Thursday, September 26, 2013

Update: No News Now - But On Tuesday

Argentina will probably play the next home tie at the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club since the Parque Roca won't be available due to construction work.
Also at the BALTC but already in two weeks' time: "La Legion - The Return", an event featuring players from David's generation, including these three and Davis Cup vice captain Mariano Zabaleta.
- And that's it for news at the moment.

But that's going to change soon: On Tuesday David will hold his press conference at La Rural (the site of the Buenos Aires exhibition). To talk about his matches with Nadal - and also about his future?
Well, he will definitely get asked about it.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Waiting Game (once again)

No news about David and whether he's better again.
And no news about the press conference.
Or anything else, for that matter.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Davis Cup Draw 2014

As always, the week after the semifinals (and the World Group play-offs) the draw gets made for the next season. This time, the ceremony took place in London and here's what came out of it.
Argentina has once again been drawn into the bottom half (*indicates home team):

Great Britain vs USA*

Italy vs Argentina*

Belgium vs Kazakhstan*

Switzerland vs Serbia*

In case you're wondering what David might have to say to this, or to the team's defeat in Prague and above all to the questions concerning his future - there's no actual news at the moment.
Though not for very much longer, it seems.
Apparently, David was planning to hold a press conference today.
But these plans had to be changed because he has fallen ill (source).
What he was going announce today - I don't know.
I also can't say, not at this point at least, when the press conference will take place.
But it looks like there will soon be an official statement from David.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The End of the Davis Cup Road 2013

Halfway through the first set, there was a moment when it looked like the Czech doubles team might be beatable after all. Stepanek seemed to have sprained his ankle and was limping. But it turned out to be nothing - with Stepanek's ankle, as well as with Argentina's chances of averting, or at least delaying defeat.
Berdych and Stepanek secured the expected easy win, without
as much as dropping serve, and with it the third point that grants them, the defending champions, a place in this year's final.
While Horacio and Charly could only admit to having been outplayed. To quote Horacio:
They are a strong team. As the games went by they started to feel comfortable. They played very well. Still, it's been a positive year. To be among the four best [Davis Cup teams] in the world is very good.
Charly thought the same, though he was even more impressed with the Czechs.
We beat Germany and France. Reaching the semifinal wasn't easy. We gave our best. Being among the best four is no mean feat. We didn't play a bad match but we played against a difficult doubles team. I don't recall having ever faced a doubles as powerful as this. All credit to them (Source.)
The Davis Cup year 2013 ends once more in the semifinal, once more against the Czech Republic. And David won't get the chance to play that final he was still dreaming about in the last interview.
But Horacio and Charly are right, it has been a positive year for the Argentine team - even a great one, given the circumstances.

Last December, when Delpo announced that he wouldn't play any ties this year it seemed that Argentina's Davis Cup campaign was doomed to fail before it even began. But what the team lacked in terms of 'starpower' they made up for with the 'enthusiasm, belief and the will to win' Martin Jaite mentioned this weekend - as well as with great team spirit. Without Delpo there were none of the usual atmospheric disturbances. Instead, the team was united in its Davis Cup quest, and also in its quest to prove what they were capable of without Delpo.

In the first round against Germany there was a certain amount of luck involved. Had Kohlschreiber not pulled a muscle on the first day the whole thing could've taken an altogether different turn.
But Kohlschreiber withdrew, David and Horacio sealed Argentina's victory already in doubles and afterwards, when Argentina's place in the World Group had been secured, they all had fun in the locker room, singing contemptuous songs about Delpo.
An all-around success, even if Horacio later had to apologise for his performance in the post-match presser ("From who?").

But the team's masterpiece was the quarterfinal against France. The previous tie in Lyon (semifinal 2010) had been a 0-5 disaster, including some less than savoury antics from David. This one, however, was the exact opposite. Although the underdogs in this tie, together they managed to beat the French team, with each of them contributing his or their point to the victory. Right down to Charly, who won the decisive fifth rubber against Simon on what seemed to be sheer heart and guts and wild determination.
David and Horacio won the doubles once again, a great and not necessarily expected victory over Benneteau and Llodra. After the match was over, a song could suddenly be heard at the Parque Roca. About a certain Gringo from Unquillo, who wasn't going to retire just yet... Usually, when David is moved to tears at the Parque Roca it's either because they're playing the national anthem, or it's because he has just managed injure himself because he's playing even though he's not fit. This time it was different.

But now that Argentina won't be in this year's final, will the Gringo from Unquillo give it another try, next year? Right now, Argentina's future in Davis Cup seems to largely consist of question marks. Will David play another season? Will Jaite still be captain next year? And will Delpo return to the team? There surely are people who know the answers to at least some of these question. Unfortunately, I'm not one of them. We can, and this part might sound familiar, only wait and see.

