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Roulette on the Pampas 11/24/2008 - 12:25 PM


by Pete Bodo

Mornin, TWibe. Y'all saw what happened over the Davis Cup weekend, so I don't think you need the Pony Express to gallop in with the long-awaited news. To me, this was a final-round tie that illustrated why this event is unique (without having any conspicuously "unique" features; it is, after all, a straight-up, best-of-five matches event relying on as traditional a format as exists). Also why it's inspiring (Feliciano Lopez, an ATP journeyman, emerged as the Most Valuable Player in leading his team to an upset that will become a staple of Davis Cup lore and legend). And why it's the epitome of individual satisfaction, if not glory. You win Wimbledon, you bathe in the glory rained upon a conquering hero, or triumphant gladiator. You win Davis Cup, and the hot glare is more like a glow, and you get to bathe in it with your comrades, as well as your countrymen.

I know that some of you objected to what you saw as my unnecessarily harsh analysis of Juan Martin del Potro's first day performance, repeatedly pointing out out that he had performed impressively in the Davis Cup semifinal, and on the tour, especially for a 20-year old at the tail end of a long, tiring, breakout season. All I can say is that in covering tennis, you sometimes take the short view, and sometimes the long. The short view is appropriate when the focus is a specific event, or even a match. In fact, at those times it's sometimes best to suspend your Big Picture instinct, because it can get in the way of understanding how and why something happened, and doing justice to either competitor's performance (or lack thereof)  on the day. The long view is best applied when the dust has settled and the smoke has cleared.

So my long view is that Argentina totally made a hash of this tie. And I'm going to be a little immodest in claiming that I had a feeling things might turn out this way. In everything I've written about the tie, one of the prominent themes was the pressure that would be brought to bear on Argentina, and while del Potro made great strides this year in establishing himself as a top player, I wouldn't say that the squad as a group could have been called a tough lot, seasoned and mentally fit for the task they faced, prepared to pull together as a unit to get the job done no matter what it took. This was, after all, David Nalbandian's squad, and how often have we applied those kinds of adjectives to him?

Okay, Nalbandian is hurting today; there's no good reason to pile on any more than necessary. And let's remember that he played a terrific first match. But the backstory on Nalbandian here isn't real pretty. Numerous reports (including this one from our own correspondent in Mar del Plata) suggested that leading up to and during the tie, Nalbandian behaved less like a popular and inspirational captain (say, an Andy Roddick) than a prima donna who sometimes appeared to see this tie more as the vehicle for his personal glory and as a line-item in his legacy. If you're looking for a scapegoat, you've come to the right place.

Various sources had Nalbandian politicking (for personal reasons) with unusual fervor for a site close to Cordoba (his efforts came to naught), and micro-managing the choice and installation of surface in a way that was less about the team's chances than his own; of course, you could argue that what was in Nalbandian's best interest was also in the team's best interest,  but there are ways to make the confluence-of-interests more appealing for all concerned. The really critical question is the degree to which the rest of the Argentina squad saw this final not as Nalbandian's moment, but their collective moment. The evidence suggests that the answer is, not very much.

Nalby This became an especially important question as the summer rolled on and del Potro emerged as Argentina's best day-to-day player. In a way, Argentina's bid to win its first Davis Cup bid may have been undone rather than enhanced by the shake-up in the national rankings. For Del Potro, not Nalbandian, may have been the key figure in this tie, and his performance on Day One was the tipping point in all that came later. My feeling is that del Potro was insufficiently motivated, and perhaps unable to become inspired by what at times might have looked more like a Nalbandian coronation than a team effort by Argentina to capture the Davis Cup. We're dealing in intangibles here; I'll be the first to acknowledge it. But that doesn't make the themes and issues less real.  The alleged locker room dissension and scuffle following the doubles on Sunday was reported by too many sources for me to discount it's veracity (despite the denials issued by the Argentine camp). If this was indeed Nalbandian's team, he showed remarkably poor leadership.

Some comment posters over the past few days noted that I've shown a historic antipathy to Argentine players in general, and I have to admit that it's true - and the events this weekend showed partly why I feel that way, and why I think it's justified.

I've had a lot of respect for numerous players from Argentina over the years, starting with Guillermo Vilas and Jose Luis Clerc. I had a big falling out with Vilas (which was subsequently repaired) when I felt that his suspension for taking an under-the-table payment from a tournament in Rotterdam was justified. That's a long and complicated story, but if you all want me to tell it, maybe someday I will. Clerc and I had smooth sailing all the way, and we still chew the fat a little when I bump into him at this or that tournament.

Overall, though, the Argentines have a seeming inability to function as team players, and they seem to spend a little too much time jealously guarding their respective turf  (not that this is exclusively an Argentine problem, as John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors amply demonstrated in their own Davis Cup adventures). Vilas and Clerc, for example, were both great guys, but they were too competitive with each other in trival ways and a little too caught up in jockeying for position relative to each other on the home front. It's one of the main reasons that they, both Top Five players on clay at one time, couldn't set aside what rivalry they naturally felt to bring home a Davis Cup. That's the real tradition in Argentina, for better or worse: bickering and in-fighting that ruins the ideal Davis Cup spirit.

By contrast, Spain was practically forced to become a better team, and therefore one more likely to be inspired to overachieve, by the absence of its own star, Rafael Nadal. But remember that Nadal is much loved by his peers, and in a curious way his absence was inspirational in a different way. It probably made the Spanish players more determined to win - to do it partly for their missing icon, and partly to show that they could carry the load without him. This all gets pretty murky, psychologically; it's easy to be a Monday morning quarterback.

