Monday, April 29, 2013

Off the Beaten Track

(FM Universo)

UpdateII (01/05)
The latest news: David will travel to Barcelona today to see Dr. Angel Ruiz-Cotorro (source).
The official reason is the "numbness" in his shoulder, though it appeared to be fine, last weekend.
(Edit: Some photos from Sunday's polo final and the trophy ceremony now on the Photo Page.)

With the European clay-court swing in full sway now, Rafa Nadal won his eighth title at Barcelona yesterday, while Lukas Rosol, Czech Davis Cup player, won his first ever ATP title in Bucharest.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, David as well won a title yesterday. After extra time and an improvised penalty shoot-out that saw David scoring the decisive goal his team won the "Torneo 109 Aniversario de Washington Polo Club" (source). It was the perfect ending for a long polo weekend during which David played four games in as many days.

All of that less than a week after the release of an official statement that spoke of a shoulder problem David was supposed to have had since the Davis Cup quarterfinal, of tests and examinations, and of a delayed and still uncertain date for his return to the Tour. Back then, I wrote in the comments that this statement might be something like an "alibi", an official reason for not playing at the moment so that he doesn't get bothered because of it. And given what has happened since then, David playing polo and a total lack of further news about the shoulder - I think that seems to be the case.

So David's shoulder is obviously okay. But when can we expect to see him at a tennis tournament again? Well, your guess is as good as mine. As long as David doesn't talk about how he intends to spend the coming months, whether in an interview or in form of another press release, there's no way of knowing.

Four years ago (after David's hip surgery) I wrote a post, saying that I didn't really know how much was going to happen in the next few months but that I'd try to keep the blog going, though perhaps at a slower pace. And I can basically just say the same again right now. I don't know how much tennis David is going to play in the months to come. And I don't know when (or if) he's going to let us in on his plans.
But I'll keep this blog going, whether or not there will be much to report, just maybe at a slower pace.

Update (30/04)
In the meantime the ITF has officially announced the venues for the Davis Cup semifinal in September. Serbia will host Canada at the Belgrade Arena. And as expected, the Czech team has chosen to play on a fast indoor hardcourt at the O2 Arena in Prague:

(Martin Sidorjak/

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Vanishing Act (Continued)

(Hans Ruhle/archive)

Update (26/04)
Still no news, officially.
But I've managed to find out how David is spending this weekend.
Looks like he's playing a polo tournament in Córdoba and his team won its first game yesterday (source).
So I guess it's safe to say that his shoulder isn't really that bad.

It was the first thing we heard from David after the Davis Cup quarterfinal and his vacation afterwards,
the official statement published via the Argentine media on Saturday.
And so far, it's also the last thing we heard - not a word since then from David or his camp.
Neither about the "numbness" in his shoulder since playing the last Davis Cup doubles.
Nor about his plans for the coming months.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Vanishing Act (Temporarily Repealed)

(Daniel Cáceres/Clarin)

UpdateII (23/04)
No further news from David and his shoulder so far.

Finally some news - but not exactly good news:
David Nalbandian announces that there's a "numbness" in his right shoulder and that he doesn't know when he'll play again.
It's the first time I see/hear anything about a shoulder problem. Apparently, it's tests and examinations for David at the moment to find out more before he can make any plans. In his words:
As soon as we have determined the cause of this problem I'll decide together with my team which tournaments I'm going to play.
So David hasn't vanished completely, after all. But the uncertainty remains...

One of David's special talents, apart from playing tennis, is to disappear. To just go and seemingly
vanish into thin air, without leaving any hint or clue as to when he'll be back and what his plans are.
It's something he does on a fairly regular basis, something you get used to as a fan. And usually there are other ways of finding out what he'll do, where he'll play in the next months. But not this time, now that he can no longer enter main draws directly. This time, it's a true vanishing act.

Barcelona, previously mentioned as a possible candidate for his return, will take place without David.
That at least is absolutely certain (the draw came out today). And he's also not among those wildcard recipients that the Madrid organisers announced earlier this week. They still have one wildcard left. But
as there's still no sign of David, nothing to suggest that he'll return anytime soon, playing any of the European clay-court tournaments by now seems increasingly unlikely.

