Republic with his 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 victory in the fourth rubber.
So the Czech Republic will host Spain in the final.
While for Argentina, the Davis Cup season 2012 is over.
I believe it's the first time that the Argentine team has ever suffered a defeat at the Parque Roca, the stadium that so far always used to be their stronghold.
What the consequences of this defeat will be for David, whether he'll try again next year to make his big dream come true or whether he'll give up on trying - impossible to say at this point.

(La Razon)

It's the third and final day of this year's Davis Cup semifinal. The Argentine team stands at the brink of defeat. And in the absence of not only David but also Delpo on this final day, it falls to Charly Berlocq and Pico to try and turn the tide.

In the first match of the day, Charly (who replaces Delpo) will face Tomas Berdych. The match of his life, as he called it yesterday. And there can be no doubt that Charly will give everything he can, supported and spurred on by the crowd. Still, it's a huge challenge that awaits him, against Berdych, an opponent he has never beaten before (he took a set off him at the World Team Cup this year), who's ranked 39 places above him and who's also a seasoned Davis Cup player. - A big ask for our Davis Cup debutant. Though there's a certain someone whose very first tie also consisted of playing the doubles and then the fourth rubber.*

In the unlikely though not impossible case that Charly manages to beat Berdych, the tie will be decided in the fifth and final rubber between Pico and Radek Stepanek.

Play starts at 10.45am local (2.45pm GMT/9.45am EST).

*Almost exactly ten years ago, in the semifinal 2002 held in Moscow, David's first ever Davis Cup match was the doubles rubber that he played and won together with Lucas Arnold Ker against Marat Safin and Yevgeny Kafelnikov. A match that went down in tennis history as the longest doubles match of all time (6 hours and 20 minutes; 19-17 in the fifth set). On the following day, David then also played the fourth rubber, replacing Gaston Gaudio. But he lost to Safin, ranked #4 at the time, a fellow survivor of the marathon doubles, and Argentina lost the tie. That's how and when the whole Davis Cup madness started...

Saturday, September 15, 2012

David's Press Conference Yesterday & Doubles Day Today

Together, they were too strong for Edu and Charly: Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek have won the doubles rubber 6-3, 6-4, 6-3, giving the Czech Republic a 2-1 lead after the second day.
So Argentina will have to win both singles rubbers tomorrow in order to reach the final.
Edit: Martin Jaite has confirmed that Delpo won't play tomorrow (source). Charly Berlocq will replace him.

Meanwhile in Gijon, the American team won the first point against Spain, as the Bryan brothers beat Granollers & Lopez.

It was towards the end of the second set of Delpo's match against Radek Stepanek yesterday that David and Chucho Acasuso (and David's physio Claudio Galasso) took their places courtside. They were temporarily joined by Gaston Gaudio, who was honoured in the course of a brief ceremony between the matches. And Guillermo Coria was there as well, as a co-commentator for Argentine TV. A touch of the good old days of La Legion.
Gabriela Sabatini and Diego Maradona were present too, along with other Argentine celebrities. But David was the only one who gave his own press conference (during Pico's match). Which led to some speculations about a certain, important announcement he might want to make...
But David also gave a press conference last year during the quarterfinal tie that he couldn't play. And so there was no important announcement but a general update from David, himself.

About the semifinal tie and having to follow it from the stands:
It's strange to be out [of the tie]. It's not the best feeling to have but these things happen.
There are injuries that make you miss [a tie] and it's a shame. But I've come here to support the boys. We have to try and win this very tough tie.
It's a very tough tie. It's going to be a long weekend with difficult matches. Nothing is guaranteed. Hopefully we'll make it through and the team wil be fine for the future.
 About Delpo's match:
It's a point that we expected [him to win] because on paper it was predictable, although there was some uncertainty because of the injury. I think that Juan Martin didn't play his best but he won and I hope that he'll be okay to play the [fourth] rubber on Sunday because it's going to be crucial, for sure.
 About his injury and the recovery:
The tear is bigger than we expected. We tried to speed up the process with the doctors and the coaches but I'm still a long way away from picking up a racquet and training like I would've had to for this weekend. So I had to discard [that idea].
Right now, my recovery is slow and stable, without much trouble. I'm far from being able to train normally. But the Davis Cup final is still a long way away. So if I get the chance I hope that I'll be ready for that moment. (Source.)

