Saturday, March 30, 2013

First Day of Training & Schedule for the Week


First they all had lunch together, then it was time for the first training at the Parque Roca. David began the session at the stadium, where he practiced with Pico. Then he moved over to the outside court for a round of doubles practice with Horacio Zeballos, with the two of them playing against Guido Pella and Diego Schwartzman (junior player and additional hitting partner).
Some more photos on the Photo Page.
Edit: Photos from Sunday's training have now been added.

The Davis Cup week starts today: Later, at 2pm local time, the Argentine team will have its first training session at the Parque Roca. While the French team, that is to say Michael Llodra, Julien Benneteau and Gilles Simon, already took up training at the stadium yesterday.
I'll be adding any photos or news I can find about today's session as an update to this post.

In the meantime, here's a look at the schedule for the coming days (all times local):

Press conference

Draw ceremony & press conference

First two singles
Play starts 10.30am


Reversed singles
Play starts 10.30am

Apart from that there's a sign that David might play the Masters in Madrid. His name is on the entry list, too far down even for a place in qualifying, but he was supposed to receive a wildcard last year and didn't need it in the end. So I assume he'll probably get one this year.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

In the Words of Martin Jaite

(Mauro Alfieri/La Nacion)

Two days from now it'll begin. On Saturday, captain and vice-captain, players and training partners and everybody else belonging to the Argentine team will meet at the Parque Roca. And the Davis Cup week, leading up to the quarterfinal tie against France will be under way.
Whether David is in Buenos Aires at the moment, or whether he's taking a short break back home in Unquillo, I can't say. In the meantime, here's Argentina's captain Martin Jaite, giving his thoughts and expectations concerning the upcoming tie. And just like his players (in the previous post) he expects the home advantage to be an important factor - for what's nevertheless going to be an extremely difficult tie.
It's important that we play at home. Because if we had to go to France we probably wouldn't play on clay and our chances would be even smaller. They have a better team than we do but we can fight. We'll have a a chance in all five matches. In Davis Cup, there's always plenty of surprises. The players will have to be at their best level or even better than that. If we don't play our best we won't have a chance.
And Jaite is of course very much aware of the fact that on paper, i.e. going by the rankings, France has the much stronger team...
What worries me is the quantity and the quality of players they have. Apart from that it's a team with a long history in Davis Cup. They like to play it and they're united as a team.
They have players with better rankings. But regardless of the level of each player I hope that it's going to be a close tie. They are the favourites but we can win it.
It would be the first time that an Argentine team beats a French one in Davis Cup - the record so far: 0-5. Which was also the scoreline when they last met (semifinal 2010). But now it's time to look ahead at the quarterfinal and at the strategy for the tie. And some things have already been decided.
Two things are practically certain. Nalbandian and Zeballos will play the doubles and Pico as well is definitely going to play, his place [as one of the singles players] is guaranteed. We'll see what happens in training. Anyone can play [the remaining] singles rubbers, but the doubles is fixed, David and Zeballos is the strongest team that we have.
In other words, it could be either Charly Berlocq or Horacio Zeballos, playing against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Friday, while Pico will be up against Richard Gasquet (unless something unforeseen happens).
The same Pico, who apparently still has problems with his wrist and who still hasn't won a match on the Tour this season. But, as Jaite points out, the Davis Cup has its own rules.
We play Davis Cup, that's different from the circuit, and Pico always played well for us. Against Germany, maybe Charly stole his thunder with his heroic victory over Kohlschreiber but Pico's match [against Mayer] was very important and he played very well. And now he's playing better than he did back then, even if he won't come here with a lot of confidence. We saw him play at Miami, we talked to him in the locker room and although he lost [in the second round to Ramos] he played well. He'll be very motivated.
Charly Berlocq on the other hand retired after a couple of games at Miami. But according to Jaite there's no reason to worry about him.
Berlocq is fine, he retired in Miami as a precaution, with the Davis Cup in mind. He [his knee, that is] is getting treatment now but he'll be fit for the tie.
So, will they all be fit and ready for the huge challenge that's going to await them against France?
Being part of the Davis Cup team gives you strength. And it gives you motivation. The victory over Germany gave us strength as a team. In Miami we had dinner together, everyone was there and we spent a lot of time together. Things like that show you that we're on the right track.
Finally, a few words about David from his former coach...
David is going through those moments [of his career] now, leading up to retirement. His game is fine and physically it works until he runs out of gas. We'll have to see what happens but he's in a better state now than he was against Germany.
(Sources 1, 2 & 3)
I've said it in the comments section - let's enjoy the sight of David, playing tennis while we still can.
This might be his last Davis Cup tie. I really hope that it won't be but well...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Davis Cup Quarterfinal: Team Nominations Day