But if you want a more quantifiable analysis, I'd say that Lopez did all the anyone could ask, and that Nalbandian did not. Sure, Nalbandian ripped through his opening singles. But if he was as much the focal point of Argentina's effort as appears to be the case, he should have found a way to lead Argentina to a doubles win. Oh, I know the objections you could raise on the score, but I don't buy into them. You want to be the hero, you find a way to get it done. End of story.

You also have to wonder if there isn't a larger lesson to be learned here. Tennis is too difficult a game, and too dependent on confidence and fitness, for any player to take shortcuts, or make assumptions - and that's especially true of situations over which he doesn't have total control (like you have in Davis Cup). If you want to tread water as a player, playing the ranking system and tournament structure in a way that suits your desires and needs, you're asking for trouble. Any player that doesn't take an utterly professional approach to his game, and try equally hard even when he isn't feeling terrible motivated or inspired, is asking for trouble. And don't think that his peers and rivals aren't aware of it.

Tennis is still an unscripted venture, and attempts to write and impose the narrative often go wildly awry (just look at Ivan Lendl's inability to win Wimbledon in spite of his willingness to sacrifice his chances Roland Garros, or the fact that Pete Sampras had his worst tournaments in Paris in the years when he most targeted it).But unlike Lendl and Sampras, Nalbandian was not a proven champion and hard worker taking a calculated risk with a conscious shift of priorities. It seemed more like he generally let things slide and opportunistically waited for his chance to strike it rich (in terms of reputation and legacy) with a Davis Cup victory, like a guy betting all of his chips on one spin of the roulette wheel.

In a way, you have to feel for the guy; he bet red and the spin came up black. But unlike the irrationally hopeful gambler, Nalbandian might have done more - perhaps a lot more, in subtle ways - to affect where that ball came to rest. The older I get, the more convinced I am that the truth always comes out, although I'm careful about embracing it as such, and there's certainly some room for debate over just what that truth means. The one I'll take, this time around, is the one uttered by the defeated Argentina captain, Alberto Mancini:

Nadal not coming made [the Spanish team] even more of a unit, more together. We have to learn a lot about this to someday win the Davis Cup.

In other words, this was Nalbandian's team alright, and given what we know about Nalbandian, the result isn't so surprising.

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Posted by aussiemarg{rafa nadal,no 1 player,long may he reign} 11/24/2008 at 02:29 PM

laura i am now going through my cd of them i will get bck to you shortly

Posted by Laura 11/24/2008 at 02:29 PM

Glad its 32 days. Havent bought any christmas presents yet at all.
Christmas is the best day of the year.


Posted by linex 11/24/2008 at 02:29 PM

Mancini had the obligation to think about the risks of Juanma´s trip and think who would be the better suited player to substitute him if he was unfit or sick to do the job during the final. Was Chucho the best option? Or perhaps the second best option? Fact is that none of the other argentine players were top fit for the job either because of injuries, low ranking or whatever. We could argue though that Monaco has more solid shots than Chucho and is usually fitter, but he has a less reliable serve and came back from illnes (neumonia) a couple of months ago.

The problem with Juanma is that he is unfit since Vienna ... We all knew this, but the fact is that his game is so big, that he could hide it quite well. And continued to win matches. He trashed Ancic no? Won against Tsonga.

Posted by jewell 11/24/2008 at 02:29 PM

All right, NP, sorry for ruining the intellectual thread!

sblily - interesting points.

Posted by NP 11/24/2008 at 02:30 PM

That was me @ 2:28 PM, in case that's not clear.

Laura, try Led Zeppelin IV. If you don't like it then you're never gonna be a LZ fan.

Posted by NP 11/24/2008 at 02:32 PM

Huh? What are you talking about, jewell?

Posted by Laura 11/24/2008 at 02:33 PM

Thanks NP. I had heard that was a good one to try. I do like some led zepplin was listening to the wanton song earlier from an old tape and liked that song.

Posted by jewell 11/24/2008 at 02:34 PM

Nonsense probably, as usual, NP.

I thought you were quoting Thatcher at me, so I thought I'd just apologise in the faint hope that you would not do it again. Sorry if I misjudged you. :)

Posted by Laura 11/24/2008 at 02:34 PM

zeppelin I should have said

Posted by Vie 11/24/2008 at 02:35 PM

I think felllowship in the Spanish team starts with #1 Rafa in terms of leadership and personal qualities. He is open, sincere, energetic, a pleasure to be with, no iritating diva-ish qualities. Someone like that unites and strengthens team spirit and good nature from everyone.

Posted by aussiemarg{rafa nadal,no 1 player,long may he reign} 11/24/2008 at 02:36 PM

np i know you dont like Chritmas,is there any time of the year,you do like?

laura Led Zepplin,Mothership,its the best of them,on 2 cd's all their great music,from early days to the virtual present befor they spit up,in my mind Jimmy Page,broke up the greatest Rock and Roll Band ever,Robert Plant,rock god,hunk,spunk,wow,i would go to stairway to heaven with him anyday,that guy rocked my soul,to see them live,i will never,ever forget.

Posted by Vanessa 11/24/2008 at 02:37 PM

Right on Vie. How am I going to survive without Rafa until January?? :(

Posted by Vie 11/24/2008 at 02:38 PM

sorry, some obvious typos in my previous post.

Posted by NP 11/24/2008 at 02:39 PM

NP, Laura. It's the only LZ album I ever bought (since stolen), and I knew I'd never be a big fan.

jewell, I was just trying to piss off all collectivists, so I guess you could say I was quoting Thatcher at you. :)

Posted by Laura 11/24/2008 at 02:39 PM

Thanks AM. I will have a look around for the cd.

Posted by Vanessa 11/24/2008 at 02:40 PM

np i know you dont like Chritmas,is there any time of the year,you do like?"
AM, I think NP says things like those for effect and not because he really means them

Posted by aussiemarg{rafa nadal,no 1 player,long may he reign} 11/24/2008 at 02:41 PM

Vie well said our our boy,he is one special person,also i think we can give some due to his parents,also to Uncle Toni,who has had a great influence with rafa,not only as a coach,but as he says as a uncle,vamos.