- Speculation. Right now, the only thing we know is that David will play the Davis Cup semifinal against the Czech Republic in what's probably going to be Prague, almost exactly five months from now (September 13-15). Everything else is speculation. How he'll spend these months, whether he'll play tournaments, when, where - until David decides to let us in on his plans we can only guess. And wait.
Though at least he agrees that even if the Davis Cup is all that matters, getting some match practice might not be a bad idea (from an interview he gave earlier this year):
It's very difficult to only play Davis Cup without being on the Tour. Without rhythm, without match practice, without anything. It's complicated.
I don't know what he's going to do.Whether he might want to pay a last visit to Wimbledon (and Boodles). Whether he might play some of the US hardcourt events as preparation for the Davis Cup semifinal. Or whether he might still decide not to play any further tournaments. - Anything seems possible at this point.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Instead of an Update...

No sign of David so far.
No news of any kind.
Neither from him nor about any possible wildcards.
Right now, there's no way of finding out how he's doing at the moment.
Or when and where he might play in the coming weeks and months.
Not until he talks about it in an interview or a tournament announces that he'll receive a wildcard.
Neither of which has happened so far.

As much as I'd love to be able to tell you more - I can't at this point.
I have no idea what David's plans are.
But I'll keep trying to find out.

Edit: (18/04)
No point really, calling this an update - still no news.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Chronicle of a Retirement Foretold


"David Nalbandian is considering the possibility of hanging up his racquet very soon." - It sounds like a line from an article, written this week. After Argentina's triumph, the amazing victory in the doubles and the song, and then the statements by Mariano Zabaleta that made the news not only in Argentina.
But actually, that line is almost a year old. It's from an article that Mira linked in the comments during David's (very short) stay at Madrid, last May.

It was around that time that David began to talk more frequently about the "final stage" or the "final steps" in his career that he was now taking. And he said that at the end of the year, he'd decide whether or not he'd play another season. A highly uncertain and therefore difficult situation from the fan perspective. And an increasingly grim and grumpy David on court as the season went on. Still, the only good thing about his terrible second half of the season was that it seemed impossible to imagine David would let his career end like this, with a disqualification and a series of first-round defeats.

In the end, David did decide to play another year. One more season. But one that would follow its own rules and that would have only one objective - the Davis Cup. At the beginning of the year, David's decision to skip the Australian Open in order to prepare on clay for a Davis Cup tie (where he then only played the doubles) mostly met with reactions that ranged from disbelief to ridicule.
Ahead of the tie against Germany there was talk about David having muscular problems again (his calf, this time), something he dismissed as just the usual soreness after a hard pre-season training.
But how hard did David actually train during the off-season? Or rather, how much training was possible?

Perhaps you'll remember it, during the last off-season, while we were waiting for news about whether or not David would play another year, a rather unexpected and somewhat disturbing piece of info appeared. Concerning rumours about another surgery on his left hip that David might have to undergo (see post).
A shocker, completely out of the blue - that's what it was at that moment. For despite all the muscular problems, all the adductor and hamstring tears in recent years, his hip had never before been mentioned anywhere as a possible or actual cause for concern.
But back then, during the last off-season, the good news eventually came that David would play another year, and after that came the Copa Argentina and his first matches in months, and nothing was heard about the rumours for a while. And it became very easy to forget about them.

Now they are back. Even if in slightly altered form. Apparently, it's not David's left hip, the one he's already been operated on, that's causing him trouble but his right one. With another hip surgery as the possible, perhaps increasingly likely consequence. But this is not something you'll find all over the Argentine press. Instead, it's a hint here, an allusion there. Like in an article published by La Nacion today.
And unfortunately, it would explain pretty much everything we've seen this season. From David skipping the Australian Open to playing only doubles in Davis Cup, and with immediate retirement looming in case of defeat. And it would also explain the matches where he seemed to run out of gas after starting really well - because the same thing used to happen in the 14 months he spent playing with his injured left hip.

Back then, in 2008/2009, David didn't lose a word about the whole thing for well over a year. I don't know if he'll say something about it, this time around. But it would explain why this season looks like it does, and why we don't know yet whether he will, or rather whether he can play other tournaments until the Davis Cup semifinal in September. And why if they lose it'll be over.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

An Epilogue to a Momentous Victory...