I still can't go on a court and play a little tennis. Hopefully next week. (Source.)
About the future:
At the end of the year, I'm going to evaluate how I feel and I'll see what I want to do. Right now, I still want to compete. (Source.)
Which is the same he has been saying for a while now, so no news on this particular front. But at least he also doesn't sound more pessimistic, despite the injury.

At the Parque Roca, it's time for the doubles rubber today. And as the Czech captain Jaroslav Navratil already confirmed yesterday (though it was clear all along), Edu and Charly will be up against Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek.
The doubles starts at 12.30pm local (4.30pm GMT/11.30am EST).

Friday, September 14, 2012

Davis Cup Semifinal - Day 1


After the first day, Argentina and the Czech Republic are tied at 1-1.
Delpo defeated Radek Stepanek 6-4, 6-4, 6-2. (But he was in pain after the match and said he doesn't know yet whether he'll be able to play on Sunday.)
Whereas Pico lost to Tomas Berdych, who prevailed 6-1, 4-6, 1-6, 6-4, 6-4.
In the other semifinal, Spain leads 2-0 after Ferrer beat Querrey and Almagro beat Isner.
Apart from that, David gave a press conference today. Everything about that tomorrow.
And the doubles.

(AAT; montage by VD)

It's the first day of the Davis Cup semifinal at the Parque Roca (and in Gijon, where Spain and the USA face off in the other semifinal). And that means it's time for the first two singles rubbers - that David will be following from the stands.
Apparently, he has spent the last couple of days in Buenos Aires, hoping that there might still be a chance for him to play. But to no avail. So David will be at the Parque Roca today but to support and cheer on the team. And it looks like there's also going to be a press conference where he'll talk about what it's like for him to follow this tie as a supporter of the team, instead of being part of it (source).

As mentioned in the previous post, Delpo will open the tie for the Argentine team by taking on Radek Stepanek. In the second match of the day, Pico will then face Tomas Berdych.
Play starts at 10.45am local (2.45pm GMT/9.45am EST).
For those who want to take a look at the matches and/or at David in the stands I'll post stream links in the sidebar, in time for the first match.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Davis Cup Semifinal Draw

(Cancha Llena)

So here it is, the schedule and with it the match-ups for the Davis Cup semifinal tie. For those who want to follow the matches (like David will), on Friday and Sunday play starts at 10.45am local (2.45pm GMT/9.45am EST). While the doubles on Saturday will begin at 12.30pm local (4.30pm GMT/11.30am EST).

Juan Martin Del Potro vs Radek Stepanek
They've played doubles together a few times on the Tour (for example last year at the Queen's Club, where they beat David and Andy Roddick). In singles, they've met four times so far and it's Stepanek, who leads 3-1 in terms of the match record. A lead that includes their most recent meeting, which took place at Toronto, though it has to be said that Delpo seemed rather tired coming straight from the Olympics.

Juan Monaco vs Tomas Berdych
It's going to be a tough match for Pico against Berdych, who's the Czech #1 of course, as well as an opponent Pico has never managed to beat in the course of their five previous encounters. Still, the closest match they've had so far took place in Davis Cup, in the quarterfinal 2009 in Ostrava, where Pico took Berdych to five sets.

Carlos Berlocq & Eduardo Schwank vs Ivo Minar & Lukas Rosol
Though officially it says that Minar and Rosol will play, it's safe to say that these two won't be the team that Edu and Charly will find themselves up against in the doubles. Berdych and Stepanek have contested every doubles rubber since the beginning of 2009 and since then, they've lost only once. In other words, it's one of the most experienced and most successful Davis Cup doubles teams that Edu and Charly will have to deal with. In the match that will mark Charly's Davis Cup debut.

Juan Martin Del Potro vs Tomas Berdych
The fourth rubber, the first match on the final day of the tie, traditionally belongs to the #1 players. For Delpo and Berdych this will be their altogether seventh meeting, with the match record standing at 4-2 in Delpo's favour. Those four victories include their first Davis Cup encounter (quarterfinal 2009), which Delpo won in straights.

