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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 Carrie 11/24/2008 at 06:34 PM

Well- I guess we can now add Nalby to the Satan's Minions- 2008 version list- which last count included

1) Nole- Faker of Injuries Who Loathes All New Yorkers
2) JMdP- Mamma Hater Whose Poor Attempt at Joking About Rafa's Unforunate Habits Shows His Ev-allll Ways (New Addendum: Selfish Player Who Only Goes After Self Glory and Hates Argentina)
3) Stapenak- Batting Way Above His Average and Should Be Banned from the Tour for Dating Someone Better Looking than He Is
4) Rafa- Faker of Injuries Who Always Retires When He Is Losing and Has Never Finished A Match When He is Behind (Chennai, Miami and AO did not happen this year)
5) Sodering- Obvioulsy the Son of Lucifer. Made Fun of Rafa in 2007 and Made Feds Angry a Couple of Years Before That. Will Always Be On the List. His New Unfortuante Haircut is Representation of His Black, Black Soul

and with this past weekend

6) Nalby - Davis Cup Macro Manager From Hell....From Hell......! His Personal Glory Hunting Sapped His Team Mates of Their Will To Play. Plus- He's Fat. Hahaha!

Posted by jb (is it tennis yet?) 11/24/2008 at 06:35 PM

i dunno - i'm not convinced that daveed is the devil, nor is he responsible for the loss.

as for picking clay vs hardcourt - the argies had to go w/ hard court, as it feeds into their own strengths. they had to roll the dice, imo, and go with their best surface.

sigh. still bummed they lost - but the spaniards definately deserved the win.

OK - off to forage for food....

Posted by Nancy 11/24/2008 at 06:35 PM

Linex - I'm still his fan and absolutely nothing will change that. Even if it's confirmed that he is indeed the devil then I AM the devil's fan.

I didn't read all the comments here but the couple I read weren't pretty and came from posters I didn't expect at all. This is just too much for me at the moment so I'm out of here.

Posted by avid sports fan (still smiling but can only post from work) 11/24/2008 at 06:37 PM

*hugs to Nancy* This too will pass!

Posted by malimeda 11/24/2008 at 06:42 PM

A long article on the subject in Tennis Week:

The author concludes with:
"In the end, the outcome of this Davis Cup drama was summed up by a former Argentine standout player I spoke to after the match. The Spaniards, she told me, not only delivered a tennis tutorial on playing pressure tennis, they also gave the Argentines a lesson in competing with grace and class."

A certain stunning brunette WAS spotted in the stands, so this could only be Gaby Sabatini.

Posted by Veruca Salt 11/24/2008 at 06:49 PM

"so this could only be Gaby Sabatini."

It was. I saw her on the TC coverage. To quote Mary Carillo, "She's really let herself go."

*tongue cemented in cheek*

Posted by Carrie 11/24/2008 at 06:50 PM

That article got me thinking- I wonder if Gabby could ever coach the Davis Cup team. You have had males coach Fed Cup teams- it might be neat if Gabby was the coach. I don't think she has done any sort of coaching before- but she and Villas are essentially the biggest names in Argentine tennis history.

Posted by Sher 11/24/2008 at 06:51 PM

Hey avid, good to see you around!

Although I don't want to look like I'm blasting Nalbandian -- I'm not, I'm actually very sympathetic to his recent plight, but that doesn't mean I have no opinion on some of the root causes that might be behind it -- but he was considered the leader of the team. If that was not the case, Argentina did a very poor job of dispelling this assumption from people's mind.

And as such, as a leader, he bears more responsibility than most. Same thing as at a workplace, if your team slips on a deadline, it is the manager who is responsible, regardless of how any individual performances impacted the project. Because it is the leader's responsibility to make sure the team functions well. Inner dynamics of the team are dealt with in private, but the leader answers to the outside world. In this sense, it is the captain of the team that takes his share of blame and Nalbandian because they were the two people at the top (who reportedly couldn't agree). It's a natural consequnce of his position. With great power comes great responsibility?