(Lorena Lucca/Olé)
Confirmation of what was at stake in this tie: In a radio interview today, vice-captain Mariano Zabaleta revealed that had Argentina lost to France "it would've been the end, David would have retired". But now his goal is to "train and see if he might play a singles and the doubles" in the semifinal. At the same time, I guess we know now what's going to happen if they lose.
Zabaleta didn't say anything about playing tournaments as part of David's plans. We'll have to wait and see.

Yesterday, on the day after a crazy, emotional, nerve-wracking and simply amazing weekend the team, or at least some of its members, went their different ways again. Pico got on a plane to Houston, where he'll try to defend his title this week. Charly, Horacio and Martin Jaite appeared on the TV show Pura Quimica, together with Mariano Zabaleta, who's one of the hosts. Whereas David did what he does when he really needs a break, he went fishing. And he'll be gone at least for a week (source).
In the meantime, his agent Carlos Costa is in the middle of negotiating wildcards for David for the European clay-court swing. So far, there's no news about where he'll get one, and what this next part of the season will look like for David is still a mystery right now. But I'll do my best to keep you posted.

Back to last weekend. And back to Argentina's first ever victory over France - that did come as a surprise, as Martin Jaite admitted afterwards. On paper, France was the heavy favourite, going into the tie. But as David kept saying ahead of the weekend, "anything can happen". - Especially at the Parque Roca.
Once again, part of the victory belonged to the Argentine fans. Vocal, creative and indefatigable as always, they supported and spurred on their players. Some may criticise the "footballisation" of the Davis Cup. But for my part, I really like the chants and the raucous atmosphere. And it helped the team.

"We won the tie as a team, all points were equally important," to quote Martin Jaite. Everyone contributed to the victory, and everyone had their moment of glory. On Friday, Pico won the crucial first point for Argentina, to keep the tie open. On Saturday, David and Horacio pulled off another miracle by prevailing in the doubles, to get Argentina in the lead. And on Sunday, it was Charly who sealed the victory for his team in the fifth rubber, by winning the biggest match of his life. "You wouldn't believe how scared I was before I entered the stadium," he said afterwards, "or the tension that was there throughout the match." But Charly rose to the occasion and was rewarded for the heart and the guts he has shown in all of his Davis Cup matches. They won the tie as a team - and just like in the first round they really were a team.

For David, it was Davis Cup tie number 26. And the doubles was the altogether 50th match that he has played now since his very first, all the way back in 2002. Back then, in the semifinal against Russia, David's Davis Cup career began with a doubles rubber. Now, eleven years later, he's back to playing doubles. And only doubles so far this year. A role that David never really wanted but has accepted, under the circumstances. Whether he might play singles again next time will depend on his fitness.
In any case, it's still a special welcome and treatment that "El Rey" David gets at the Parque Roca. Where, with him on the team, Argentina has never lost a tie. "Talismanic" the Davis Cup website called him in one of its articles. "He's treated like a very big star," as the French press noticed.
This match, number 50, could've been the last one. And it would've been a worthy ending for David's Davis Cup career. But now it won't be the end.

 For this was a truly momentous victory - in more than one way. "Argentina's victory over France extends Nalbandian's tennis career at the least until September," to quote Danny Miche. Because now the "Gringo from Unquillo" can't retire just yet, as the crowd and the team all sang together for him after he and Horacio had won the doubles. Now there's still something to play for and to look forward to - the Davis Cup semifinal in September.

It'll probably take place in Prague, that still has to be confirmed. What doesn't need to be confirmed, however, because it's clear anyway, is that Delpo won't be joining the others for this tie. He made sure to congratulate Charly and "the rest of the team" via his Twitter. But his position concerning the Davis Cup remains unchanged - outside of the team. And while it is difficult to imagine how he might fit in with the team as it is now, in the semifinal, far away from the Parque Roca and playing on a fast indoor hardcourt, his absence will be felt more than ever before.