Davis Cup Semifinal - Argentina out after the Doubles

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)
As I wrote in a previous post, even with David on court this would've been an extremely difficult match to win for Argentina...
Charly and Horacio gave everything they could but it wasn't enough against Berdych and Stepanek, who prevailed 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.

So that was it - for Argentina the Davis Cup season 2013 ends here. If there's going to be another one for David (and for Martin Jaite) remains to be seen.

(Michal Cizek/AFP/Getty Images)

At some point during the fourth set of Leo's courageous match against Berdych yesterday the cameras showed Charly. He just sat there, motionless and seemingly lost in thought. Perhaps he was already thinking about today - and the truly gigantic challenge that will be waiting for him and for Horacio.

Tomas Berdych & Radek Stepanek vs Carlos Berlocq & Horacio Zeballos
It's not the first time that Charly and Horacio play doubles together. They had a brief "test-run" earlier this season, with a couple of matches at Umag and Kitzbühel. And they're both experienced doubles players, used to playing with (and adapting to) different partners.
Today, however, they'll be up against a team that in six years of playing together in Davis Cup has lost only once (and that was four years ago) - Berdych and Stepanek. Who can also approach this match from the comfortable position of having a 2-0 lead.
Last year in the semifinal, when the Czechs became the first team ever to defeat Argentina at the Parque Roca, Charly and Edu Schwank lost to the Czech "über doubles" in straights. Anything else than a similar result today would probably qualify as a miracle...


Friday, September 13, 2013

Davis Cup Semifinal - Day 1

(AP Photo)
And welcome to the worst case scenario: After the first day the Argentine team finds itself uncomfortably close to defeat.

First Radek Stepanek beat Pico 7-6(3), 6-3, 6-2.
And then Tomas Berdych beat Leo 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

So after the first day the Czechs lead 2-0.

(AP Photo)

What's left of Argentina's hopes now rests on the shoulders of Charly and Horacio while Berdych and Stepanek will try to make short work of the Argentine team - all of that in tomorrow's doubles rubber. Also known as the match that David wanted to play.

(Adrián Quiroga/Cancha Llena)
Welcome to Prague and to the first day of the Davis Cup semifinal between the Czech Republic, the defending champion, and Argentina - without David. Perhaps it's not really surprising that in the end, four months were not enough time to recover from the double surgery he had in May. But whether there's any chance for him of making an appearance in this year's final, that's going depend on Pico, Leo, Charly and Horacio, and what they can do in this weekend's semifinal tie.

Against Czech Davis Cup heroes Berdych and Stepanek, against the crowd at the O2 Arena and also against, or in spite of, the fast and low-bouncing surface. 'Enthusiasm, belief and the will to win - that's the mantra repeated by the players' as an Argentine journalist described it. They are the underdogs but it's not the first time this year and so far, they always managed to pull off the upset.
So here's what's ahead on the first day of play, today:

(AP Photo)
Radek Stepanek vs Juan Monaco
After the draw yesterday Pico put in extra training - at the net. Jaite admitted that Stepanek's nomination came as a surprise, they had expected Lukas Rosol. But while "against Rosol we wouldn't have known what kind of match he'd play we know exactly what's ahead with Stepanek..." to quote the captain (source).
And that's attacking, "old-school" tennis. A difficult match-up for Pico, who won't get the rhythm he likes. And Stepanek will be full of confidence after his US Open doubles title.

(Michal Cizek/AFP/Getty Images)
Tomas Berdych vs Leonardo Mayer
It's a somewhat unusual track record that Leo has in Davis Cup: He has never played at the Parque Roca before but this weekend he's contesting his fourth away tie. In the past, there were times when Leo didn't feel up to playing Davis Cup and his career has also been hampered by chronic back problems. But now he is ready, as well as "happy" and "grateful" that Jaite made him #2.
Leo's ambitious game plan for the match: "attacking him before he gets the chance to attack me" (source). But it won't be easy to execute against Berdych.

The last words ahead of the tie I'll leave to Martin Jaite:
The pressure is on them, they are playing at home, they are the defending champions and they chose the surface. We have nothing to lose but a lot to win.
I hope we can spoil their little party.

P.S. No jacket bearing the name Nalbandian in the Argentine locker room, this time...

