Friday, November 29, 2013

In Pictures V

(Getty Images)
And so, after one last week, reminiscent of the good old tournament days with its matches and press conferences, David now really is retired. I don't know about you but I'm still finding it difficult to get used to the thought.

And while David has apparently returned to the privacy of his home in Unquillo, the question is - and now?
There are some posts that I still want to write, including for the "A Look Back..." series. Plus the more general reviews I've mentioned in the comments. In short, for those very few still sticking around at this point - there will be several new posts next month.

But first of all, here's another edition of "In Pictures".
This time with eleven photos taken on eleven very happy days for David - those days when he got to pose with the champion's trophy, and not just with the runner-up plate like in this case here (Montréal 2003).
To view click "Read more" below.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

David Says Goodbye

(DyN)




















(Telam)
He wanted it to be a big party - and that's exactly what it was.
Perhaps the event in Córdoba was a bit more emotional, also because of the video messages from his family and friends.
But David's farewell yesterday was a party, with lots of joking and laughter and general mayhem. And only at the very end of the event the moment came for a bit of wistfulness and melancholy, when for one last time, David addressed the crowd.
I guess he wanted it that way.
But - from the start.

(Nicolas Stulberg/Infobae)
After both David and Rafa had entered the stadium to standing ovations from the crowd, the match itself was played a bit more seriously than the previous two. But there were several nice and entertaining rallies and a couple of occasions where David managed to outplay the world #1. Like when David managed to catch him totally off guard with a drop-shot/lob combination.
As Rafa said before the match, "he makes the most difficult things in tennis look very easy."

(EFE)
Though they played more in earnest than before there was of course room for a bit of banter and joking. And at some point David recruited a very young linesman to play in his stead. Perhaps only half-jokingly as this match must have cost an awful lot of strength. In the end, after plenty of good points, Rafa served for it at 6-4, 5-3. And after David saved two match points, Rafa converted the third.
And it was over.
The last match.
And David's career.
But then, probably also to keep that moment from getting too emotional or sad, matters suddenly took a different and rather unexpected turn.
In the form of the "medico", who appeared on court to have a look at him:



(Telam)
The set of doubles that followed, David & Pico (Argentina) versus Rafa & Nole (Rest of the World), unfortunately wasn't part of the coverage on our streams. And clips from it are scarce (there's this one and this one but that seems to be it).
But from what I've been able to gather it must have been quite a spectacle, with Rafa and Nole imitating the Bryan twins and Nole throwing in an impersonation of Maria Sharapova.
But all good things must end, as they say. And so the moment came that David might have been dreading at least a little bit.
His last goodbye to the crowd.
Here's that particular moment and his speech:



On this "extremely important day" he thanked the people for their support that he "always felt and had". He thanked them for the "happiness" they gave him and for those "great moments", when they supported him, enjoyed his matches but also suffered with him. "For a tennis player the best thing that can happen is to feel the love of the people" - he got to feel it and for him that was "spectacular".
He thanked Pico, Rafa and Nole, "excellent players and excellent guys", for being there for his farewell and added that it's great to have the #1 and #2 in the world as guests in Argentina. For that he thanked Rafa and Nole again.
Then of course David thanked his family, his team and everyone, who was part of it over the years. But at the very end he gave special thanks to Diego Rodriguez, who was with him for "almost ten years, during the good times and the bad". And although it was his last match he said he hopes that it won't be the last he has seen of him.
And then David decided that it was enough, that he had said all he wanted to say.

But afterwards, there was one last press conference to get through.



"There's a bit of sadness now but you don't spend all your life as a tennis player. These are stages that come and go. Now it's happening to me, tomorrow it'll happen to somebody else."

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Day of David's Farewell

(DyN)
Update
That was it.
The last singles match of David's career.
This time Rafa prevailed 6-3, 6-4.
Not that it really matters.
The doubles with Nole and Pico wasn't broadcasted/streamed, unfortunately.

So this was really it...

All about David's farewell tomorrow.




(Getty Images; montage by VD)













For the last few years, this was how every post about David's next match began here on Vamos David
- with matching pics of him and his respective opponent. Today, I decided to make another set.
For old times' sake and because it's the last opportunity I'll get...