Juan Monaco vs Radek Stepanek
In the event of a live fifth rubber, it'll be up to the #2 players to decide the outcome of the tie. It's not a particularly good record that Pico has against Stepanek (2-4). But when they met on clay for the first time, earlier this season at Rome, Pico scored a fairly easy victory over him.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Davis Cup Semifinal with Delpo

Whether or not Delpo would play the Davis Cup semifinal tie, that was the question that kept the Argentine media and public busy the last few days. And there was only one, who unwaveringly predicted that he'd play - the Czech Republic's captain Jaroslav Navratil. He told everyone who asked, "Del Potro is going to play". And now we know that he was right with his pessimistic (from his standpoint) prediction.

(Sergio Llamera)
After not training with the team at the Parque Roca the last two days Delpo joined the others today and afterwards confirmed that against the advice from both his doctor and his team, he'll play the semifinal tie, due to start in two days. His wrist isn't any better but he'll "make every effort" and he's going to play "for the people" (source).

This means that Delpo, as Argentina's #1, will face the Czech Republic's #2, in all probability Radek Stepanek, on Friday. While conversely, Pico will play against Tomas Berdych.
On Saturday, Edu and Charly Berlocq will meet Berdych and Stepanek in the doubles.
And on Sunday, the reverse singles will first see Delpo up against Berdych and then Pico against Stepanek.
- Or at least, that's what it looks like right now. More about the tie and the match-ups tomorrow, after the draw ceremony (which is scheduled for 10.30am local).

No news from David at the moment. Only that according to the Spanish news site, it's a done deal that he'll receive a wildcard for Valencia (in case there are no withdrawals).

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Rankings & Davis Cup Update

A day later than usual, thanks to another Monday final at the US Open, here's a look at the rankings this week. With his third-round US Open points from last year gone now, David loses four places and is now ranked #49. But that's only the beginning.
In the coming weeks, David will lose further points:
- 65 he gained in the Davis Cup semifinal last year,
- 90 from reaching the quarterfinal at Tokyo and
- 45 from the second round at Shanghai.
Which means that from now until the start of the indoor swing David will lose another 200 ranking points and with them around 30 positions in the rankings (he'll probably end up somewhere in the mid-70s).

The indoor swing is only three weeks this season, not counting in the World Tour Final. The first of those three weeks David will spend at Stockholm, where he'll return to playing on the Tour. That much is already known.

The entry lists for the second week of the indoor swing are out. And David's name is on the list for Valencia. As it turns out, I was bit too optimistic, thinking he'd make the main draw. But it was close - right now, he's on top of the alternate list, one withdrawal away.

But for making the main draw at the Paris Masters, held in the third and last week of the indoor swing, he won't be ranked high enough. Which means that if David wants to play it, he'll need a wildcard from the organisers, or he'll have to play qualies.

Meanwhile, in Buenos Aires the practice sessions at the Parque Roca began yesterday. And the team was presented at a press conference of the new team sponsor - but it was short of one member. Delpo is still having problems with his left wrist and right now, it's not clear whether he'll be able to play the semifinal. Although he wants to. Here's what he tweeted last night:
Because of the pain in the wrist the doctor says I should take a complete rest for two weeks. I'll try and do the impossible to be there against the Czech Rep
In the coming days, he'll decide whether or not he'll risk playing the tie against the advice of his doctors (also known as the David way of doing things). If Delpo can't play it's going to be a very difficult tie for the Argentine team and and it'll probably also get very difficult to keep David from trying to play...

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Davis Cup Semifinal without David

"An injury can keep him out of the tie.
But it cannot keep him from dreaming of winning the Cup."

In the past, often enough David didn't let injuries keep him from playing Davis Cup. And Argentina's previous captains Luli Mancini and Tito Vázquez never stopped him from risking his health. Martin Jaite, however, who's not only the current captain but also David's former coach, is doing things differently. As tweeted today by Quique Cano:
Confirmed, Nalbandian out of the Davis Cup semifinal. Jaite said to him yesterday he's still recovering from the tear and that he's not planning to rely on him for this tie.
So while in Buenos Aires, the preparations for the semifinal have begun, and from Monday on the team will be training at the Parque Roca, David is back home in Unquillo.
Yesterday, he attended Argentina's World Cup qualification game against Paraguay (thanks, Guille), which took place in Córdoba, and according to a radio journalist who met him at the stadium, David's own summary of the current situation was, "This is really f***ed up." (Source.)