Finally, in case you missed it because the French coverage cut away too quickly, here are the last three points of the fifth rubber and the celebrations that followed, as shown on Argentine TV:

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Davis Cup Quarterfinal: Argentina beats France 3-2

One last pic of the Fabulous Four:


Charly Berlocq has done it -  he has clinched the tie for Argentina, with his 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Gilles Simon.
For the first time in history, Argentina beats France in the Davis Cup, and moves on the semifinal. There, just like last season, the Argentine team will meet the Czechs, only that it's going to be an away tie this time (September 13-15).
But most importantly, this victory means that David is not done just yet with the Davis Cup...

Epilogue/wrap-up post coming on Tuesday.
I need a break now...

(AP Photo)

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga proved to be too strong for Pico, so the tie will be decided in the fifth rubber.
Right now, it looks like the match we'll get to see will indeed be Charly vs Gilles Simon.
I'll keep you posted.
Edit: The French Federation confirms Gilles Simon for the fifth rubber.
So now it's:

Ahead of the weekend Martin Jaite said the goal for his team wasn't just to make it through to Sunday but to win this tie. Now it is Sunday, and at 2-1 his team is merely one point away from victory and a place in the semifinal. It would be the first victory for Argentina against France in the whole history of Davis Cup.
But more importantly, it would give David a reason to go on playing regularly at least until the US Open.

As mentioned in the previous post, Martin Jaite confirmed yesterday that he's not planning any line-up changes for today. Whereas on the French side we might get to see one.
Here, I'd use the usual photos of the players shaking hands and posing at the draw ceremony. But it turns out that they forgot to make those photos for the reverse singles, so I had to improvise a bit.

Juan Monaco vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
(Sergio Llamera/Hans Ruhle; montage by VD)
The #1 singles players are traditionally up first on the last day of every Davis Cup weekend. In this case, it's also the match between Friday's winners. What history exists between these two clearly favours Tsonga, who won all of their three previous encounters (including two matches on clay). But Tsonga didn't look invincible on Friday and perhaps with the energy from the team and the crowd Pico can pull off the upset. And he'll give everything he can in this match, that much is certain, but if it's not enough then it'll depend on the fifth rubber - and on Charly...

Carlos Berlocq vs Gilles Simon
(Hans Ruhle; montage by VD)
...But whether Charly will get to face Gilles Simon, if it all gets decided in the fifth rubber, that remains to be seen. On Friday, Simon had problems with his back. And although he was seen to be training yesterday, the French captain Arnaud Clement could still decide, up until shortly before the match, to replace him with either Julien Benneteau or Michael Llodra. Perhaps simply depending on who feels ready to play this match today. Charly will be ready for it, I have no doubts about that.

And yet, it would be very nice of Pico to keep David and the others - and us - from having to suffer too much. So now it's:

Saturday, April 6, 2013

David & Horacio Win the Doubles for Argentina

This is what it was like, viewed from the stands - the return winner David hit on match point. To seal his and Horacio's 3-6, 7-6(3), 7-5, 6-3 victory in the doubles rubber and with it the 2-1 lead for Argentina after the second day of play. (Edit: A proper highlights clip you'll find here.) At the start of the match, it was cold and overcast, and it looked like there might be more rain. It also looked like Benneteau and Llodra would be too strong for David and Horacio Zeballos. But three hours later, it ended with celebrations and singing at the Parque Roca, in bright sunshine.
In David's words:
I think we played a very good match. It was incredible, the level that little by little we managed to achieve. It wasn't easy, it was a very tough match but in cases like this one you have to get things done even you don't know where you take [the strength] from.
Interviews in English with both doubles teams and both captains you can listen to here. Including David's not exactly poetical take on the weather conditions and Michael Llodra's one-sentence summary of the match: "We got set point in the third set and after that they play well."

(Sergio Llamera)
They most definitely did but it took a while. Early on in the match, there was little to be seen of the dynamic that David and Horacio can create when they play together. To me, they both looked extremely tense initially, and it didn't help that from the start, both had trouble holding serve. Even though Benneteau and Llodra weren't exactly playing lights-out doubles tennis either. On both sides of the net there were some mishaps and misunderstandings. But David was the first to lose his serve, granting the French team a 5-3 lead. And when Llodra served out the first set to love, things didn't look too promising for David and Horacio.