Today, David bids farewell.
To the Argentine crowd, to his fans, to his fellow players and to his career as a tennis player that has shaped his life so far.
These last few days, during the press conferences David often talked about how there are different stages in everyone's life.
And for him, a new one will begin tomorrow. But today, one last time he'll walk onto the court. To play a last match against Rafa and then also a bit of doubles with Nole and Pico.
Only then will this stage, this chapter of his life be closed.
And hopefully, it's going to be the big party David wants.

The event itself is scheduled to begin at 4pm local. TV coverage already starts at 3.30pm local (as you can see on the poster).
But while we got lucky with the official streams for the last two events, this time we'll have to rely on 'unofficial' ones.

Therefore: If you find a stream please link it in the comments.
Edit: So far, we have three working streams, links in the sidebar.

P.S. The stadium at La Rural 2 days ago:

(Infomedia Argentina)

Edit: And this is what it looks like today:

(@marcos_z)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Adios Córdoba


It was a great event, it was a wonderful display of tennis from Rafa and from David, who played a lot better than he did against Massu. And in the end there was of course the "right" winner.
As well as a trophy ceremony with a very special guest.
A worthy goodbye to David's home crowd.

Edit:
Photo Page has been updated.
A large gallery with photos you can view here.
Part of the match on YouTube here.
And tomorrow... is the big day.
















(All photos by EFE.)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

David & Rafa in Córdoba

(Olé)












(EFE)
Update
It was a "unique feeling" for David and a very nice match for everyone who got to watch it. And in the end, David won 6-4, 7-6(6). But what really mattered is that everybody involved had a good time. Including little Sossie, there on David's arm during the trophy ceremony (yes, they had one).
More tomorrow...

Edit: Here's a photo from that ceremony.
Post etc coming tonight (European time).


(Rafael Nadal/FB)




















And David and Rafa also in Unquillo, to which somewhere between another press conference and another tennis clinic (not open to the public this time) they paid a visit, as the photo above shows.
But the main part of the action today will of course happen just a little further south, in the city of Córdoba, at the Orfeo Superdomo. Which will look very different from the way it does in the photo below.

(La Voz)
The good news is - we have an official stream.
This time in the form of the free streaming site by TV Publica, the channel that broadcasts the event in Argentina.
So, what to expect from this exhibition match? I guess last night we got an idea of how unevenly matched a retiring David and the world #1 will probably be. But I'm sure this match will still be a lot of fun, for David and Rafa, as well as for David's home crowd.

To pass the time, a few impressions from the inevitable press conference today. David talks about how great it is to have Rafa in Argentina and to play these last two matches with him, Rafa talks about his long absence from the Tour and his comeback, and about how much he loves tennis, and then David gets asked again about the current Davis Cup dispute but once more he refuses to get entangled in it. - Some things have already changed.

Last Night in Santiago

(Agencia Uno)


















(Reuters)
After the last rally of the match, and of Nicolas Massu's career, the two of them met and hugged at the net. And then Massu said something to David. What exactly it was only David knows but perhaps Massu had some words of encouragement and advice - for someone who'll very soon find himself in the same situation.
It was a nice match that David and Nicolas Massu played at the Movistar Arena in Santiago yesterday. And it really was a match, and not just a bit of hit and giggle. Except when David almost hit the Chilean president with a ball and was "reprimanded" with a smile and a wag of the presidential finger.
But it also became clear that David wasn't lying about the problems with his shoulder. I thought it became clear that he has made the right decision.

So, after Santiago yesterday, tonight David will be playing in front of his home crowd in Córdoba. And on court with him will be Rafael Nadal.
More later, ahead of the match. And more photos on the Photo Page.

(Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

David's Hello & Massu's Goodbye

Update
Nicolas Massu has won his farewell match 6-4, 6-2. And David almost hit the Chilean president with a ball (accidentally). But a good time was had by all.
More tomorrow, and also David's home game in Córdoba.

Today, David's Farewell Tour begins at the Movistar Arena in Santiago de Chile with Nicolas Massu's farewell match. The two of them are the "support act" for Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic so to speak, who will play afterwards. I think I read somewhere that there's also going to be a bit of doubles (like there will be on Saturday in Buenos Aires).

How seriously the two of them are going to take this match, and how well David will be able to play, over seven months after his last regular match and with his dodgy shoulder - we'll see.