With the Davis Cup quarterfinal now ten days away, today is the day that the captains have to officially announce their team nominations. But in the case of this particular quarterfinal tie, both captains have already told the media which players they're planning to field. And it's not like there will be any surprises.

Martin Jaite will stick with the same line-up that scored the 5-0 victory over Germany:
David Nalbandian
Juan Monaco
Carlos Berlocq
Horacio Zeballos

While the new French captain Arnaud Clement will rely on the same players, who beat Israel 5-0 in the first round (with the addition of Gilles Simon, who will also be coming to Buenos Aires):
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Richard Gasquet
Michael Llodra
Julien Benneteau

Argentina and France in pretty much perfect unison, and not just as far as previous results and current nominations are concerned. They also both insist that they're the underdogs and that the pressure and responsibility to win the tie will be firmly on the shoulders of the opponent. "We won't be the favourites," as Horacio puts it, "we'll pass on the pressure to the other team". And going by the sheer numbers, the situation is quite clear:
We are not in the best shape. And as who's the favourite is determined by the rankings and hierarchy, right now they're much stronger than we are.
But the Davis Cup follows its own rules, and the matches still have to be played, as David reminds us.
Our approach has always been the same: to play all the matches, even more so if it's a tough tie. Because anything can happen.
And after all, there is a factor that will work in their favour - the Parque Roca. In Charly's words:
I always have faith in the home advantage, because it's very important. The crowd really makes you feel it.

Apart from that it's not just the Argentine fans that the French team will be confronted with at the Parque Roca. Their claim to fame as underdogs also rests on having to play on a surface that the French players (none of whom took part in the Golden Swing) haven't contested any matches on since last summer. In the words of Richard Gasquet:
We haven't played on clay in a long time and Argentina is strong on that surface. (Source.)
And the Argentine players, due to their early exits at Miami, will have more time to adjust to clay ahead of the tie, as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Edit: who, unlike Gasquet, is now no longer in the draw) is well aware:
For the Davis Cup I think it's going to be something positive for them because they will practice on clay and they will get used to it. I didn't play on clay since Roland Garros last year, so it's going to be tough, you know, to get used to it.
So in Tsonga's opinion, the Argentine team will be the favourite. Only that the team won't look like he apparently expects it to...
I think we are not favorite for the moment. I mean, you still have Del Potro who's got a better ranking than me. You still have Nalbandian who won, you know, some big tournament in the past. When you have a champion like this, you know, it stay forever. So I think for one match, you know, is very dangerous.  And then you have some guys who are very, how I say that, angry, like Berlocq, I'm sure, to fight for their country. (Source.)
I guess the word he was looking for was 'passionate' or 'intense'. But Delpo won't be part of the team, of course and David will almost certainly not play singles. Though he won some big tournament in the past and will forever stay a champion...

I think beyond all games and tactics, Pico summed it up perfectly:
We must look forward to the tie and believe in ourselves and in our chances. (Source.)

Finally, and on an altogether less serious note:

In the meantime (don't ask me when exactly) the final of the Copa David took place. With the two Davids, Nalbandian and Trezeguet, playing against "Los Picantes", the team that won the qualification tournament - and eventually also the Copa David.
It looks like everybody involved had a great time and apparently, the two Davids got along very well and have become friends.

A gallery with photos from the final you can view here.