That said, I think it's not a good idea to believe everything we read in the press right now about the goings on in their camp. A lot of people are very emotional about this tie and their judgement is clouded.

And I don't think that one emotional tie seals the deal on the characters involved forever. Nalbandian is still the same guy he was before this tie -- a guy who obviously passionately cares about winning Davis Cup for his country. Whatever mistakes he may have made -- it's not like this is the last match of his career.

Posted by Sher 11/24/2008 at 06:54 PM

Carrie, don't forget that Fakerer, who can't even win friggin' Wimbledon for crying out loud -- we knew it was just the weak era!


Posted by linex 11/24/2008 at 06:55 PM

Nancy cheer up,

There is always the next competition, let us hope Australia turns out a good tournament for him. i only hope he addresses the tournament with a good frame of mind. And remember every time they declare Nalbandian dead he appears again with an important win...

I hope none of my comments hurt you. Although I am one of his fans, of course I am not as big a fan of his as you. Perhaps I am somewhat more neutral, so I openly discussed the issues that Pete addressed in his post.

Posted by Veruca Salt 11/24/2008 at 06:57 PM

Thanks for the article malimeda. It seems as if Mancini had his hands full this weekend. It raises the question, Who was really in charge?

Posted by Ruth 11/24/2008 at 07:02 PM

If the country against whom you're playing has the #1 player who never loses on clay (2 points) and the player ranked after him (Ferrer) is also better on clay (possibly 1 more point), why would you, unless you're suicidal, choose clay as the surface? When it became clear that Rafa wouldn't play in the tie, it was too late to change the approved surface, and it probably wouldn't have been a good idea, anyway.

So, I'm saying that, considering the circumstances, the indoor hard court surface choice was one good decision Argentina made.

Posted by Sher 11/24/2008 at 07:04 PM

Aww, Steve as usual wrote a beautiful post on the other blog.

I love this bit:

[You had to feel for Verdasco as well. He found Acasuso after the celebration with his Spanish teammates and offered an embrace. The Spaniard, who has been overcome with nerves on many occasions, could relate. ]

I didn't know that. Of course Argies and Spanish are friends and share a language, so it's good.

Posted by gauloises 11/24/2008 at 07:04 PM

The hell with blaming Nalby, let's blame Raffuh. Seriously.

Posted by Sher 11/24/2008 at 07:09 PM

>It raises the question, Who was really in charge?

Actually, that we are even asking this question points to what could be the root cause of this result.

Posted by skip1515 11/24/2008 at 07:09 PM

Okay, Pete, you called me out.

" the most formidable Davis Cup squad ever assembled (John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Peter Fleming [in doubs]"

Perhaps. Maybe. Permit me to name an all time fave, however: the 1973 Australian team that beat the USofA in the final, 5/0. It consisted of John Newcombe and Rod Laver. Yes, those of you who don't know this story, it consisted of only two guys. Ken Rosewall was on the bench. !

Newcombe and Laver were #s 1 and 8 in the world at the time, while their opponents were #s 5 and 11 (Stan Smith and Tom Gorman, respectively), along with the well-established team of Smith and Erik Van Dillen in the dubs.

Newcombe and Laver were, essentially, a pick-up doubles team, with no significant history of playing together. They beat Smith/Van Dillen in straights, 6/2 6/1 6/4. Laver was 35 at the time.

In the singles Newcombe beat Smith in the first rubber, in 5 sets, while Laver lost the first set to Gorman 8/10, and then went on to win in 5 (6/1 in the fifth). In the reverse, and now meaningless singles, Newcombe took out Gorman in 3 sets, while Laver beat Stan Smith in 4.

Okay, okay, so it wasn't as colorful a team as Johnny Mac, Jimbo and Fleming. And Yes, the best doubles team ever was arguably JMac and anybody else. But any team that had Ken Rosewall sit on the sidelines when he was still #7 in the world is in the running for Best Ever.