But for that we'll need a stream...
Edit: Looks like there's an official stream on Movistar TV (starts 8.45pm local). Here's hoping it doesn't only work in Chile.
Edit II - It works. Not only in Chile.


If you find a stream for the match please post it in the comments. Thanks.

In the meantime:
Earlier today, David, Nicolas Massu, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and junior player Christian Garin met Chilean president Sebastian Piñera. Here's a look:

Two Press Conferences & A Clinic



(EFE)
Before he could fly over to Chile yesterday first of all there was another press conference for David to get through, though one where the municipal government of Buenos Aires presented him with an award in recognition of his career.
Apart from that David talked about how much of a pleasure it is for him to have "Rafa, Nole and Pico" at his farewell match, that he's satisfied with what he has achieved in his career, that he no longer thinks so very much about the Davis Cup and that he isn't planning to become captain anywhere in the near future.

(La Nacion)
But he was asked about the Davis Cup of course and about Delpo, who not just refused to play the first-round tie (like he usually does) against Italy next year but who also sent an open letter to Martin Jaite and the AAT, complaining about the way he has been treated. David's reply with a shrug and then a laugh (2:23): "I'm an ex player."
- And no longer responsible for Davis Cup drama. He read the letter, as it was all over the Argentine press, and he finds it "regrettable" that Delpo won't play in the first round. But other than that these things are "between him [Delpo], the AAT, the captain and the players" and they "don't really concern" him anymore.
And it'll stay that way - David also made it clear that there is "no chance" that he might still play another Davis Cup doubles, as for him that chapter is closed.


After that it was on to Santiago de Chile and the second press conference of the day, though this time together with Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Nicolas Massu:



Where they all had a pretty good time, it seems. David praised Nicolas Massu's "fighting spirit and guts" and called them his "legacy". He also joked around a bit with Novak Djokovic and helpfully reminded Rafa that he didn't have to speak English (at 1:21, a nice little moment).

And then, last but not least, they all took part in a tennis clinic for children:



So today, it's David and Nicolas Massu and then Nadal and Djokovic at the Movistar Arena in Santiago de Chile. More about that (including, hopefully, streams) later today, ahead of the event.

Monday, November 18, 2013

David's Farewell Exhibition Tour

(Emiliano Lasalvia/La Nacion)

















After a relaxed and fun weekend at a polo tournament (as a spectator - see photo above) it's a very busy week that now lies ahead of David. Three exhibition events, TV, press conferences, interviews...
Though this time I think he'll enjoy it, all of it, even the media attention.

Update (19/11)
A bit of David's and Rafa's TV stint yesterday:




They now travel to Santiago de Chile, where together with Novak Djokovic and Nicolas Massu they will be giving a press conference as well as a tennis clinic on Tuesday (source).
And then on Wednesday David will play the first of his three exhibitions this week:



Wednesday 20/11
with Nicolas Massu
in Santiago de Chile
8pm local (11pm GMT/6pm EST)

It'll be Nicolas Massu's farewell (he's retiring too) and the first match of the night before Nadal and Djokovic take the stage. The last time David and Massu played a match was also at an exhibition that some of you will remember - it was David's first match after hip surgery back in 2009.
Then on the following day, he'll get his 'home game', around the corner from Unquillo:



Thursday 21/11
with Rafael Nadal
in Córdoba
9.30pm local (12.30am GMT Friday/7.30pm EST)

I don't know whose idea it was to advertise Nadal as "Goliat(h)". But it's certainly not going to be a fight to the death that's going to take place indoors at the Orfeo Superdomo in Córdoba. Edit - See pic:

(Ramiro Pereyra/MundoD)












The last and biggest event, however, will happen on Saturday:



Saturday 23/11
with Rafael Nadal
& Doubles with Novak Djokovic & Juan Monaco
in Buenos Aires
4pm local (7pm GMT/2pm EST)

At a stadium with 15.000 seats that's currently being erected (see photo below) for this event, which will feature another match between Nadal and Djokovic, this is where David will say goodbye.
And hopefully he'll get his big party.

As for streams - I can't promise anything but I'll do what I can. As always, any help will be appreciated.