The second set, however, turned out to be very different from the first. While in the first set everyone (except Llodra) had struggled on serve, with various break points on both sides, now they all held serve without any real difficulties and there were no break points at all. The logical consequence was a tiebreak. And at that moment, the first small signs of the dynamic between David and Horacio appeared. They managed to raise their game in this important moment and positively raced to a 6-2 lead. The first set point they couldn't convert, on the second there was a brief controversy with umpire Carlos Ramos but then David and Horacio closed it out and took the second set 7-6(3).

(Sergio Llamera)
Still, it was the third set that would prove to be decisive. Though at first, it looked like Benneteau and Llodra were taking control again. They broke for a 3-1 lead (it was Horacio's serve but David's errors that sealed the break). And at  5-2, with Horacio serving to stay in the set, they had two set points. On the first, Llodra failed to make a return. On the second, David hit a smash straight at Llodra (but apologised afterwards, see pic). Strangely enough, from that moment on David started playing better. And the dynamic was finally there. They went on to win the next five consecutive games and eventually turned what had been a 2-5 into a 7-5.

Up two sets to one now, David and Horacio took a little bit of a break at the start of the fourth set. You could also say they were waiting for the right moment to break. That moment came at 2-2, when it was once more Julien Benneteau, who dropped his serve (for 3-2). At 5-3 for David and Horacio, it was Benneteau's turn again, only that this time he served to stay in the match. At 30-30, David set up match point with a well-timed forehand. - And then came the return winner.
(Mauro Alfieri/La Nacion)
The feeling you get when you play here is amazing. It's spectacular. There really are no words to describe how it makes you feel. I'm very happy about the victory and because Cebolla [= Onion, Horacio's nickname] played a great match. We both played an amazing match. I'm super happy.
After the match, super happy David also said that this victory is one of his most important victories in doubles (source).
Why? The answer to that question can be found in this clip here and in the song that the crowd and the rest of the team sang for David after the match:

"This is El Gringo [David's nickname] from Unquillo, who's not retiring so he can be a champion."
It's everywhere in the Argentine media, not in form of big, glaring headlines. It's more like a whisper - this might be the end. If they lose, it's over. Then this was the last Davis Cup tie for David Nalbandian...
It can still happen. With their victory today, David and Horacio did what they could to avert it. But we'll have to see what happens tomorrow in the reverse singles.
What's not going to happen is that David is going to play. Talking to the media after today's match, Martin Jaite confirmed that he intends to go with Pico and Charly Berlocq for tomorrow.
The last words I'll leave to David:
We believed in the team and that we could finish the day at 1-1 on Friday, which wasn't easy but we still got there. And now we mustn't forget that the tie is still very tough... Hopefully Pico wins so we don't have to suffer so much.
(Quotes from the post-match interview via Olé.)
(AP Photo)

Davis Cup Quarterfinal: Argentina vs France - Day 2

It was their third doubles rubber together and it ended with their third victory. After three hours and three minutes, a simply amazing performance and an incredible comeback in the third set, David and Horacio Zeballos defeated Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra 3-6, 7-6(3), 7-5, 6-3.
So after the second day of play, Argentina now leads 2-1.

More soon...
Photos now on the Photo Page.

After the first two singles rubbers yesterday, and with Argentina and France now tied at 1-1, today it's time for the doubles at the Parque Roca. Time for David and Horacio Zeballos. - And a huge challenge.

David Nalbandian & Horacio Zeballos
      vs Julien Benneteau & Michael Llodra
(Sergio Llamera)

Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra are the kind of doubles team you don't get to see all the time in Davis Cup - they're both excellent doubles players (with career-high rankings of #15 and #3, respectively). On the Tour, they have a total of 31 doubles titles to their names but the good news is that only two of those they won, playing together. In Davis Cup, they've been the fixed team for France since 2010. And while they've lost two of their six doubles rubbers, on both occasions it took other experts to beat them (the Bryans last year, and Marach & Melzer the year before that).
David and Horacio Zeballos as well are the kind of doubles team you don't get to see all the time in Davis Cup - they won their first doubles rubber (and first ever doubles match together) practically without any preparation. Back then, in Stockholm 2010, David and Horacio stunned their opponents Söderling & Lindstedt with their sheer energy and determination. In the first round this year, they also beat Germany's makeshift doubles, keeping their perfect record. But the match to remember today is Stockholm.
And perhaps with the help of the crowd David and Horacio can pull off another miracle.