Posted by NP 11/24/2008 at 02:41 PM

AM, what makes you think I actually don't like Christmas?

Posted by jewell 11/24/2008 at 02:41 PM

Ha, NP, I knew it! :)

Anyway am off to cook supper and watch University Challenge. Hopefully back later once I've thought about Pete's post a bit more.

Posted by 11/24/2008 at 02:42 PM

sher @ 1:12 wrote: *Also, Pete, I like the way you mentioned the feeling of comradership in the spanish team, and how it reflects on Rafa's character, considering he could so easily be envied his top position.*

To me, the unity of the Spaniards was striking--their including Rafa, Robredo and Almagro in their post-match comments, e.g. And there was no back-biting or blaming either. When Rafa was interviewed, he started out by praising Verdasco, then Lopez, and I held my breath wondered whether he would find something positive to say about Ferru--and of course, he did. Such an admirable group of young men.

Posted by aussiemarg{rafa nadal,no 1 player,long may he reign} 11/24/2008 at 02:43 PM

vanessa no,Np dosent like Christmas,because he is tight,he burns cd's and gives them as presents? i rest my case.

Posted by NP 11/24/2008 at 02:43 PM

Vanessa, you know me better than many longstanding TWers. :) But of course I ain't telling which times I'm serious (or not).

Posted by Vanessa 11/24/2008 at 02:43 PM

AM, lol
I guess by being tight you mean cheap?
that was so funny!

Posted by maedel 11/24/2008 at 02:44 PM

that was moi at 2:42 quoting and expanding on something that sher posted.

Posted by aussiemarg{rafa nadal,no 1 player,long may he reign} 11/24/2008 at 02:44 PM

Np because of the cost,for one thing,too commercial?

Posted by NP 11/24/2008 at 02:46 PM

Later, jewell.

AM, but you don't know whether I give away CHRISTMAS presents. :)

Posted by Vanessa 11/24/2008 at 02:46 PM

But NP I know by now. That is if I am not mixing you up with some other poster, lol
But seriously I appreciate your efforts for keeping things interesting and spicy here specially when there's no tennis. The down side is that after doing it for a while your ability to bait most posters diminishes

Posted by aussiemarg{rafa nadal,no 1 player,long may he reign} 11/24/2008 at 02:47 PM

anway moi is excited,hubby will be home on Thursday.with belated birthday present,gee it better be good or else,also forgot wedding anniversary,well that nothing,never remembers anyway.

Posted by NP 11/24/2008 at 02:47 PM

AM, I don't mind the commercial aspect at all. In fact I'd gladly buy Christmas stuff just to piss off anti-commercial activists.

Posted by aussiemarg{rafa nadal,no 1 player,long may he reign} 11/24/2008 at 02:48 PM

good night jewell

Posted by NP 11/24/2008 at 02:49 PM

Vanessa, I don't need to bait anyone. As long as I've annoyed a fair share of 'em I've done my job. :)

Posted by jewell 11/24/2008 at 02:50 PM

Came back to say, NP, I just got that joke properly. Slow brain decade...I know.

But, lol. :))

Posted by Laura 11/24/2008 at 02:50 PM

Bye Jewell!

Posted by Moderator 11/24/2008 at 02:50 PM

This is a reminder that this is an on topic thread. Please conduct all off topic discussions on the aftermath thread.

Posted by Vanessa 11/24/2008 at 02:51 PM

NP, I am sure you have. pat on the back to you!
by the way you haven't annoyed me yet (on the contrary)

Posted by Vanessa 11/24/2008 at 02:53 PM

oops I guess that means me, so I'm off guys.

Posted by aussiemarg{rafa nadal,no 1 player,long may he reign} 11/24/2008 at 02:53 PM

yes sorry moderator,we did go off topic somewhat

Posted by Vie 11/24/2008 at 02:54 PM

Vanessa, good question. Well the important holidays coming up. I have a niggling worry (hehe) about his knee injury

Posted by Vanessa 11/24/2008 at 02:56 PM

Vie, I think Rafa is going to be Ok. I am ready for a AO victory for him!
Anyway, I really gotta go now.

Posted by aussiemarg{rafa nadal,no 1 player,long may he reign} 11/24/2008 at 02:57 PM

vie well if rafa can water ski,where you put a lot of pressure on your knees,they must not be tto bad,also reports i have read,his drs have given him,three weeks,so he can start training again

Posted by aussiemarg{rafa nadal,no 1 player,long may he reign} 11/24/2008 at 02:59 PM

by the way,accoeding to Sydney Medibank officials,i have already posted this info,they are trying to get bot rafa and andy murray to play,will inform if i get any more news on this.

Posted by NP 11/24/2008 at 03:03 PM

Good for you, jewell.

Later, Vanessa.

Moderator (or ptenisnet, judging by the style), didn't know this was an on-topic thread. My bad. Guess there's no YC for today then.

Posted by Laura 11/24/2008 at 03:08 PM

Sorry Mod.
Well Im off then. Dont actually have anything tennis related to say. Bye!

Posted by manuelsantanafan 11/24/2008 at 03:10 PM

Call me right or call me brilliant. Just call me for dinner.

It's easy for me, on my lunch break, to negatively judge Del Potro for going to Shanghai, instead of putting all of his eggs in the Davis Cup basket. So, I'll go ahead and do so.

Like the esteemed Argentinian poet, Guillermo Vilas, and others said, a Davis Cup victory would have furthered Argentinian tennis (which, admittedly, is already strong) considerably. Why risk such a victory by trying to pull the difficult Master Cup finals/Davis Cup finals double--especially when you already have that toe injury, which is serious enough to bring up repeatedly? Furthermore, toe injuries can increase susceptibility to other injuries--just ask Dizzy Dean.