(Klonarte Press)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

'David Nalbandian Did Everything Right'

After David announced his retirement six weeks ago many articles, posts and commentaries were written about him and about his career. Most of them listed his best moments, some also included his worst. But there was one that took a different approach. And I think it makes a very true and important point.
Here's the article by Marcelo Gantman for La Nacion.
David Nalbandian did everything right in his career.
He did everything he could do, being David Nalbandian and not a compound of parts of other players and consequently of other personalities. Nalbandian was who he was, the sum of both the perfection and the imperfection squeezed into the same package. Just like any other top athlete.

Nalbandian's retirement was followed by journalistic outpourings and mentions on the social networks, about the player he was and the player people wanted him to be. Swiftly and spontaneously (and therefore you have to pay attention to that collective expression of thoughts) the idea came up that in a way, David Nalbandian was unfinished business. A version that was good and praised but that could've been better, the perfect example of a tennis player, able to use every corner of the opponent's court and to transform his mind into a radar so that nothing could escape him. But obviously not everybody was satisfied with that.

There's a huge problem with accepting sports stars as they are, or as they were, instead of comparing the original to an ideal. Since the imaginary version cannot be likened to facts it's always going to look better. But it is not better. It has never been because it never existed.
David Nalbandian managed to win the Masters Cup in Shanghai in 2005 after he had already packed his bags to go fishing with some friends. "I'm only going to take the trip if you guarantee that I get to play," he told the ATP. They did guarantee a place for him in the draw and Nalbandian responded by triumphing over Roger Federer in the final. Only a player accustomed to switching back and forth within days between relaxing and then focusing on tennis again could make something positive out of this unexpected situation. It's difficult to imagine Rafael Nadal pursuing some sudden objective like that and without making it part of a meticulously planned and followed program. And when Roger Federer amended his schedule for 2013, in a desperate move after his early Wimbledon exit, he only managed to deepen the crisis with appearances in Gstaad and Hamburg that were not planned well in advance. Improvising doesn't work for everybody.

There's always something lacking with everyone. It's the margin between evident perfection and imperfection that flirts with the abyss. What changes is the space you occupy on this slippery slope. Champions shrink the margin of error until we believe that there is none. Why did Pete Sampras never manage to win Roland Garros? How much more could've John McEnroe achieved, had he not spent so much energy on arguing with umpires and if he had eaten more pasta and less hamburgers? And what if Ivan Lendl hadn't been so obsessed with Wimbledon and would've chosen a more relaxed way of trying to win it? It's impossible to know these things. Because had it been that way, they would not have been who they were.

"Everybody has their best way of doing things and it works only for them. Nole has his way, Rafa has his and Federer has his one as well. I have been criticised for mine because I don't belong to those who think that you can be a better player if you rest somewhere in chair instead of going bungee jumping or doing something else I enjoy doing," Nalbandian commented in an interview for the book 'Héroes Igual", two years ago.

Nalbandian's career began in 1998 and ended in 2013. Already prior to that, having been an outstanding junior, he put in plenty of travelling, had done so since he was fourteen years old. As a professional player there were both voluntary and involuntary exits that he took from the circuit. The deliberate ones happened because his way of competing included the need to return to Unquillo, to light the coals for a barbecue and talk about how things were going. The involuntary ones had to do with his injuries and surgeries. This way of doing things and of competing, though certainly imperfect, was what allowed him to be consistent in his approach to professional tennis. Nalbandian didn't burn out along the way. He didn't bust his head, sitting trapped in business class, overwhelmed by his experiences. Tennis players go through those kinds of moments.

Nalbandian played, won and lost, always knowing where the emergency exit was that he could take in order to regroup and return with motivation. That was his way of doing things and it was the reason he survived until his shoulder no longer allowed him a dignified serve. A paradox, an unlikely Achilles' heel for a player with the best return of serve we've seen here in these parts.
(All photos by Getty Images.)

Update
David's farewell party in Buenos Aires will not only consist of a singles match with Rafael Nadal, afterwards they will also play a doubles together against Novak Djokovic and Pico (source).

P.S. Post about next week's exhibitions, start times etc. coming on Monday.
Here's a photo of the court at La Rural, installed yesterday:

(Pablo Comba)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

In Pictures IV

 


















Update

A bit of footage of David, training for and talking about the exhibition matches you can watch here.
He hopes those events are going to be a big party, it's spectacular that he gets to play his farewell matches against Nadal but he doesn't see himself coaching another player or becoming Davis Cup captain anywhere in the near future.