Friday, March 22, 2013

David Dominates then Disintegrates against Nieminen

I played well at times. Had I played better throughout the whole match I would've won but that wasn't the case. I made things difficult for myself.
David's summary of yesterday's match and his defeat at the hands of Jarkko Nieminen, who won 2-6, 6-4, 6-3. It's relatively normal for David to lose the first match he gets to play in Miami, this is already the sixth time that it has happened. But what separates this defeat from his other early exits at this event is how it happened. And that it happened after David was leading by a set and a double break.
Obviously it's difficult sometimes but still, a match like this shouldn't slip from my hands the way it did. I think it's a mixture of everything. Each time it gets more difficult, I think that's normal. But yes, defeats like this one here hurt a little bit.
A brief chronology of events. After a slow start and getting broken right away (for 2-0 Nieminen), David picked up himself and his game immediately and went on a tear. Helped by a poor serve performance from Nieminen in this set, David won the next six consecutive games and consequently took the first set 6-2.
Carrying the momentum over to the next set doesn't always come easy to David but in this case, he extended his streak to a total of nine games in a row, including two further breaks in the second set. Up 6-2, 3-0 he seemed in control of the match but that was the moment David began to struggle on serve. After a deuce battle and a couple of game points he didn't convert, Nieminen recovered one of the breaks for 3-1 - and the momentum began to shift. At 4-3, David got broken again (once more after he had a game point) before dropping his serve for a third time in this set when serving to stay in it, with Nieminen taking it 6-4.
Early on in the third set, David two further chances to break (at 1-1 and 3-1) but couldn't convert either. Whereas Nieminen managed to get the decisive break for 3-1, carried it through the set and eventually served out the match to love.

Going by the highlights clip above (and by what those people said, who saw it) it was a very entertaining and also very intense match. With plenty of great rallies, plenty of not so great serving from both but also some great ball-striking. And with David, dominating proceedings and playing really well - until he once more proved unable to keep up this level and eventually finished the match basically at the end of his tether. A pattern that in its most drastic form we got to see against David Ferrer at the Copa Claro.

A defeat that "hurts a little bit" and that's also going to send him further away from the Top100 and the kind of ranking he'd need for a direct entry at the Slams. So for the time being, David's schedule will depend on the organisers:
For now I'm asking for wildcards, I'll have to see if I get them. I received a wildcard for this event [that in the end he didn't need] and I hope that I'll get to play some tournaments ahead of Roland Garros.
In the interviews I posted yesterday, David still gave the impression that he doesn't really care whether or not he gets to play Roland Garros. After the match, however, David suddenly talked about the possibility of playing qualies at Roland Garros (source).
Which makes me think he knows that this is going to be the last chance he'll get to play there. We'll see if it'll really come down to playing qualies for David (who insisted after the match that he's not injured and doesn't have any real physical problems, except for the normal niggles every player has to deal with).

But before we get to the European clay-court swing (whatever it's going to look like), the bigger and more important event for David coming up now is of course the Davis Cup quarterfinal tie against France.
I have to keep working, keep getting better and try to be ready for the Davis Cup, which is up next. (Source.)
- Two weeks from now to the day, at the Parque Roca. Last night in Miami, the team got together for the first time ahead of the tie, David, Pico, Charly Berlocq and Horacio Zeballos as well as Martin Jaite and Mariano Zabaleta. And they will have had plenty of things to talk about, especially concerning the two singles players. While Pico hasn't won a match since the last tie, Charly Berlocq retired after 11 minutes on court yesterday, though as a precaution, as he confirmed afterwards. As he's not injured but has problems with tendinitis in his left knee and therefore didn't want to be taking any risks (source).
All in all not an ideal situation, ahead of this very difficult tie... More in the coming days and weeks.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Miami R1 - David vs Jarkko Nieminen


The Curse of Miami continues: David has added another first-round exit to his list at this event, only that this one was apparently more eventful than most of the others. In any case, it was Jarkko Nieminen, who prevailed in the end, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 after an hour an 49 minutes.
Next up for David is now the Davis Cup quarterfinal against France, in two weeks' time.
Pics, post and everything else tomorrow...

(AP Photo/Getty Images; montage by VD)

3.36pm local - David's match is now next up on Stadium, i.e. centre court.

Three days ago, when the Miami organisers announced a partial schedule with the highlights of the coming days, David was among those who got a mention. And today, like at Indian Wells, he'll get to play his first-round match on centre court - but once more without coverage. Which really is a pity because this match-up usually makes for entertaining matches.