Additionally, if Del Potro is as good as advertised (in some circles), he should have plenty of additional opportunities to be in the Master Cup finals and he should be able to afford a vacation to Shanghai. But opportunities to participate and win the Davis Cup finals AT HOME are once in a lifetime opportunities, if that.

Alex Corretja won the Masters Cup final in 1998. How many Spaniards give a rat's behind today about that accomplishment? What they care about are Davis Cup championships. Ask Corretja if, he had his choice, whether he could only have either that Masters Cup final victory or his 2000 Davis Cup trophy, which one he would take. Let me know what he answers.

B/c I was rooting for Spain, I'm glad Del Potro went off to China. However, I think doing so was a mistake from the perspective of furthering Argentinian tennis and, ultimately, his legacy as a player.

Incidentally, there was a report that, in training, Del Potro so seriously bit his tongue, that it bled seriously. That seems like a very odd tennis training injury. Hopefully, the injury was of the freakish variety and not symptomatic of something more serious.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 11/24/2008 at 03:11 PM

Some very interesting ideas raised here, Pete. And I tend to agree with most of what you've posited. But in the end, I'd rather think positively rather than negatively, and credit Feliciano Lopez with stealing this tie. He played brilliantly when he needed to, and helped to keep Verdasco focused in the doubles, which in my mind was the match that determined the outcome. Lopez's win over Del Potro made a victory possible, even likely, but all but ensuring a 2-1 edge going into Day 3 (the duo of Lopez-Verdasco are a seasoned team and have played eight Davis Cup matches together, more than enoough to tip the scales in their favor.

Having said this, I also believe that Del Potro's injury had an impact on the outcome of thar all-important Day 1 singles rubber. Interesting, wasn't it, that Acasuso also suffered from an injury in his Cup-deciding loss against Verdasco? One could see those two events as unusually bad luck, but again I'd focus on the fine play of Lopea dn Verdasco. There are many ways to lose a match, but to win you must be in position to earn a match pint and then win it. THey both did what was necessary.

YOu may be onto something about the ferociously individualistic nature of the Argentine spirit, but it would be conjecture at this point. THe truth about that may come out in time. Meanwhile, I'll give Lopez and Verdasco their due. They played inspired tennis. Was Nadal's absence the inspiration? That's more conjecture.

Lastly, a team that has won the Cup twice will have a sanse of entitlement that a team that has lost the Cup in the finals four times won't. I think this may be the real backstory.

Posted by Pete 11/24/2008 at 03:11 PM

A few things to keep in mind, which occur to me as I troll through the comments:

1 - As much as David N. may have "wanted" it, I think there were things he might have done to increase his chance of getting it, just like a child's chance of getting the toy he wants for Christmas are increased if he or she eats his vegetables and does his or her homework. Since does degree of "wanting" have any bearing on whether one ought or ought not to get?

2 - A signficant number of the comments on del Potro seem to work on the premis that JMD would have won the match if he weren't injured, and that's terribly unfair to F. Lopez, especially when you saw the way the match was flowing at the time of the injury.

3 - I appreciate the support for Nalbandian and Argentina, and while I guess you can call it a "learning experience", that description is, well, an almost comical understatement. When you look at how it all played out, the most appropriate words are "debacle" or "disaster." I mean, the Titanic was a "learning experience" too, but that's not really the point, is it?

The most important of these points is no. 2.

Posted by zolarafa( VIVA ESPANA!) 11/24/2008 at 03:20 PM

slice and dice,

I agree. There are many ways to lose a match, but one to win it. Del Potro was injured after already being behind. Lopez is way below him in the rankings and the crowd was giving DP full support. Lopez won in very difficult conditions.

He later said about the doubes win something like" we were togethere more. When I was down physically, Fernando helped me during the match. "

Again, determination and team spirit.

Posted by aussiemarg{rafa nadal,no 1 player,long may he reign} 11/24/2008 at 03:20 PM

pete yes i agree with you,on your no 2 point,we are not giving credit,where credit is due,to me Feli,showed,utter compsure on court,he displayed this,not on in his singles play,also in the doubles with Verdasco,hey,has he come of age,after this Davis Cup,or was it there before? maybe a bit of both,maybe playing in the final of the Davis Cup for Spain,it was pushed to the fore front,well done.

Posted by ptenisnet 11/24/2008 at 03:21 PM

I dont know whether the JMDP injury argument was as much about day 1 as day 3. He was effectively a non starter for day 3 which meant that they had to rely on chucho (and as much as I love the redemption story line, this was a long shot).
So it might be more unfair to Ferrer or Verdasco than it is to FLDG.

Posted by Vie 11/24/2008 at 03:37 PM

I did agree in my mind about your point that if Nalbandian really really wanted DC championship, Nalbandian could have found a way to win. The doubles was just one game but he was tame in some of his mistakes there. I was thinking in the end, inside he felt not capable himself. It is probabbly related to work ethic.

Posted by J 11/24/2008 at 03:37 PM

I agree with pete that nalbandian should be blamed for the doubles loss, both because of his lack of leadership skills and that atrocious backhand volley in the tiebreak.

Posted by codepoke 11/24/2008 at 03:41 PM


You say a player's true warrior moment depends on the player, but also on the stage and the opponent. If any of the three is a letdown, that's just tough luck. The stage and the opponent don't rise high enough very often, and you have to jump when you get your chance. When you write a piece like this, Pete, when you rise to the stage and the subject, you're an absolute joy to read.

Harsh, and completely in line with all the intangibles. And beyond that, a great life lesson.