Friday, April 5, 2013

Davis Cup Quarterfinal: Argentina vs France - Day 1

(AFP/Getty Images)

No whitewash this time around - with Pico's victory over Gilles Simon (who apparently had some problems with his back) Argentina draws level after the first day of play. And 1-1 ahead of the doubles, that's the scoreline Jaite and the team were (realistically) hoping to achieve.

So now it's David's and Horacio's turn, in the doubles rubber tomorrow.

(AP Photo)

He was able to cause him a lot of trouble but he couldn't beat him in the end. After nearly four hours and after putting up a great fight, Charly Berlocq couldn't stop Jo-Wilfried Tsonga from winning the first point for France.

Now it's up to Pico to try and level the score.

Welcome to Day 1 of the Davis Cup quarterfinal weekend. Also known as the day before David plays.
But today the focus is on Charly Berlocq and on Pico, who will try their best to ensure that this tie won't end like the last one between Argentina and France... Well, at least things basically can only get better.

First up today is Charly Berlocq, just like in the first round against Germany, and back then Charly played a great match against Philipp Kohlschreiber. Today, he's up against a Top10 player but one who's no clay-courter and who (like his teammates) hasn't played a match on this surface in almost a year.

Carlos Berlocq vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
In Charly's words:
Against Tsonga I have to be very aggressive, I have to constantly take the initiative and play at a high level if I want to cause him trouble. He's no specialist when it comes to playing on clay and his serve is not as effective on it as it is on fast courts, where it really makes a difference. (Source.)
And then there's the other factor that's hopefully going to play a big role today. The Parque Roca and that Charly will be playing this match with the help of the crowd. As well as with a little help from his friends, i.e. some tips from his teammates:
I have to be confident and go out there to win. I'll try to make the most of the support from the crowd. Some of my fellow players have given me advice [about how to play against Tsonga] and the support from the crowd will help me a lot, the interaction with the people in the stands will give me strength and confidence. (Source.)
- It'll make him "angry", as Tsonga would put it.

Afterwards, it'll be time for the battle between two very old acquaintances:

Juan Monaco vs Gilles Simon

It's been a terrible season for Pico so far. But the one great match he has played this year took place in Davis Cup, his victory over Florian Mayer (someone you could call his nemesis) in the first round.
In Pico's words:
It's obvious that I don't have the same confidence like last year, I cannot deny that. But I also know that the Davis Cup is a huge motivation for me and that it's where I can regain [my confidence]. In Davis Cup I've done well and I want to go back to playing at the same level I had before. We're up against a tough opponent but I'll do whatever I can to get the win for Argentina. (Source.)
Against Gasquet it would've been a premiere but Pico and Gilles Simon go way back together, as we learned yesterday. And that they now get to face off in his match didn't really come as a surprise.
We knew that if Gasquet wasn't 100% fit they'd play Simon, who was doing intensive singles training together with Tsonga. Matches against Simon are always very tough. We're all under pressure. Our dream is to win, we have to give everything for that. (Source.)
Nothing for me to add but:



Thursday, April 4, 2013

Argentina vs France - The Draw

Fresh in from the draw ceremony at the Usina del Arte, here's the draw and with it the order of play.
Not suprisingly perhaps (as he wasn't able to train much all week) Richard Gasquet won't be taking part
in this tie, after all. Instead, Gilles Simon will be the second singles player for the French team.
So here's what's ahead this weekend:

Friday (10.30am local/2.30pm GMT/9.30am EST)

Carlos Berlocq vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
The Davis Cup weekend starts with a premiere: These two have never met before. "I don't know a lot about him because I never play against him in the past," Tsonga admits. And perhaps that's not the worst starting point for Charly - no experiences to go by but also no bad memories. In any case, the pressure will be immense, as he's "aware of the importance of this match, of this tie, and also of the fact that Argentina has never managed to beat France before." Which is, unfortunately, true.