Finnish lefty Jarkko Nieminen, currently #49 and at 31 as old as David, is playing a good season so far, with two quarterfinals (Sydney and Rotterdam) and a semifinal (Montpellier; lost to Gasquet) to his name. At Indian Wells, he won two rounds, against Sijsling and Verdasco, before losing to Anderson in the third.

There are not too many players on the Tour David has such a lot of history with, spanning more than a decade. And there's no other player David has defeated twice in finals, at Estoril 2002 (to win his first ever ATP tournament) and then again at Sydney in 2009. The two most memorable of their altogether twelve encounters, with the overall match record at 8-4 in David's favour. Their most recent meeting, on the other hand, perhaps not too many remember. At the Australian Open last year, Nieminen was David's opponent in the first round, ahead of the drama match against Isner. Today's match is the second time they meet at Miami, the first time around (back in 2007) Nieminen won.
What's going to happen today - I'm not going to make any predictions. And we won't get to see it, anyway. The weather at least shouldn't be a problem, according to the forecast.

Last but not least - so far, David has shown himself to be rather elusive this week. But he talked to Clarin, about the stage of his career he's at now, his current ranking, Roland Garros and wildcards and, you guessed it, the upcoming Davis Cup quarterfinal against France.
D: I'm at a different stage now, it's not like it was ten years ago. The circuit is tough, it always was, and time flies. But I can still enjoy these nice tournaments and keep following this path.

Q: Is this what you thought it would be like, at age 31, after the long journey it's already been and after the injuries that have made things difficult for you?

David: I thought I was going to play less and I'm still here. It's been 13 years, a very long time, on a circuit that's very tough, physically and mentally.

Q: At this stage your prepare in a different way.

David: For sure. I no longer have the pressure of having to play all the tournaments. I don't feel any obligation. That's why I can be more relaxed when it comes to planning my schedule.
The interview continues in this backdated post here...

Monday, March 18, 2013

Miami Draw

(Getty Images)

Here it is, David's draw for the Miami Masters. He has been drawn into the bottom half of the draw and there into the bottom, i.e. Andy Murray's quarter:

[6] Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) vs BYE
Pablo Andujar (ESP) vs Viktor Troicki (SRB)
Jarkko Nieminen (FIN) vs David Nalbandian (ARG)
BYE vs [27] Martin Klizan (SVK)
[20] John Isner (USA) vs BYE
Ivan Dodig (CRO) vs Lukas Lacko (SVK)
[WC] Rhyne Williams (USA) vs Santiago Giraldo (COL)
BYE vs [9] Marin Cilic (CRO)

[16] Andreas Seppi (ITA) vs BYE
Benjamin Becker (GER) vs Aljaz Bedene (SLO)
Thomaz Bellucci (BRA) vs [WC] Christian Harrison (USA)
BYE vs [21] Jerzy Janowicz (POL)
[29] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) vs BYE
Jesse Levine (CAN) vs Simone Bolelli (ITA)
QUALIFIER vs Bernard Tomic (AUS)
BYE vs [2] Andy Murray (GBR)

The complete draw you'll find here.

David and his opponent in the first round, Jarkko Nieminen, have known each other since junior days and on the Tour, they've already met a dozen times. The match record stands at 8-4 for David though the last time Nieminen beat him was at Miami (back in 2007). Still, David won five out of their last six matches.
If he adds another win to that list then his opponent in the second round will be 27th seed Martin Klizan,
a match-up we've never had before. After that he'd be bound to meet sixth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
But first of all - the first round and Jarkko Nieminen.

Apparently, the top half of the draw will begin on Wednesday, as top seed Novak Djokovic will play his first match on Friday night, local time (source). Which means that David, drawn into the bottom half, will play his first match on Thursday.

Apart from that, today is also the day the new rankings are out after Indian Wells. And it's just as bad as expected. Having lost 31 positions, David is now ranked #124. Out of the Top100 for the first time since the summer of 2010 (ahead of Washington) and 105 points away from getting back in there.
So for now, if he wants to enter a main draw without playing qualies, he'll need a wildcard.

Update (19/03)
Confirmed now: David's match against Nieminen will take place during the day session on Thursday.

Meanwhile, and maybe you've noticed it already, there's a new site on VD's link list - Orange Deuce. John has been a VamosDavider since 2009 (I think), you'll know him from the comments section, and this is his newly relaunched blog on men's tennis. Check it out.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Next Stop: Miami

Note: The clip of 18-year-old David at Miami 2000 has been moved here.