Posted by Maha (2009 = The Return of the King. The Mighty Federer will rise again) 11/24/2008 at 03:41 PM

Hi all!!!!!!!!!!!!! Again... disappeared to do homework!! Back!!

Sher... I actually had a low-nutrition day!!! LOL.

Oh where did Laura go????? :(

Posted by NP 11/24/2008 at 03:44 PM

manuelsantanafan, the problem with your reasoning is that the Master Cup finals/Davis Cup finals double isn't a zero-sum game. A healthy player could easily achieve both, given that he has the talent. To repeat my earlier comment, if dP already had a serious or even likely injury going into Shanghai then I'd say you have a point. But as far as I know, he didn't.

Pete, I can't speak for others, but I sure didn't mean to discount Lopez's performance, or say that dP would've won but for the injury. Also we should consider the possibility that his thighs (or toes--don't know exactly which one) might have been troubling him before he took the medical timeout. We don't know how the match would've turned out under the best of circumstances, but I do know dP's injury itself is a legitimate issue that can be discussed without diminishing Lopez's performance.

Posted by Vie 11/24/2008 at 03:50 PM

Nalbandian probably was really disheartened by del Potro's loss. Add to that the pressure he put on himself for a DC win. I think just simple joy being in DC Finals, hard work most-year-round, no extreme build-up or fiddling, are parts of a better recipe for Nalbandian next time. Even if he loses again, it might still be considered more a success.

Posted by aussiemarg{rafa nadal,no 1 player,long may he reign} 11/24/2008 at 03:51 PM

when we are quikly to blame and point the finger here,lets us remember, Nalbandian played great tennis in his singles match,was he rushed in to the doubles team,becaause of the fact Del Potro lost his singles game,of course he was,he was there knight in shiny armour,he was the one,who could single handed win this cup for Argentina,hey,this is a team effort,maybe in the end,its was all too much for him.

Posted by NP 11/24/2008 at 03:52 PM

ptenisnet, I forgot to add that point. I do think a healthy dP would've won against Ferru or Verdasco, certainly judging by the way they played this past weekend. Even if dP had lost on day 1 to Lopez he could've redeemed himself on day 3 with a win over either Spaniard.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 11/24/2008 at 03:52 PM

Emilio Sanchez should receive much credit, even more so than he is already receiving. Dealing with the nonsense the Spanish Tennis Federation and Munoz generate as well as knuckleheads like Verdasco is probably even harder in practice than it would be appear to be when reading about it.

Among the many impressive things Lopez did this weekend was, on Saturday, complimenting Verdasco for holding the doubles team together when Lopez was (according to Lopez) feeling weak and not playing well.

From what I saw, it was Verdasco who was screwing up out there while Lopez was playing steadily. Seemed that Lopez's comments were designed to increase Verdasco's confidence, which may have helped in Verdasco's singles match.

Posted by jewell, cheering Spain in solidarity with Rafa 11/24/2008 at 03:52 PM

Sorry, Moderator, got carried away...:(

Pete, I agree with your point 1, by wanting it too much I only meant to say that this maybe interfered with David's judgment.

Posted by mint32 11/24/2008 at 04:00 PM

and don't forget the schedule aspect in regards to jmdp in shanghai (if nobody mentioned this)......dc being the following i/we not recall there being an extra week between yec and dc in the past?....yes, more rest for dc players before '09, but less for the dc competitors coming from yec

Posted by Rachael 11/24/2008 at 04:03 PM

"manuelsantanafan, the problem with your reasoning is that the Master Cup finals/Davis Cup finals double isn't a zero-sum game. A healthy player could easily achieve both, given that he has the talent."

see: Roddick 2007

Posted by linex 11/24/2008 at 04:04 PM


This time Nalbandian worked to be fit for this tie, he played indoor tournaments 4 weeks in a row doubles and singles and brought himself into fitness and life again after an unremarkable season to finish as the 11th ranked player and fit for Davis Cup. If he would have won Paris and fought until the last point, he would have even finished inside the top ten and better ranked than Del Potro.

His mistakes this time were also outside the court but it seems related to his behaviour in connection with the political and economical connotations of this tie and the chose of the venue, where it seems he was an interested party.

Posted by Maha (2009 = The Return of the King. The Mighty Federer will rise again) 11/24/2008 at 04:06 PM

Some fight going on with the MOD????? :0


Ok so I guess I'll hafta start talking on-topic. Wait... umm... what IS the topic?

Since I take it to be anything tennis-related... I'll start by stating how amazingly amazing I think Roger Federer is and how much faith I have in him to come strong next season.
And also how disappointed I am in JMDP's Davis Cup performance (he hardly DID anything!!!) Though I guess he can't be blamed.... tired ol' young thing. :(

Wait... I'm supposed to be HAPPPEEEEEE. And spreading the JOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Happy-ness-ness to ALL!!!!! Plus the bourbon creams that were stacked up in the Sixth Form common room in my school today that I did not manage to get because a load of hungry ol' girls finished 'em off as soon as I entered. :(

Ok Maha... happy thoughts... happy thoughts... think of the five free periods you have tomorrow.... think of the biscuits and tea you can have during that time!!!!!!!!!!! YEAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Ruth 11/24/2008 at 04:06 PM

I will not cry for Argentina... although I was close to tears on seeing how devastated Acasuso was and although I am very disappointed about the collapse of the Argentina team. As a loooooong-time Davis Cup junkie, I was really hoping that Argentina would end its run as the only significant tennis power that has not won the Davis Cup.

One of the frequent criticisms we hear about DC is that it is played too often -- shouldn't be every year, winners have a minute to enjoy being champion being having to start their defense etc etc. But I have to say that I am eagerly looking forward to the start of the 2009 DC season. Will Argentina, as we'd expect, brush the Netherlands aside? Will Djokovic and Serbia, as we might not expect, rise up and crush the 2008 champions? Remember, this is Davis Cup where anything can happen.