(Charly Berlocq)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Davis Cup Semifinal - The Draw

(Danny Miche)

So here it is, the draw for the semifinal weekend. As you can see the journalists' impressions turned out to be correct - Jaite and Zabaleta have picked Leo Mayer as Argentina's second singles player while Charly and Horacio will contest the doubles rubber on Saturday - though not against Rosol and Vesely.
Here's a look at the match-ups and the schedule for the weekend:

Friday (3pm local)
Radek Stepanek vs Juan Monaco
Pico won two of their six encounters. The one time they met on clay and two years ago at the US Open when Stepanek had to retire. All other matches, all on faster surfaces, were won by the Czech.

Tomas Berdych vs Leonardo Mayer
On the Argentine team Leo has the best record against Berdych - for the sole reason that he has never played him before. The others all have but without any success (Pico 0-6, Charly 0-3, Horacio 0-2).

Saturday (2.30pm local)
Lukas Rosol & Jiri Vesely vs Carlos Berlocq & Horacio Zeballos
That's the theoretical version (and a little game the Czechs like to play). On court Charly and Horacio will be up against Berdych and Stepanek, a doubles team that can be summed up by a single stat - 91.7%. Their winning percentage in Davis Cup. Also with David this would've been an exceptionally difficult match.

Sunday (2pm local)
Tomas Berdych vs Juan Monaco
As mentioned above it's not exactly a promising record that Pico has against Berdych. But those two occasions where he managed to get close and take Berdych to five sets both took place in Davis Cup.

Radek Stepanek vs Leonardo Mayer
If this tie is really going to end with a live fifth rubber remains to be seen. In any case, as far as the match record goes Leo and Stepanek are tied at 1-1.

For Czech Davis Cup heroes Berdych and Stepanek this will be their homecoming - it's the team's first home tie since their triumph over Spain in last year's final. They're the reigning champions and the clear favourites to win this tie. On a surface that suits them - but not their opponents.
Will Pico, Leo, Charly and Horacio be able to rain on their parade? Will there be a miracle?
We'll find out this weekend.

(AP Photo)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Semifinal Ahead

Update (12/09)
(Danny Miche)

The team on the way to the draw ceremony. More about the match-ups and the schedule later today.

Usually, during the week before an away tie you get to hear all sorts of conflicting things about the surface. This time, however, the verdict is the same from the team as well as Jaite and Zabaleta. It's indeed a fast hardcourt that the Czechs have chosen for the O2 Arena. Just like they did against Spain in last year's final - with resounding success.
In the words of Martin Jaite (at today's press conference):
They have a very strong team and the surface is complicated because it's faster than what the guys usually encounter on the Tour. But the team is training very hard and the players are preparing themselves to give their best.
Pico will play two singles rubbers, that much is certain. We'll see what happens with the second [singles player slot], we're going to take a little longer until we decide but it's definitely between Mayer and Berlocq.
Charly is the one Argentina owes this semifinal to, without his victory over Gilles Simon it would've been over in the quarterfinal. And he is a team player:
I'm ready to play whatever match the captain asks me to play, whether it's singles or doubles. And if he decides to play another one of my teammates then I'm prepared to support the team from the stands. What's important is that the team is doing well and that we're working as best as we can for playing a good tie.
Judging by the training schedule (and the impressions of Argentine journalists on site) it seems increasingly likely that the match Jaite will want Charly to play is the doubles, together with Horacio Zeballos. And that Leo Mayer will be the #2 singles player.

Pico on the other hand knows that he will be Argentina's #1 - but he's not quite sure who he'll get to face on Friday (it could be either Radek Stepanek or Lukas Rosol):
I see this tie as a great challenge. We have nothing to lose and we've come here with confidence. Hopefully we can get those three points. As for who's going to be my opponent [on Friday] that still isn't known and they're surely not going to reveal their plans so it's important that I focus on my game. (Source.)
Edit: Radek Stepanek apparently told the media today that he's ready to play on all three days.

The draw with the line-ups, the starting times etc - all of that coming on Thursday


Monday, September 9, 2013

At the Arena


Yesterday, a day earlier than usual in Davis Cup, the Argentine team got the chance to conduct its first training session at the venue of the semifinal tie, the O2 Arena in Prague. A first opportunity to try and adapt to the hardcourt chosen by the Czechs. To quote Charly Berlocq:
You always feel the speed more during the first practice on a court like this one. But step by step we'll get used to it. The team is doing fine and we're training conscientously. (Source.)
Whether Charly or Leo Mayer will be Argentina's second singles player and who's going to contest the doubles rubber alongside Horacio Zeballos only Martin Jaite and Mariano Zabaleta know (or are in the process of determining) at this stage. They'll have to decide on Thursday, ahead of the draw ceremony.