Next week, in March 2013, David will play his 12th edition of Miami, or the Sony Open Tennis as it's called nowadays, having only missed it in 2004 and 2011. It's the Masters event he has played more often than any other but with limited success, as his overall record of 10-11 shows. His only real run at Miami David had back in 2006, when he made it through to the semifinal (where he was rather comprehensively defeated by Ivan Ljubicic). With the third round, without a bye, that he reached in 2010 as his second-best result. All of his other appearances at Miami's Crandon Park, however, ended with either losing the first match he played, or winning the first and then losing the second. Like last year, when he beat Steve Darcis before going out in the second round against Janko Tipsarevic.
I sometimes call it the Curse of Miami, David's tradition of early exits at this event. The slow surface, the heat and humidity, the often windy conditions - Miami isn't the kind of tournament that was made for him. And winning more than one match would be an achievement. But with a decent draw - maybe he can.

Update (15/03)
David is in the main draw now without needing a wildcard (after Mardy Fish pulled out as well).
And the exhibition mentioned in the comments won't take place. Apparently, some Chilean organisers have been trying to get David to play an event in Chile for years but for now he has no such plans (source).

The Miami draw will follow the same rules as at Indian Wells. So he'll face an unseeded opponent in the first round, after that he can meet any of the 32 seeds.
Coverage, i.e. streams will apparently be available from the start of the second round on.
The draw ceremony will take place on Monday, March 18, at 12.15pm local.

(Getty Images)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Goodbye Indian Wells... David's Loss to Janowicz

It was a battle of the generations, a battle of force (and drop-shots) against tactics and finesse that took two and a half hours. And you can say what you want about David's performance in this match but not that he didn't put up a fight. Still, in the end it simply wasn't enough to beat 24th seed Jerzy Janowicz, who won 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-3. I've tried to find some quotes but apparently, David didn't talk to the media.

(Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
After once more losing his serve early on in the first set David managed to recover the break and draw level at 4-4. At 5-5 he dropped his serve for a second time but serving for the set at 6-5, Janowicz handed the break straight back on a double fault. In the eventual tiebreak they remained on serve until Janowicz got the mini-break to go up 5-4 and then won the next two points to take the first set 7-6(4).
Early on the second set David came back from 0-40 to hold serve for 2-2. From 3-3 on, there were three breaks in a row, with David getting two of them, the second of which for a 5-4 lead and the chance to serve out the set. And he did, winning it 6-4.
In th third set Janowicz quickly went up a double break and 5-1. David retrieved one of the breaks and held for 5-3 but in the end, he couldn't keep Janowicz from serving out the match, the second time around, taking the final set 6-3.

It wasn't that David couldn't do anything against Janowicz's serve or against his the force of his groundstrokes. Or against the drop-shots that Janowicz likes so much. I thought David did a good job of keeping him busy, moving him around the court and constantly changing not only directions but also spins and the speed of the ball. He found a way of blocking Janowicz's serve, often getting it back with good depth. And during the match, David got better at guessing when Janowicz would play another drop-shot. In short, there were enough things that David did well in this match, and there were some truly spectacular points that he played.
But at the same time the match also showed the basic problem David has. He's still able to play great tennis but it seems he's no longer able to do it consistently. In this case, the downward spiral wasn't quite as dramatic as it was in the match against Ferrer at the Copa Claro. Still, towards the end of the second set David visibly began to try shortening the points, rushing to the net behind bad approach shots and getting passed time and time again. At that point it was clear that he was running out of gas again. And that though Janowicz practically handed him that set on a plate he wouldn't have it in him to win the third.
In short, David still has the game to trouble players ranked much higher than he is. He still has the game though not necessarily the serve and he doesn't have the stamina or the fitness. The one exception so far this year has been the match against Almagro. But I think it was exactly that - an exception.