I cannot wait!

Posted by linex 11/24/2008 at 04:06 PM

ATP schedule with the Masters in Shangai and the Final in Argentina is just crazy, Emilio Sanchez also pointed that yesterday.

Posted by Carrie 11/24/2008 at 04:10 PM

Racheal- excellent point. Didn't Moya also do the TMC (it was in Houston) and DC double in 2004?

Posted by aussiemarg{rafa nadal,no 1 player,long may he reign} 11/24/2008 at 04:11 PM

Ruth, i echo your sentiments,regarding Davis Cup tennis,to me over the years,i have witnessed some exciting Cup ties,with different countries,as a Aussie,wow,we were one of the leading contenders,hey,back in the good old days,interesting,i see USA is still leading,with the most Davis Cups on their mantle,though aussies are second,close behind.

Posted by jewell 11/24/2008 at 04:13 PM

Ack, I am already frazzling about the Spain-Serbia tie.

Posted by Ruth 11/24/2008 at 04:16 PM

Incidentally, the player substitutions made by both Spain and Argentina served to remind me once more the thin ice on which the USA skates with Bob and Mike Bryan as its 3rd and 4th players. A loss plus a weak performance or a pulled muscle by/for Andy or James on Day 1 and ????!!!!

It is precisely because of this situation why I was one of the few DC fans who did not berate Patrick McEnroe for taking his time before adding the Bryans to the USA team.

Posted by Rachael 11/24/2008 at 04:16 PM

Carrie - indeed Moya did the double in 2004, as did Roddick, I just used 2007 for Andy's example because USA won last year. more impressive to do both and be on a winning team, right? (a la Moya in '04)

Posted by Moderator 11/24/2008 at 04:16 PM

1. if it doesn't say it's an off-topic thread, it means it's an on-topic thread. Usual designated off-topic threads are Your Call, Monday Net Post and Deuce Club.
2. Moderators are un-named for a reason, and there may be more of us than you think there are. We don't appreciate unfounded guessing games over who modded what.

Posted by Todd and in Charge 11/24/2008 at 04:17 PM

Very interesting. As is usually the case, I'm with Slice-n-Dice and agree with his take.

I usually stand up in here to defend the wayward, likable bad-boy Nalby, and will do so again now, though I missed that crucial second match loss.

But surely the doubles was close enough to go either way, and Nalby is not responsible for another guy's injury. Pete's column seems a bit like too much hindsight 20-20, where all predispositions are confirmed, given the result. If somehow Argentina pulled through, I doubt all credit would have been given to Nalby, so why dump it all on him now?

Also, there is this: Acasuso?

Over the years I think it's fair to say Nalby has been a tenacious and formidable DC player, surely a DC top-tier player by any measure, and the country has accomplished a great deal over a fairly short period of time, tennis-wise.

Now you can add Lopez to that list; I also prefer to give him credit than speculate about another country or athlete's internal shortcomings, though I agree it is obvious that Nalby has plenty (that's why I like him!)

Finally, if Argentina comes back storming through DC next year I would suggest Pete's comments re: Titanic and "learning experience" might have a different gloss.

Posted by NP 11/24/2008 at 04:17 PM

Why, Rachael, wasn't expecting that. Yeah, Roddick had a great run at the end of 2007. A YEC SF and a DC title? Many a player can only dream.

Posted by aussiemarg{rafa nadal,no 1 player,long may he reign} 11/24/2008 at 04:18 PM

jewell please not need to feel frazzled,we have all seen what Spain is all about,over this weekend,stay cool,always a good look.

Posted by Rachael 11/24/2008 at 04:20 PM

ach I've been frazzled about USA/Switzerland for as long as I can remember. just now it is extending to DC.

Posted by jewell 11/24/2008 at 04:23 PM

I don't need much of an excuse to frazzle, I must say.

But it's not like Serbia doesn't have some decent players outside Djokovic. There's lovely Tipsy for example.

I hate being British and watching Davis Cup. Was Henman not winning Wimbledon not enough heartbreak??? (I like Henman, just to make it clear.)

Posted by NP 11/24/2008 at 04:29 PM

Mod, not sure I was playing a "game," but point taken. Henceforth the game will be played only in my mind. I'm guessing that's not against TW policy.

Posted by Sher 11/24/2008 at 04:29 PM

random thought:

So technically, isn't Serbia going into the 2009 first round tie against Spain as huge underdogs in a similar way Spain went to Argentina? Shall we speculate on the outcome of that tie and whether Spain would fare better as overwhelming favourites?

Posted by jewell 11/24/2008 at 04:31 PM

Sher, add to my frazzle, why don't you? :)

But yes, exactly. Exactly!

Posted by Sher 11/24/2008 at 04:32 PM

Todd and in Charge, I like your post, but I think the whole _point_ of Pete's post is that we can't dump it all on Nalbandian but that Nalbandian has had a huge impact on the team dynamic in Argentina and that the team as a whole failed.

Posted by Pete 11/24/2008 at 04:33 PM

Well, everyone, I have no problem whatsoever with anyone trying to find reasons for why this or that player lost, but count me in the camp that thinks del Potro's participation in Shanghai is neither here nor there. He's young, hungry, probably relishing every opportunity he gets to make a statement. All that will change over time, especially if he's successful enough to no longer sweat the small (or semi-big) stuff, and also discovers his priorities. But as I alluded to earlier, at some point you have to just look at what you saw before you and ask the most basic question: did the guy get the job done, and why (or why not)based on the most immediate, real-time factors. The real question in my mind is, did del Potro show up to play for Argentina and find it was a little too much like playing for . . . David Nalbandian. Anyone who doubts the way chemistry and pressure and interact only need look at that upset of perhaps the most formidable Davis Cup squad ever assembled (John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Peter Fleming [in doubs] by the Mats Wilander-led Swedish squad.

