Everyone who takes more than just a cursory interest in the tennis player David Nalbandian has seen it before, the sheer range David possesses with his game. From beautiful and virtually flawless to barely watchable. There are matches where you get to see both ends of the spectrum, and this one, which "the other David" Ferrer won 2-6, 6-4, 6-0, was one of them. After an excellent first set, David grew more and more tired and eventually finished the match, running on empty. Still, the first set was a glimpse of what is still possible, it will have been also for David, himself. Something for him to build on.
The complete match (or just the first set) you can watch here.
And during the first set yesterday, he showed what his game can still look like, if everything works out. Including his serve.
84% first serves, 3 points dropped on serve - stats out of this world, just like pretty much everything else David did in this set. It's been a while since I last saw David move as well as this on clay, or hit especially his forehand so cleanly and accurately. At the same time, Ferrer made more errors than usual, several of which were the consequence of David's deep returns.
The first break David already got in the very first game of the match, a lead he then extended to a double break (for 4-1). After half an hour of brilliant tennis, David had won the first set 6-2. But the question was of course whether he'd be able to keep it up.
Early on in the second set David was still playing very well, though no longer quite as spectacularly well as in the first set. At that stage he still hadn't faced a single break point in this match - until the sixth game with its epic, ten-minute deuce battle. David saved the break point Ferrer had during it and somehow he held serve. But with hindsight, that was the moment when the 'lightness of being' from the first set was officially gone. David began to grow tired, with his serve and his movement deteriorating and with errors seeping into his game. Eventually, Ferrer broke as David served to stay in the second set, taking it 6-4. And at that stage it was pretty clear how this match would end.
An astounding, brilliant start - and then a rather drastic downward spiral. And the shades of the David of old in the first set, or so it seemed. But the David of now still only just returned to the Tour. From no competitive tennis in almost half a year to playing a match almost every day and yesterday, it caught up with him.
As David said after the match against Berlocq, he's planning to play less than he did in previous seasons and he'll play those tournaments he likes (and where he gets a wildcard). He said it's going to be about enjoying himself. I think that's a good approach. And if from time to time he can still play like he did in the first set yesterday (or against Almagro last week) then so much for the better.
The video below contains a summary of what David said about the match at the press conference. That it was a tough match, that he played well for a set and a half but then began to feel the exhaustion from last week catching up with him. And that if at this level, you allow your intensity to drop just a little bit then you have to pay for that. Adding that Ferru is a great fighter, who made quite a few unforced errors in the first set but then raised his game while with David himself, it went exactly the other way around. It had something to do with the many matches he played last week, with the very different conditions here that cost much more strength - and Ferru was able to take advantage of all that.
Next up for David is now the final stop and big get-together of the Golden Swing - the 500 event in Acapulco...
Edit: ...where he's in the main draw without needing a wildcard.
Apart from that, it's always nice to hang out at the beach - even if the ATP has issued a warning for the players, with tips about how to stay safe in Acapulco. Here's hoping David will stay safe. And a decent draw would be nice (the draw will come out on Sunday).