So no great run at Indian Wells this time but instead a defeat and one that will have consequences.
Going out in the second round with quarterfinal points to defend is going to cost David 155 ranking points. So when the new rankings come out after Indian Wells, David will no longer be inside the Top100. He'll be ranked around #122. And with this kind of ranking it's either wildcards or playing qualies if he wants to get into main draws (as he doesn't want to play Challengers to impove his ranking again).
Two weeks ago at the Copa Claro, David said that from now on, he wants to play fewer events in general. Right now, I still can't say what his schedule will look like in the weeks and months after the Davis Cup quarterfinal. But for the time being, which tournaments he'll play will depend on where he gets a wildcard.
- Just like at our next stop, Miami.

(Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Indian Wells R2 - David vs Jerzy Janowicz

This year, Indian Wells ends in the second round for David: After two and a half hours it was Jerzy Janowicz, who prevailed 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-3.
Next up for David is now Miami, for which he has received a wildcard.
Post, pics etc tomorrow evening (European time)...

(Inovaphoto/Getty Images; montage by VD)

On Tuesday, when the tweets came in from the draw ceremony and with them the news about the possible second-round match-ups, this one sparked a couple of quips and remarks. Hinting at antics on court and the hard work this match might mean for the umpire (e.g. here). David's part in this I guess I don't need to explain. Jerzy Janowicz on the other hand had his moment at the Australian Open, complete with the inevitable YouTube fame, even if his "meltdown" merely got him a warning.

For 22-year-old Jerzy Janowicz today's match is his first ever at Indian Wells. This time last year he was was still playing Challenger events in Europe. The main reason he's in California now, ranked as well as seeded 24th, is the great run Janowicz had at the Paris Masters. A qualifier at that event, he beat Murray, Tipsarevic and Simon (amongst others) before eventually losing to David Ferrer in the final.
This season, his best results so far have been the third round at the Australian Open (lost to Almagro) and the quarterfinal he reached at Marseille (lost to Berdych).

At 6'8"/2.03m Janowicz's biggest weapon is - not surprisingly - his serve, as well as his forehand, both of which he could use to simply overpower David. But Janowicz doesn't just hit the ball as hard as he can, every single time. He also loves to play drop-shots and David might find himself trying to chase down a number of those if he doesn't keep Janowicz busy.
Against Granollers, it was long rallies and lots of break points - that will probably be different today.
And if Janowicz serves well it'll take patience, and making the most of what chances David will get.
It'll be a battle of the generations. Here's hoping it'll also be a good match we'll get to see from David.

Friday, March 8, 2013

David Gets Going against Granollers

(Chris Carlson/AP Photo)

It's no secret that it often takes David a while to get going. Especially if it's the first round he's playing at an event, on a different surface than before. And even more so if that match takes place early in the day. Yesterday, it took David well over an hour and a protracted, hard-fought first set to finally get going.
But in the end he overcame Marcel Granollers 6-4, 6-2. Though that makes it look easier than it was.

(Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Half an hour into the match, David was down a break and fighting against losing his serve for a second time. That was at 1-1 in the first set. The first three games of this match that took 32 minutes to complete featured a total of 16 deuces and altogether 9 break points on both sides. After that, Granollers led 2-1 with a break but that one break David managed to get back, levelling the score at 3-3. Up 5-4, and with Granollers serving to stay in the set, David broke again to take the first set on his first set point
- after an hour and 12 minutes.

After that, the battle seemed to be over, more or less. And the second set saw no further deuce battles or real drama. David secured an early break (for 2-0), managed to cosolidate it after fending off a break point (and then later another one at 4-2), and then broke Granollers for a second time as he served to stay in the match, closing it out on his first match point.

A very long, hard-fought first set and then a much easier, much more straighforward second set - that's pretty much the same start David had at Indian Wells, last year. (Which hopefully counts as a good omen.) What exactly happened during those deuce battles and how the two of them managed to take such a truly epic emount of time for merely three games - I guess we'll never know.
But what matters is that David managed to overcome that slow start. And that he got going in the end.
Whether it'll be enough against Jerzy Janowicz we'll find out tomorrow.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Indian Wells R1 - David vs Marcel Granollers

(Chris Carlson/AP Photo)

Despite an extremely slow start (even by his standards) David keeps his perfect record against Marcel Granollers - after an hour and 46 minutes, he defeated the Spaniard 6-4, 6-2.
In the second round on Saturday, David's opponent will be Jerzy Janowicz.
Post etc coming tomorrow.