Juan Monaco vs Gilles Simon
These two on the other hand have not only met five times before (Simon leads 3-2 while Pico won their last encounter), they've also known each other since junor days. "Since I was 14," to quote Simon.  And Pico expects a battle. "We play like for two, three hours every match we play, so it's going to be a difficult match for sure. And I have to ready to fight tomorrow."

Saturday (12.30pm local/4.30pm GMT/ 11.30am EST)

David Nalbandian & Horacio Zeballos vs
Julien Benneteau & Michael Llodra
In Davis Cup, not too many nations have a fixed doubles team that consists of two experts. France, however, is one of them. For Benneteau and Llodra this is the fourth season as the French Davis Cup doubles. For David and Horacio it'll be the third doubles match together and the biggest challenge so far. "They play very well so we'll have to be at our best to have a chance" - in David's words. Who also explained that this tie is completely different and cannot possibly be compared to the last one between Argentina and France. - Well, hopefully not.
(Quotes from audio clips here and here.)

Sunday (10.30am local/2.30pm GMTT/9.30am EST)

Juan Monaco vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
They've met three times, two of those matches took place on clay, and on all three occasions Tsonga was the winner in the end. Though their encounters on clay were at least much closer than on hardcourt.
Still - this will be a very difficult match for Pico.

Carlos Berlocq vs Gilles Simon
If this match comes to pass then it'll be their seventh encounter. All but one of the previous six took place on clay and it's Simon, who leads 4-2 in terms of the overall record. But the two wins Charly managed to get against him are both from last year, when he won two of the three times they met.

- But if it does come down to a live fifth rubber Martin Jaite could also decide to replace Charly with Horacio Zeballos. Or even with David? At the first press conference a couple of days ago, the answer to that question was still a pretty clear "no". After today's ceremony, it sounded like this. "On Sunday, we'll see who's in the best shape." (Source.)

"Without optimism and confidence we're not going to get anywhere," as David reminded everyone (and perhaps also himself) after the ceremony today. "We have to be ready to fight. Anything can happen." (Source.)

Finally, a few words about the weather in Buenos Aires. The worst of it is apparently over but the flooding caused by the torrential rains has claimed nearly 60 lives in Buenos Aires and La Plata. The tie will take place but at the ceremony today, David and the team called on those who will come to the Parque Roca to bring "water, clothes, anything that might be of help" as donations for those affected by the flooding.

(AP Photo)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Back at the Parque Roca


Update (04/04)
- Not to forget the official dinner that took place last night. Looks like they all had a good time together.

(Hans Ruhle)

After the storm and the torrential rains in Buenos Aires yesterday (what it looked like at the stadium you can see in this clip), and after the first anxious questions appeared about what's going to happen with the tie if the rain simply doesn't stop - it stopped. And then the sun came back.
So both teams were able to train normally at the Parque Roca today, with David and Horacio Zeballos  practicing at the stadium, while Pico and Charly Berlocq trained on the outside court.

Tomorrow, at 10.30am local time, the draw ceremony will take place at the Usina del Arte. The AAT apparently wants to do this in style. In any case, at the draw ceremony we'll find out whether Pico will face Richard Gasquet or Gilles Simon on Friday, as well as who will open this quarterfinal tie for Argentina, Pico or Charly against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

The draw and the order of play, interviews and more - all coming tomorrow.

(Hans Ruhle)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

More Rain, Thunderstorms & A Press Conference


The weather was even worse today than it was yesterday, and the French team organised a training session at a club with indoor courts this morning (where the Argentine team was supposed to later train as well). But somewhere in-between the weather-induced chaos, everyone met at the Parque Roca's press room for the first round of press conferences ahead of the quarterfinal tie.

(Hans Ruhle)
First up was the French team, led by its new captain Arnaud Clement (who was one of the players when France beat Argentina in 2010), claiming that being labelled the favourites to win this tie doesn't put them under pressure. The French players talked about their respect for the Argentine team, that it's "strong, with or without Delpo" (to quote Clement) and they "will have to be very focused to be able to win" (to quote Jo-Wilfried Tsonga).
Meanwhile, it's still not clear whether Richard Gasquet will be the second singles player for France or whether Gilles Simon will take his place. We'll find out on Thursday.