Sure the match was on clay, but it was an absolute disaster for the US (it became something like a national disgrace because of the WAY the US lost, whining and complaining the entire way)and, like this tie, an epic of chemistry gone awry.

Posted by NP 11/24/2008 at 04:35 PM

Serbia will kick Spain's culo in DC 2009.

Posted by Maha (2009 = The Return of the King. The Mighty Federer will rise again) 11/24/2008 at 04:35 PM

I feel alien amongst all you "adults" and Mods. *_*
Better pass the time away by reading the Biological Sciences & Chemistry Reviews (Sep and Nov 2008 issues! Really helpful to all those struggling with AS Bio and Chem! Plus topics of great interest for all real or wanna-be scientists and doctors!!!!).....

Posted by Sher 11/24/2008 at 04:36 PM

jewell, I'd love to add to your frazzle :) You a Rafa fan, right?

Actually, if Rafa isn't playing, I will be rooting for Serbia in that tie, just because it would be so nice for them to achieve some great results while they enjoy their plentitude. But if Rafa plays, I'm back to rooting for the guy to win his matches. All in all it'll be a fascinating first round, especially with Switzerland/USA (no question who I'm rooting for there, despite my general affection for Andy Roddick).

I'm going to try to make it to the USA tie, but I'm almost afraid to check for tickets in case they've been sold out already or something. Is anyone else from TW going?

Posted by Carrie 11/24/2008 at 04:37 PM

I always feel a little bad because I don't always root for my own country to win DC. I did root for them last year (I really wanted to see Roddick get a DC win as well as Blake and the BBs) but in 2004 I was rooting for Spain.

I tend to root for Argentina and Spain the most- followed by a mix of USA, France and Russia. I just love the DC and the stories that can surround it (like Luby in 2005 where he was a hero) so sometimes I also really enjoy it when I don't have a big rooting interest like in 2005 and can just watch the show.

I do hope the USA/Swtizerland tie is in San Antonio.

Rachael- yes- it has been done in the past- and great to have an example from last year..

That is why I still can't get on board with feeling that Elf should not have gone to Shanghai. Like Linex mentioned- he has been hurting in one way or another since Vienna- so we can't really say how much impact Shanghai had on him in the DC. If he had not played Shanghai- we have no idea if he could have played on Sunday. I think even if he had not played Shanghai- Lopez could have very well won the match on Friday. Lopez is a very good indoor player- his run to the Dubai finals this year was no fluke.

From now on- I am going to blame the blame game for Argentina. That needs to stop in the team. Maybe if Jaite takes the reigns he can start 2009 with some bonding exercises or something. .;)

Posted by Sher 11/24/2008 at 04:37 PM

Pete, also, count me in the camp who isn't writing the match off to del Potro if he was uninjured, not at all. In fact, I don't think the injury played much role in that second tie at all. I think it's main impact was on doubles & tie 4 results.

Posted by Pete 11/24/2008 at 04:38 PM

Thank you, Sher, and while I understand my old pal Todd's criticism, I'd say that 20-20 hindsight is better than poor hindsight, especially when hindsight is the only kind of sight in play. And in all honesty, it's not like I was calling for an Argentine sweep and had to scramble to justify a poor call. . .

Posted by jb (i miss my keyboard) 11/24/2008 at 04:40 PM

Pete – nice round up on the cause of the disquiet around the argie camp. Daveed – while he played beautifully against Ferru; seemed to let his level go down a bit during the doubles. And that was the MUST win point for them, imo. Daveed, as a long term tenant in my head case stable, just wasn’t able to carry his team. He didn’t seem tired, or out of shape, but I think his mental fitness didn’t hold up through the pressure of the doubles match. The terms match tough, match fit don’t only refer to physical readiness, it’s the mental game that can kill you.

Though I was totally on the Argentine side, I’ll admit to thinking that a Spanish win, sans Rafa, would be a great story and particularly sweet for the team. Because really, those Spanish boyos, like the US team, epitomize the best of the team spirit and camaraderie, and you’ve got to love them for that. (Even if you’re rooting against them, lol!)

I also think depending on JMDP for points was an incredible amount of pressure, but really, what else could they have done? Sadly, I do think his injury hit him just as he was finding his feet against Feliciano, but regardless, it was still very much a crap shoot whether he could pull it off. Feliciano, my OTHER little headcase in this race, was playing great, and very steadily. (I was rooting him on like mad – I confess!)

To me the heroes of the weekend were Lopez for getting that critical first singles point and for pulling Verdasco through the doubles. The confidence Verdasco gained from that match enabled him to hold on and dig out when his nerves were going south in his singles match. And of course, poor Chucho, coming in cold off little to no match play, played his heart out, and though he didn’t win, I still completely heart him for his effort.

There’s no way to point to 1 thing that lost the argies the cup; there were a lot of little things, both in and out of their control. Poor service games, injuries, lack of preparation, missed shots. Change any one thing and maybe the result would have been different. We’ll never know.

(But I shall be rooting like made for the Argentines next year, unless they come up against either the US or Swiss team! GO Davis cup!)

Posted by NP 11/24/2008 at 04:41 PM

Sher, the operative phrase there is "tie 4."

Posted by Maha (2009 = The Return of the King. The Mighty Federer will rise again) 11/24/2008 at 04:41 PM

"Serbia will kick Spain's culo in DC 2009."

LOL NP, is your crystal ball making you do the talking again? The wal-mart one? Or this is a new kind of future-telling device? With 300% more accuracy as compared to the old ball! (Which still isn't saying much)

Though I wouldn't mind it happening....