UpdateII
More training footage (14/11):




(Getty Images)
About a week to go now until David's exhibitions with Rafael Nadal in Córdoba and Buenos Aires. And exactly one week until the event in Chile - where according to Nicolas Massu, David will also be making an appearance.
Though there's still nothing to be heard about any such plans from David or his camp. Even if he has given a couple of interviews lately, for Argentine tennis magazine Revista Grip and another TV interview on the channel Telefe. And I think it's safe to say that he seems very relaxed, much more so than used to be the case when doing interviews.
Apart from that David also agreed to another email Q&A, in English this time. You can read it here.

In any case, the court for the event at La Rural in Buenos Aires will be laid on Friday and from Monday on David could take up training there (source).

And finally, here's another round of photos.
This time it's all about varying degrees of grumpiness...

Saturday, November 9, 2013

A Look Back at... Paris 2007

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)
It's October 2007, David has just won his first Masters title, becoming only the third player ever to beat the world's #1, #2 & #3 in the course of the same tournament. And after the "milagro", the 'miracle' of Madrid and David's comeback win over Roger Federer in the final it's now straight on to Basel.
After all the excitement of the previous week, however, David looks tired and depleted. He loses in the first round, once more against Stanislas Wawrinka. So now there's only one tournament left for him to play this season - the Paris Masters.

(Getty Images)
Exactly one week after the Madrid final David plays his first match in Paris. The organisers have chosen it to be the opening match of the week at the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy. Therefore David's first-round encounter with Nicolas Almagro (#28) takes place already on Sunday and without coverage (which doesn't start until Monday). So what it looks like, this first official meeting between David and Almagro remains a mystery. Though judging by the mere numbers it's a pretty straightforward victory for David, who prevails 6-4, 6-4.

(Getty Images)
In the second round, 3 days later, David finds himself on Court 1, i.e. the outside court, and up against another Spaniard. This time it's David's buddy and PlayStation teammate Carlos Moya (#16), who won their first meeting on hardcourt two months earlier at Cincy (until then they had always played on clay). But now, under the eyes of Rafael Nadal who follows the match tucked away in a corner, one break per set and holding on to his own serve proves to be enough for David. During the changeover at 6-4, 5-4 there's even an attempt at a Mexican wave on the not exactly huge stands. Then David closes it out, without any wobbles.
But it's only the prelude.

Because in the third round the blockbuster match awaits.



(Getty Images)
A mere 11 days after the Madrid final they meet again - David and Roger Federer. And as always these two bring out the best in each other, with plenty of spectacular points and some great attacking tennis from David. But the dramaturgy of the match is a completely different one, compared to Madrid. This time, David is the one who's off to a brilliant start. But when it comes to closing it out, the first set as well as the match, David's 'old demons' return. In the words of Roger Federer, "I absolutely thought he was getting nervous. He has a tendency to, you know, sometimes give a second chance when you think you're down and out."
Still, despite altogether five wasted set points and despite getting broken when serving for the first set and then also when serving for the match, in the end David doesn't give Federer another chance but wins the their second encounter within three weeks 6-4, 7-6(3).
"He's got a phenomenal backhand and can dictate play from both sides," Federer also says afterwards.

(Getty Images)
In the quarterfinal (highlights here) it's an altogether different challenge that awaits David in the shape of 'the other' David Ferrer (#6) and his defensive skills. As is usually the case with these two the match turns into a battle with lots of protracted rallies, plenty of running and also plenty of break points on both sides. The first set goes to a tiebreak after David served for it and got broken. He takes it in the tiebreak but the match is still close and far from over - especially when a couple of errors and a brief episode of drop-shotitis in the second-set tiebreak cost him the set.
In the third set, however, David turns out to be the one who has more left in the tank. He quickly leads 2-0, one last time Ferrer gets back to 2-2 - but then he doesn't get another game after that as David eventually wins 7-6(3), 6-7(3), 6-2.
In his words: "It's always tough to beat a friend and Ferrer is the best friend I have on the Tour. It was a long and tough match and we were both tired at the end. It was a very intense match."
But he also looks ahead at a very special feat he might be able to achieve: "Here in Paris I already beat Moya and Ferrer and if I get to the final I'll face Nadal and that would mean I played against everyone from our PlayStation round."