(AP Photo/Getty Images; montage by VD)

Three months into the 2013 season, today is the day David gets to play his first match of the year on hardcourt. And what could be a better setting for it than the second-largest tennis stadium on the planet, the somewhat conservatively named Stadium 1 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. David loves the big stage so the court will be to his taste, though probably not that he'll have to play fairly early in the day.
And his opponent is someone he has played against and also occasionally trained with before.

Marcel Granollers is the current #4 and reigning World Tour Final champion - in doubles (together with his partner Marc Lopez). In singles, he was ranked as high as #19 last summer, playing the best season of his career. This week he's at #33. And since the quarterfinal he reached at Sydney, it's been early exits wherever he played, though in some cases he didn't have much luck with the draw. Like at Dubai, where he lost to Roger Federer in the second round.
This is going to be their fourth meeting and it's a perfect record that David has against Granollers: 3-0.
So the match-up isn't entirely new but the conditions will be - until now they either met on clay or indoors. Their first encounter was the only close match they had so far, with David coming back from a set and a break down. That was at Monte Carlo 2009, a month before surgery. His other two victories, at Montpellier and the Paris Masters in 2010 (see below) were much more straightforward.

It's the big stage for David today - but we won't get to see any of this match. As usual, the first round takes place without coverage. And that leaves only the scoreboard for following this one.
But here's what it looked like when David and Marcel Granollers last met (courtesy of Andvari):

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Indian Wells Draw

(BNP Paribas Open/FB)

At the Corona Plaza (pictured above) it took place today, the draw ceremony for the BNP Paribas Open, a.k.a. Indian Wells. Last year, it was Tommy Haas, who lent a hand with pulling the draw, today it was Tommy Robredo. And believe it or not, it's actually a nice draw that this year's Tommy "prepared" for David. Who's in the bottom half and there in the top quarter (i.e. not in the one with Federer and Nadal), which belongs to David Ferrer:

[6] Tomas Berdych (CZE) vs BYE
[Q] Mischa Zverev (GER) vs Jürgen Melzer (AUT)
Viktor Troicki (SRB) vs David Goffin (BEL)
BYE vs [27] Florian Mayer (GER)
[24] Jerzy Janowicz (POL) vs BYE
Marcel Granollers (ESP) vs David Nalbandian (ARG)
Thomaz Bellucci (BRA) vs Bernard Tomic (AUS)
BYE vs [10] Richard Gasquet (FRA)

[13] Gilles Simon (FRA) vs BYE
Gilles Muller (LUX) vs Paolo Lorenzi (ITA)
Lukasz Kubot (POL) vs Benoit Paire (FRA)
BYE vs [21] Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER)
[29] Fernando Verdasco (ESP) vs BYE
Jarkko Nieminen (FIN) vs Igor Sijsling (NED)
Victor Hanescu (ROM) vs Kevin Anderson (RSA)
BYE vs [4] David Ferrer (ESP)

A look at the complete draw you can take here.

Marcel Granollers (currently #33), his opponent in the first round, David has met three times and defeated him on all three of those occasions. It's been a while, though; their most recent encounter took place at the Paris Masters in 2010. Speaking of which, the Paris Masters was of course where David's projected opponent in round two made his big breakthrough, last year - Jerzy Janowicz, ranked and seeded 24th this week. If this match comes to pass it'll be a premiere as David has never faced Janowicz before.
In the third round, David would then theoretically be bound to meet 10th seed Richard Gasquet, and I'm sure David wouldn't mind playing against him but as always, I'll take it match by match.

Update (06/03)
There's visual evidence, after all: two clips of David, practicing yesterday (thanks, Andvari).

Monday, March 4, 2013

Next Stop: Indian Wells

- Or the first of the two places to be, this month. It's March now so it's time for the first two Masters events of the season, the two biggest tournaments outside of the Slams: the BNP Paribas Open and the Sony Open Tennis, better known simply as Indian Wells and Miami.
And first up is a visit to the site that's usually among those that come to David's mind when he gets asked about impressive tournament venues: the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in the Californian desert.

For David, it's going to be the altogether tenth time of playing Indian Wells since his first appearance in 2002. Still a virtually unknown youngster back then, his debut ended in the second round against Rainer Schüttler. In the following years, the fourth round became something like David's standard result at Indian Wells - with two exceptions. In 2008, he made it to the quarterfinal despite the first signs of his hip injury. A result he managed to repeat last year, when he beat Starace, Cilic, Tipsarevic and Tsonga before losing to Rafael Nadal.