The Czech team as well was at the O2 Arena yesterday, except for Radek Stepanek, who was otherwise engaged, winning the US Open doubles title (with Leander Paes). And in the catacombs of the stadium a first and friendly encounter between the respective #1 players took place:


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Welcome to Prague


Buenos Aires - Frankfurt - and then finally Prague. About an hour ago the Argentine team arrived in the Czech capital. From left to right: Juan Paz (hitting partner), Pico Monaco, Leo Mayer, Horacio Zeballos, Fede Delbonis and Charly Berlocq.

Tomorrow the training sessions will continue for the Davis Cup semifinal, now less than a week away.

As usual when David isn't playing Davis Cup, I'll still be covering the tie and the lead-up to it.
Perhaps not in quite as much detail as if David was there and part of the team but I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Update: David's Version

And here's David's version. In a phone interview with TyC Sports David talked about his recovery, about not getting nominated, the team's chances in Prague and his plans (or lack of) for the future (sources 1 & 2).

Recovery and the problem with the serve
My goal was to try and make it to the Czech Republic, we did everything we could. I'm fine as far as my hip goes but with the shoulder it's going a bit slower. I'm really not ready to play a match in ten days, with the discomfort and pain in my shoulder and serving at 30 or 40 percent.
Initially we thought that recovery from those two surgeries would take the same amount of time but as it turned out there was more damage on the shoulder than expected. That's why we've been slower and more careful with the rehabilitation.
From the baseline, without serving, I'm practically doing normal training. The huge problem I have is lifting the shoulder in order to serve. And I can't play without serving or serving underhand.
I'm a bit sad that I didn't make the team but we did everything we could.

Hoping for a miracle in Prague
No one can argue about that, they're the favourites. Because of the ranking, the surface and because they've won the Davis Cup. But it's a special event, you never know what might happen and the matches have to be played.
We know that it's a very difficult tie but I hope that another miracle might happen. If Argentina wins then that would give me time to prepare and get much better and eventually be ready for a final. Hopefully.

The future
I haven't started to think, to evaluate, to analyse. If you want a quick reply from me then I just want to recover as best as I can in order to compete again. Much depends on how fast or slow I make progress with the shoulder, in order to see what what my plans are and what I'm going to do.
All I can say is that I'll be on court for the exhibitions with Nadal in November [21 in Córdoba and 23 in Buenos Aires]. And hopefully also for some other things before that.

Two days after Martin Jaite announced his team the discussion continues in Argentina. About Jaite's decision not to include David and the team's chances without him. And about David's future.
Last night, however, Argentina's line-up and David's absence were also discussed at the US Open press room. Where, following his fourth-round defeat, Tomas Berdych was asked whether he was surprised at David not getting nominated.
Surprised? Well, I mean, probably he's not that ready enough, and you know, not recovered well or not yet. I don't know. Actually, I'm not in touch with him, so I have no idea about it.
But because he decide to not go, then probably he's not ready.
Had it been up to David to decide I guess it's safe to say that he would go to Prague. But it's the captain who decides, even if it's difficult sometimes. In the words of Martin Jaite:
The decision that David won't be going to Prague was a tough one to make. He has played Davis Cup for many years and he has done a lot for us but it's my responsibility to put together the best team and we felt that he was not in the shape to take on this match. We assessed [his form], we waited and we took into account that his recovery was going well but it wasn't enough to play a match in a semifinal. He hasn't played in four and a half months. His hip is fine but his shoulder didn't respond the way we needed it to respond. We talked to him, he was sad because nobody likes to be left out. Mariano [Zabaleta] and me, we have chosen to take decisions like this one, and they're the ugly part of being Davis Cup captains but we believe it's for the best of the team.
With the last remaining goal David had for this season gone now, the question is where the road is going to lead. Jaite as well can only speculate.
We'll have to see how he recovers from those two injuries. David has been dealing with many injuries for a long time, he was very erratic these last last years. He's 31 now and I think it'll be difficult to return to the ATP Tour. But with him you never know, he might suddenly start to feel good at the end of the year and keep on playing. But we'll have to see if he wants to work. When a player is older he has to work more than when he's 20, less time but more intensity. If he's going to play another season will depend on his motivation.
(Sources 1 & 2.)

Monday, September 2, 2013

Davis Cup Semifinal Without David

It's official, the Davis Cup semifinal will take place without David.

In this video just released by the AAT Martin Jaite announces his team for Prague.
It will consist of Pico Monaco, Charly Berlocq, Leo Mayer, Horacio Zeballos and Federico Delbonis.
Jaite confirms that David won't be part of the team because of ongoing problems with his shoulder.
He also says that David won't be travelling to Prague but that he'll work with the team in Buenos Aires until they leave.