(Getty Images)
But first of all there's the semifinal (highlights here) that needs to be played, against local favourite Richard Gasquet (#13). During the minutes before of the match we get to see an incredibly relaxed David (clip), congratulating a somewhat baffled Gasquet on qualifying for the Masters Cup in Shanghai. Inside the Palais Omnisports a partisan crowd is assembled for this match. What they don't know is that David likes it that way. But the question still is whether he has been able to recover from the Battle of the Davids...
The answer is - yes. And not only that, it's a demonstration. To the stunned disbelief of the crowd and the growing chagrin of Richard Gasquet. David breaks in the very first game and basically from that moment on he's in control of the match. And he's calmness personified. The first set David takes 6-2. In the second he's up 5-2, serving for the match and probably thinking he's already through when Gasquet's final stand (spurred on by the crowd) costs him his serve. But he gets it done at the second time of asking. David wins 6-2, 6-4 and makes his second Masters final in row. But this semifinal as well is a match to remember - especially for Richard Gasquet (clip).

And yet, as great a match as the semifinal has been, nobody really sees this one coming...



(Getty Images)
Unlike their previous encounter at Madrid, where David was utterly dominant from the start, initially it's a very even match. Both hold serve without any major difficulties - until 4-4. Then David gets the first break. And Nadal doesn't get another game. If the match against Gasquet was a demonstration this one is a clinic.
Or as David describes it after the match: "After I broke him, I felt that I was playing better than him. I play more relaxed, start hitting winners almost from everywhere. That gave me confidence."
And so an amazing week in Paris comes to an incredible end.
"All week I was playing great, and I don't know why the result was so easy," as David puts it.

He most certainly did play great tennis. But it's not like during this week (or at Madrid) he somehow managed to transform himself into a different player, one with all the strengths but none of the weaknesses. No, it was still good old David, still squandering leads and struggling with closing out sets and matches. But during those two weeks he not only managed play great tennis but also to overcome those difficulties. And that's what made and still makes them so amazing.

(Getty Images)
(Quotes: ESPN, La Nacion, BBC.)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

In Pictures III



Big events cast their shadows before. - Sometimes in the form of huge tennis balls...


(Getty Images)

In the meantime, here's another round of photos.
This time it's a selection of close-ups, spanning almost a decade.
Like this one here, taken at Rome back in 2006.


Enjoy.
(To view click "Read more" below.)


Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Look Back at... Madrid 2007

(Getty Images)

October 2007, the tail end of what has been a dire season for David. One that has had a bit of everything: injury problems, several first-round losses, early exits at the Slams, not a single win in Davis Cup, and two defeats at his home event in Buenos Aires - where the ATP has been testing the round-robin mode. It's been half a year since the only quarterfinal he reached this season (at Barcelona). And David's ranking has suffered, dropping from #8 at the beginning of the season to #25, the lowest in four years.
What little hope remains for 2007 now rests on the indoor swing. Ahead of it, David took a break from the Tour. He drove a rally back home in Argentina but he also started training with his new coach Martin Jaite.
As his first indoor event this year he chose Vienna and went out against Wawrinka in the second round.
Not the most promising of starts.
But now it's time for Madrid...

(nacho.tv)
For David the tournament starts on the Pista Alcala, the smaller court that's about as atmospheric as a school gym. Against his first-round opponent Arnaud Clement (#40) he never had any problems in the past. And when he immediately flies to a 5-1 lead everything seems to point to another easy win. What happens instead is - drama. David loses the next six games in a row and with them the first set. But after that he manages to recover very quickly and wins the second rather easily.
In the third set he gets the break for 4-3 and in the end it's enough to win the match 5-7, 6-2, 6-4, despite the first-set meltdown.

