Back in November, when asked about the future of the Argentine Davis Cup team, Pico said he couldn't imagine the team without Delpo, its #1 (source). But now he and the others will have to get used to the thought since Delpo has decided not to play any Davis Cup ties this year. A decision that he announced in the course of a public dispute between him and captain Martin Jaite.
But before I get to that - there's more bad news for Jaite, David and the team.
Apart from that, Leo Mayer has managed to injure his hand in an "accident with pyrotechnics". He's out of Brisbane, in doubt for Melbourne and possibly also for the first-round tie.
And the list grows longer: Charly Berlocq has pulled out of Auckland due to a strained thigh muscle, "as a precaution and in order to continue his recovery".
But back to Delpo and Jaite and their dispute. Here's a chronology of events:
Friday, Dec 21
It all begins with a piece of info that, as such, is no surprise: Delpo won't play the first-round tie against Germany. The unusual part, however, is that he has been excluded from the tie by Jaite.
Delpo himself initially dismisses this as hearsay.
They're saying things now but I still haven't spoken with the captain. We'll talk and then the two of us will say something. In the next couple of days, I'm going to meet with him and then we'll decide the [Davis Cup] schedule and what's ahead. (Source.)
Saturday, Dec 22
In an interview, Jaite explains why Delpo is no longer part of his plans for the tie against Germany.
Together with vice-captain Zabaleta, Jaite asked seven players to state until December 10 whether they're available for the first-round tie. Six players said yes (David, Pico, Edu, Charly, Leo Mayer and Horacio Zeballos). As Delpo wanted more time to decide, Jaite gave him until December 20 to make up his mind and reply. But no reply came. At 8pm on the 20th, Jaite left a message, informing Delpo that no reply would be treated like a negative reply. Nothing was heard from Delpo so he was ruled out of the tie.
Wednesday, Dec 26
At a press conference Delpo says that he learned about his exclusion by Jaite from the media since the two of them haven't met and still haven't talked to each other. He adds that he wants to speak with Jaite as he'd like to start the season with all Davis Cup matters settled beforehand.
Thursday, Dec 27
Jaite, on holiday in Uruguay, responds via the media, stressing that Delpo failed to cooperate.
The rules have to be the same for everyone. We were very clear about that. (Source.)
Friday, Dec 28
Delpo announces that he won't be playing any Davis Cup ties this year.
It wasn't an easy decision but I have important goals on the circuit. (Source.)
Saturday, Dec 29
Both Jaite and Zabaleta call Delpo's decision "understandable" and say that it has to be respected. They also both assure Delpo that in case he changes his mind, he'll be welcome and the "doors will be open" for him. All the players, including David, are keeping a complete silence on the matter.
Meanwhile in an interview Delpo talks about his problems with the AAT and its officials. He also insists that his decision against playing Davis Cup is not meant to be forever - only for 2013.
Monday, Dec 31
Delpo makes it clear that he won't change his mind and that for him, the discussion is over.
Not taking part in the upcoming Davis Cup [season], that topic is closed. (Source.)
So the official version is that Delpo wants to focus on the Tour this year and on securing a place among the top players. And that additional Davis Cup duties would lessen his chances of achieving this.
Now, you could argue that those additional Davis Cup duties would merely amount to playing a maximum of two ties during the season (as he won't play in the first round and usually doesn't, anyway; the final takes place after the end of the ATP season). You could also argue that other players, also top players (e.g. Djokovic) gained extra confidence in Davis Cup that proved to be very helpful for them on the Tour.
But if you look at the circumstances then I think it gets rather difficult to see Delpo's decision as a purely strategical one that's not related to Jaite and their obvious differences. Just to remind you, the AAT appointed Jaite (David's coach at Mar del Plata) against Delpo's wishes and without consulting him.
Still, the new arrangement seemed to work - until the whole thing blew up during last year's semifinal.
Afterwards, Jaite and the AAT offered to have the first-round tie played on hardcourt for Delpo's sake. Making things easier for him and yet at the same time more difficult by removing his standard reason for not playing in the first round, namely having to switch surfaces. Delpo reacted with silence, and an angry Jaite eventually decided together with the other players to play the tie on clay.
It's impossible to know who put in how much of an effort to reach (or avoid) who in this case. Though once again, the same old mistake was made of communicating via the media instead of talking face to face.
I don't think Delpo knew from the start that he wasn't going to play any ties this year. In the early stages of the dispute (practically until two days before he announced his decision) there's nothing to suggest that he had such intentions. Therefore it seems more like a reaction than a previously laid plan. Another reason why it's difficult to see Delpo's decision as unrelated to Jaite, just like that it's supposed to concern this year only. Jaite's contract as captain ends after this season and Guillermo Vilas is already positioning himself as his successor (supported now also by his former arch-enemy José Luis Clerc). Apart from that, this is probably also David's last year. So in 2014, Delpo could return to a team that's very different from what it is now.
At the end of the day, we can only speculate about the motives and the exact workings behind all this. But what's clear is that the Argentine team will have to make do without its best player. And how far David, Pico and the others can get without Delpo, well, that remains to be seen. Should they lose to Germany in the first round it'll be the World Group Play-offs for Argentina in September. Would Delpo make an exception in that case? Your guess is as good as mine.