It was a great run David had at Indian Wells last year and it was worth 180 ranking points, almost one third of the points he has now. Right now, he's still inside the Top100 - #93 as of today (down seven places even though he didn't drop any points). But it'll take another very good run for him to stay there.
David's chances will also depend on the draw. First of all, which unseeded player he gets to face in the first round and then which one(s) of the 32 seeds he'll be bound to meet after that.
(For the record, David is in the main draw without needing the wildcard he was supposed to receive.)

A word about the coverage. For the first time this year, at Indian Wells all and not just half of the second round will be broadcasted. But in the first round it'll be business as usual - no coverage.

The draw ceremony will take place tomorrow, Tuesday, at 3pm local (11pm GMT/8pm Argentina).

Update (05/03)
The rumour has been around for a while but according to ESPN and Danny Miche it's now confirmed:
Two exhibitions, November 21 and 23, one in Córdoba and one in Buenos Aires, David and Rafa Nadal.

(Getty Images)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Davis Cup Intermezzo: Ahead of the Quarterfinal


Before we move on to Indian Wells and Miami I'll take this opportunity to write a post about the Davis Cup - and all that goes with it. A month has gone by since Argentina beat Germany 5-0 in the first round, a month from now David and the others will face France in the quarterfinal. Halfway between those two ties, here's a general update from the Davis Cup front.

A few days after the victory over Germany and after Martin Jaite had once more invited Delpo to join the team, an article appeared in the Argentine press, claiming that while waiting for Jaite's reign to end behind the scenes Delpo is already working on installing a successor for Jaite, one who would be more to his own taste - Gaston Gaudio. This prompted a reply from Delpo via his new press chief Jorge Viale (formerly Fue Buena), stating that "neither Juan Martin, nor any member of his team or family has ever called for a change of captains" as "this is not his way of conducting himself in Davis Cup".
At the same time, the statement also clarified that this season, Delpo's way of conducting himself in Davis Cup will definitely and irrevocably consist of not playing.

So even if the doors are still open, as Jaite likes to put it, and Delpo is "essential for our team, we need him" (to quote Pico), Argentina will have to make do without its top player.
Against France in the quarterfinal the line-up will be the same it was against Germany. Never change a winning team, as they say. But as there's hardly anybody else Jaite could nominate, even if he wanted to, everything depends on those four. Including Pico, who hasn't won a match since the last tie and pulled out of Acapulco to rest his hand that is apparently still causing him trouble. At least he'll be back for Indian Wells and Miami.

But does the same line-up have to mean the same strategy? In other words, will it be Pico and Charly Berlocq for the singles rubbers again, and David together with Horacio Zeballos playing the doubles?
Until the Copa Claro, Jaite avoided making any clear statements about David and the possibility of also playing singles. A couple of days into the tournament however, after David's defeat against Ferrer to be precise, Jaite told Clarin the following:
Q: After the good level David Nalbandian displayed in the match he lost to David Ferrer do you consider him for a spot as one of the singles player against France in April?

Jaite: For the time being, I think of David only in terms of the doubles. I was very happy with what he did together with Zeballos against Germany, as part of our 5-0 victory.
And although I'll have to see how he is, physically as well as mentally, and despite what he did against Ferrer I don't see him as one of the singles players.
Although he doesn't really give any reasons for his opinion I think there can be only one explanation why Jaite would have doubts about letting David play a best-of-five set match on clay, and that's his fitness.
So it looks like for the time being, David is stuck with the kind of part on the team that he'll play of course but that he never really wanted - one half of the doubles.

Against Germany, the team (without Delpo but also without drama) was as united as I've ever seen it. And they proved that also without Delpo they can pull off impressive victories. Then again, it's always easy to get along when things are going great. And had it not been for Philipp Kohlschreiber's injury the outcome could've been a different one.
Against France, it's a formidable challenge that awaits David and the rest of the team. In the doubles as well as in the singles. And much will be at stake, for David, for Martin Jaite and for Argentina. At the Parque Roca, April 5-7.