(Getty Images)
In the second round, again on the Pista Alcala, David once more catches bright start against Tomas Berdych (#11). After securing a break in the very first game he looks to be in control of proceedings - until 4-2. This time, David loses the next eight games in a row, from 4-2 all the way to 4-6, 0-4. It's not like he has completely imploded but he keeps taking risks with his groundstrokes and he's simply making way too many unforced errors. While Berdych, now comfortably leading by a set and a double break, seems slightly baffled at how he got there.
- But it's not over yet. Because David doesn't give up. He claws his way back into this match, cursing and shouting but also finding his range now. And then he turns this set around, game by game until he has won six of them in a row and the match goes into a decider.
The third set is an open battle but without any breaks. So a tiebreak must decide. David gets a code violation right away (for firing a ball away in frustration and almost hitting Berdych with it) but then he goes on to play a flawless tiebreak. Eventually, David prevails 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(2). His game is still very patchy but during those moments when it works it's now starting to be brilliant.

So now it's time to move over to the big stage...
(AMS TV)
Where they play this song when the players are walking onto the court.

(Getty Images)
David's first match on the Pista Central takes place in the third round and it's the first ever edition of this particular Argentine battle of the generations - at a time when David against Delpo really means just that. And it starts with a little mishap: Delpo, still the long-haired newcomer (#53), has only had 15 hours to recover from his last match and tired as well as maybe a bit daunted he has forgotten to bring his racquets. But once it does actually start this turns out to be David's first match of the week without a major drama moment (or rather - phase).
From the start, David is in charge of most of the rallies, solid on serve and constantly putting Delpo under pressure on return. And with more of his groundstrokes finding their target. The first set goes by rather quickly.
The second set is more competitive, David drops his serve after breaking but then makes up for it by simply breaking again in the following game.
In the end, it's fairly unproblematic 6-2, 6-4 victory for David, who, as the commentators and journalists are now beginning to notice, is actually looking really rather good and fit out there.

But now these three are waiting...
(Fue Buena)

(Getty Images)
First up in the quarterfinal is another premiere - David against Rafa Nadal. They know each other, they share the same doctor and management, and they've trained together before. But this is the first time they play an official match against each other. And even though Nadal has had a pretty tough match against Andy Murray the night before he's still the overwhelming favourite to win this encounter.
But then the match starts and it's unlike anything anybody was expecting. Nadal's lefty serve, his forehand, his topspin - none of that seems to be any problem for David. He's the one who dominates, who dictates play, sending Nadal all over the court. Mostly with his backhand, which is working to perfection. It's a demonstration, a clinic almost. It's also the match where he posts the worst numbers on serve all week but it really doesn't matter - everything else is working like a charm.
In the first set, Nadal doesn't manage to get another game after 1-1. In the second David is slightly more forgiving. But also Nadal's final stand at 5-2 in the second set only ends with another break and eventually defeat. Final score: 6-1, 6-2 for David. "A perfect match" Jaite calls it afterwards. And David is content too: "I've proved once again that I'm playing well and that the work I've put in is paying off."

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In the semifinal it's David against Novak Djokovic, the second edition, two months after their first meeting at the Rogers Cup in Montréal. Back then, David was virtually chanceless and not more than a brief stopover for Djokovic on his way to the title.
But this time it's David, who, armed with an early break, soon holds the upper hand. Against Djokovic it's not as easy as it was against Nadal but David serves better than in the previous round and his groundstrokes are clicking again, deep and accurate. Most of the rallies they play on his terms. 
In the first set his break from early on turns out to be enough. In the second they stay on serve. Djokovic has a set point at 6-5 but David fends it off in style, with a backhand down the line that draws the error. And in the tiebreak that follows he's in charge, even if in the end he needs three match points to finish it.
His 6-4, 7-6(4) victory grants David a place in the final of Madrid. It's the second time he reaches this stage at this event after 2004. Back then he went down in straights against Marat Safin, who won the Madrid and Paris double that year.
But his opponent in this final is a very old friend...



Epilogue
There were moments during this match when it seemed like Roger Federer might have the right answer for just about anything David could try. Moments that came during the first set, even if it wasn't quite as one-sided as the scoreline suggests. But even then it wasn't over. Because David didn't give up.
Instead, in the course of this match he managed to bring it all together, everything that made this week at Madrid so special. The amazing groundstrokes and the tactical finesse as well as the sheer grit and the will to fight on, even in seemingly hopeless situations.
It was an unforgettable week, one during which David showed what was possible, at the right time and in the right place - also out of practically nowhere.
And who would've known back then that there was more to come...

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