Posted by Todd and in Charge 11/24/2008 at 04:43 PM

Sher, thanks and I see your point but I simply found Pete a bit too reductionist here:

"But if you want a more quantifiable analysis, I'd say that Lopez did all the anyone could ask, and that Nalbandian did not. Sure, Nalbandian ripped through his opening singles. But if he was as much the focal point of Argentina's effort as appears to be the case, he should have found a way to lead Argentina to a doubles win. Oh, I know the objections you could raise on the score, but I don't buy into them. You want to be the hero, you find a way to get it done. End of story."

Again, I think this is partly true, and partly not. Perhaps like Moses, Nalby was destined to get them to the final and Del Potro to the promised land, but an injury is an injury and if there is any validity to the idea that these players are getting injured because they play too much and for too long, than you have to at least consider whether Shanghai was a bad idea, timing-wise.

Posted by MrsSanta 11/24/2008 at 04:44 PM

"The real question in my mind is, did del Potro show up to play for Argentina and find it was a little too much like playing for . . . David Nalbandian."

Isn't that reaching especially when there's the more obvious explanation that Delpo's body disagreed with playing for either entities and simply went on strike. Is there anything from the match that implied that Delpo wasn't as motivated as he could be? And also given the importance you place on point 2 isn't this question kind of moot?

While I'm usually open to blaming Nalby for all the ills befalling humanity this seems a bit extreme. He sucks but he's not omnipotent.

Posted by Vanessa 11/24/2008 at 04:44 PM

Jewell, don't dispair and don't let posters on here make you worry about Serbia. Talk about another team with mentality issues. Haven't we all seen Djoko go from playing great to looking like he's not really all that invested?
Vamos Spain!

Posted by Ruth 11/24/2008 at 04:45 PM

Pete: I think that many people who have mentioned JMDP's injury were thinking more of the possibility (alluded to by NP) that, had JMDP been well enough to play Day 3, he might have been able to handle either Ferrer or Verdasco, followed by Nalby taking care of FLo. I know that's what I e-mailed to my USO tennis buddy when I came home on Saturday just in time to see Argentina lose the doubles.

Having said that, isn't it possible, also, that if JMDP were not injured in the FLo match, he could have picked up his game and won that match? I don't think that that scenario is any less likely than a player going from down 1-5 (and looking to lose the set) to bringing the score up to 6-6 OR being down 1-5 in the TB and then winning the TB. Both those things happened on Sunday, right?

So, I would not assume that, just because FLo (especially the frequently fragile FLo!) was playing very well for a period of time, a healthy del Potro could not have beaten him on Friday.

So, while we give full credit to the victors, we really do not know how a match will end until it ends...and that's why Betfair and similar companies who take bets even DURING matches are in business.:)

Posted by jewell 11/24/2008 at 04:45 PM

Sher, well, maybe I like Rafa just a little bit...:)

Part of me would like Serbia to do well but win for Spain = happy Rafa whether he plays or not so I'll stick with Spain. I'll be rooting for Switzerland in the other one as I like Roger as well.

I wonder if one could make a case for this tie being a bit of a tragedy for Argentina (disaster too), along the lines of Nalby's previous record + his fatal flaws having the most significant effect on the outcome?

Pure speculation too but I wonder if Nalbandian had said something to Elf about Shanghai before the first match even, and, if he didn't have sufficient motivation, perhaps that could be a reason why.

I guess you could also say that generally speaking the Argentine squad was all about individual moments - Chucho's Redemption story, Nalby coronation...I can't think of one for Elf so maybe not.

I remember there being comments here from Violetta and Gauloises at least that Argentina looked worried beforehand and Spain looked happier. Of course that is all hindsight but there may have been stuff going on in the background then too.

Posted by NP 11/24/2008 at 04:46 PM

Maha, may I remind you that my old ball got all the Madrid predictions right. :)

Posted by Rachael 11/24/2008 at 04:51 PM

Carrie - well don't feel too bad about not cheering the US in 2004. it was an Olympic year, Spain were always going to win. (so the legend will now go.)

this may be too OT, I really can't tell anymore, but..

despite my over all nervous dispostion on the matter of USA v Switzerland, I'd postively adore it if Roddick and Federer get to meet-again-for-the-first-time-since-that-last-time in a Davis Cup rubber on American turf.

and assuming Andy will carry on his avoidance of Roger in tour events until March, I'd find that to be a very intruiging encounter, perhaps even the usual Fed>Rod rules not applying to it.

(there is the small and potentially debilitating matter of Roddick/Dubai already keeping me in frazzles, though)

Posted by gauloises (argentina existe) 11/24/2008 at 04:51 PM

There were so many bad signals from the Argies both in the weeks and the days leading up to the tie. Which is one reason why I kept telling all the people, including pretty much everybody who posted here, who had already handed it to Argentina that it was not going to be that simple.

The other reason was of course a wish to avoid having my heart ripped into pieces when it all inevitably went south. Yeah, that didn't work out so well.

*returns to sulking*

Posted by Maha (2009 = The Return of the King. The Mighty Federer will rise again) 11/24/2008 at 04:51 PM

NP.... did it? LOL. Well then it may not be such a bad ball after all! We must treat it with respect and bow down to the power of the Holy Crystal Ball of Balls.

[Moderator deleted - posters have already been asked upthread to keep on-topic here. OT comments on the DC Aftermath thread please.]

Posted by jewell 11/24/2008 at 04:51 PM

S'ok, Vanessa, I was just joking about other posters adding to the frazzle. :) - didn't mean to spread blame around. I can frazzle happily all by myself...

Maybe it all comes down to Argentina not having that solidarity that Spain had. And a lot of that would have to come down to Nalby, as senior veteran/leader.

But where is the discussion of Mancini's role? I am wondering why he could not have put the brakes on Nalbandian a little? Perhaps just because Nalby has been such a hero in the past.

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