After the French team it was then Argentine team's turn. And this quote here by Martin Jaite basically sums up what the captain and his players had to say about the tie:
They are the favourites but in Davis Cup suprises can always happen. We are a very good team, we play at home, we're in good shape and we're looking forward to the tie. We won't be content with making it through to Sunday, we want to win the tie.
Apart from that Jaite confirmed that unless anything unforeseen happens Charly Berlocq will be Argentina's second singles player. At the same time, he ruled out the possibility of letting David play singles on Sunday (source). So it'll be the doubles for David and only the doubles.
Here's his take on this quarterfinal:
It's going to be a very tough tie and in order to have any chance we'll have to give everything. We have to be ready to suffer and to fight until the end.
We know that they're the favourites but playing at home will be a big advantage for us because of the support we'll get from the crowd.
But will it be different for him, knowing that he could be playing his last Davis Cup tie?
I approach it like it's just another tie. When I got injured against Romania [and who could forget that particular match...] many said that perhaps it was my last tie. And here I am, and a lot of time has passed. You don't know what's going to happen.
It's true, anything can happen in Davis Cup, especially if a certain Mr. Nalbandian is involved.
Here's hoping that Argentina's path won't end in the quarterfinal.


Monday, April 1, 2013

First Rain then Training at the Parque Roca

(Danny Miche)

Update (02/04)
Here's a first look at the team, the press conference is under way as I'm writing this.
Easily David's favourite part of the whole Davis Cup experience...
More soon.

(Hans Ruhle)

There was a lot planned for today, two training sessions for each team plus Kids Day at the Parque Roca - but the Buenos Aires weather upset those plans. The Kids Day was already cancelled yesterday and the morning session fell victim to the rain. But in the afternoon, both teams got in at least a bit of training, with David and Horacio Zeballos playing doubles against Pico and Guido Pella, while Charly trained with Diego Schwartzman.

But even though Horacio Zeballos also did a bit of singles training with Pella, it's still becoming more and more obvious that Charly Berlocq is preparing to be Argentina's second singles player. And that Horacio Zeballos, together with David, will be focusing primarily on the doubles.
On the French side, however, things aren't quite as clear. Already during his great run at Miami, Richard Gasquet was reportedly plagued by an injured toe. Now he is training but apparently without moving all that much (source). So Arnaud Clement might decide to replace him with Gilles Simon. But if that's going to be the case we probably won't find out before the draw ceremony on Thursday.

And whether Pico's opponent on Friday will be Gasquet or Simon, Charly Berlocq wants to take on the French #1:
Hopefully I get to play on Friday, against Tsonga. If I play my best tennis then I'll have a chance.
But most importantly, they all work together for this quarterfinal tie.
In team sports, what matters is what kind of message each player sends to his teammates. We have a very good team. We're six players [counting in Pella and Schwartzman] plus Leo Mayer, who can't be here at the moment, due to a physical problem. Former members of the team are sending us messages of support. Off court, the coaches and the whole staff are working hard to get us in good shape and that gives us a lot of calmness. (Source.)
While Horacio Zeballos sounds not just calm but also rather confident:
The whole team is very motivated. These days of preparation will be very important for the team to keep getting stronger and raising the level. Personally, I feel that I'm playing great tennis. (Source.)
David will be pleased to hear it. And to know that he'll have a Horacio in top form at his side on Saturday, when the two of them will be up against Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra. A doubles team of a different caliber than the ones David plus his respective partner usually get to meet.

Tomorrow, the Argentine team's training will take place behind closed doors. But that doesn't mean we won't get to see anything of them, as tomorrow is also the day of the first press conference (3pm local).
Last but not least, good to see David and Charly together like this (pic below). There was a bit of bad blood during and after their match at the Copa Claro. But looks like all of that's forgotten now.


Training Videos

Before the preparations for the Davis Cup quarterfinal continue today, here are the first videos I've been able to find of David, training at the Parque Roca (and on the practice court located right next to it). They're from the very first training session on Saturday. Another clip you'll find here.

More later today...