It must've been a severe blow for David to be told that his part in the Davis Cup semifinal will be limited to supporting the team from the stands. At the same time, I cannot help but be relieved that this time, he won't play despite not being fit and that he won't be risking further and possibly more serious injury.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Brief Recovery Update

Update (07/09)
So now we once more have the kind of situation, where different sources are saying different things. In this case, about David's current state and the progress of his recovery.
According to Danny Miche, David's injury hasn't been getting better so far, he's still in pain and contrary to what Ballero told Telam, David has not yet started doing any physical work.
- Who's right, or closer to the truth? I'd tell you if I could.
Edit: And there's more news via Miche (confirmed by Clarin, who add that David is still "hoping for a miracle" that would allow him to play the semifinal tie):
Nalbandian cancels the Asian swing (Tokyo and Shanghai) and will make his return at the indoor events.
David's name wasn't on the entry list for Tokyo (and he wouldn't have needed a wildcard to get into the main draw), so I'm not quite sure whether he was planning to play it in the first place. But in any case, this means that David's next tournament will now probably be Stockholm, five weeks from now.

On Saturday, captain Martin Jaite and vice-captain Mariano Zabaleta will start their "training camp" for the upcoming semifinal tie against the Czech Republic. With Pico, Edu, Charly Berlocq and Leo Mayer, as well as junior player Diego Schwartzmann, who has been chosen as hitting partner. While Delpo's arrival in Buenos Aires will of course depend on how far he gets at the US Open.

Meanwhile, it looks like David has by now made it past the initial stage of painkillers and not moving too much. Still, recuperating from the tear in his left abdominal oblique muscle is apparently taking its time, as David's spokesman Bernardo Ballero told Argentine news agency Telam today:
The recovery is slow. Yesterday, there were new tests and David is working constantly with his kinesiological team, led by Diego Rodriguez.
But even though Jaite decided against nominating David for the semifinal, the speculations continue about David, perhaps still recovering in time to play the tie. As the line-up could still be changed up until the very last minute. And although the recovery process is "slow", the following statement from Ballero doesn't necessarily sound like David has resigned himself just yet to watching the semifinal from the sidelines:
It's all going to depend on the progress [he makes]. Right now, it seems very difficult.
Whether there's a realistic chance (or rather, the danger) that David might still try to play the doubles, I can't say. But I hope that Jaite will stay true to his word - every player has to be at one hundred percent.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Davis Cup Team Nominations Day

Today, ten days before the start of the Davis Cup semifinal, the captains have to officially announce their teams. Even if, as Martin Jaite explained in the previous interview, the line-up can still be changed up until an hour before the draw ceremony, next week on Thursday.
Jaite also said that he'd announce his team already on Monday. Yesterday, however, there was no sign of the press conference that is the usual setting for announcements of this sort.

But now it's official, the four players Martin Jaite has nominated for the semifinal tie are:
Juan Martin Del Potro, Juan Monaco, Carlos Berlocq and Eduardo Schwank (source).

Jaroslav Navratil, the Czech Republic's captain, has nominated his team as well:
Tomas Berdych, Radek Stepanek, Lukas Rosol and Ivo Minar (source).

So Carlos Berlocq will be making his Davis Cup debut in the semifinal. And he's an obvious choice for replacing David in the doubles, as Edu and Charly have played doubles before and even won a doubles title together (Stuttgart 2010).
That it's possible to change the line-up up until one hour before the draw ceremony is now leading to speculations about David, perhaps still finding a way of recovering in time for the tie and joining the team at the very last minute. The same way he did in Stockholm, 2010.
Though for my part, I don't really think that this would be a good idea.
Edit: Apparently, Jaite and David met yesterday and after that meeting Jaite decided that David wouldn't be part of the team (source).

From David, there are no real news at the moment, only that there will be more tests during this week and that he's continuing with the recovery process (source).
But one can imagine what he must be feeling like, right now...

Update II
On a different note, here's the latest addition to David's schedule. He'll once more start the European indoor swing at Stockholm (October 15-21).