Besides, formidable is as formidable does.

End of AK nostalgia.

Posted by beth 11/24/2008 at 07:11 PM

Nancy -sorry if you are upset at the negativity towards David
but , I am afraid I think Pete is right on this one .
A fair amount of the blame has to be laid at the feet of the captain , as well, who
did not seem to be in charge of his team.

still , I would not classify either David or JMDP as spawn of the devil -
that honor is Soderling's alone :)
They are just two men with big egos colliding. You have to have a big ego to succeed at all in this solo sport . This kind of contention is to be expected. Hard to go from being an individual player to being a team player. Tennis is , for the most part, a team sport. I think we should keep that in mind . And remark on how effective the Spaniards were in putting together such a great team. For that , Sanchez - and his players are to be commended.

Posted by beth 11/24/2008 at 07:14 PM

silly me - I plead temporary insanity and typing faster than I think and throw myself on the mercy of the court
I meant tennis is NOT , for the most part , a team sport .

Posted by skip1515 11/24/2008 at 07:14 PM

As opposed to that note, easily dismissed as Things Were Better Then, here's what I wrote to some folks yesterday in an email, entitled The Sixth Man:

"Well, not exactly the sixth, but the additional fellow nonetheless.

I was really impressed with Emilio Sanchez, and how he appeared to tell Verdasco exactly what someone should have been telling him his whole career: you have to bear down NOW! There is no moment after this one!

It's certainly possible I misunderstood Sanchez's body language. Lord knows I don't speak Spanish, much less lip read. But I'd be shocked if that's not what Sanchez was telling him.

Mancini, on the other hand, was cool, calm and collected. That may be his way, and had Acasuso not come up lame (and not lost) my commentary on body language would be lost in translation, but I don't think that's the case. Am I reaching too far to say the difference between Sanchez and Mancini's careers is that Sanchez made the most of what he had (which was considerable, if not Talent For The Ages), while Mancini glowed red hot for a brief time and then faded away, unable (unwilling?) to do the hard miles required for a career of any great length?

If I'm right, then the captains played as big a role today as anyone. It's not always the case, but I suspect it may have been so today."

Others have made similar observations about Sanchez, above. I'd have to agree.

Posted by Violetta 11/24/2008 at 07:19 PM

Beth-I guess we can say Soderling is the spawn of the devil, as long as we understand that Nole is the one, true Prince of Darkness. That fact cannot be disputed.

I don't think anyone is saying that Nalby alone is responsible for the failure of the Argentine team. Obviously, each player and Mancini share responsibility.

WTH...I'm with gauloises. Let's blame it on Raffuh.

Posted by malimeda 11/24/2008 at 07:22 PM

And to reiterate how truly underdoggish Spaniards felt coming to Argentina, let me remind you of the spoof by the satirical TV show Cada Que Cada (Come What May), where they were mercilessly teased on camera and took everything with relaxed laughter.

In short, a hilarious interviewer ambushes players one by one at the airport Departures on their way to Argentina, rambles on about Rafa in each and every question and ends the silly interviews by giving each player 3 gifts to sustain them on their trip: a small icon of "San Rafa" (Rafa's face photoshopped into Madonna's blue wimple), a newborn's wrist-band with name so that they don't get lost, and someting good for in-flight reading - New York Magazine with Rafa shirtless cover.

Clearly, Spanish public and Spanish players thought little of their chances, but were ready and opportunistic enough to seize them when they came.

Posted by beth 11/24/2008 at 07:26 PM

Violetta - no we cannot BLAME it on Raffuh - but we can sure give him credit
his absence motivated his teammates to perform at a high level because they could not depend on him

I guess though , if you are in the Argie camp , then that would be blaming him , wouldn't it?

I am trying to remember why we call Nole the Prince of Darkness ? Is it just his general brashness ? or is it a specific moment ?
He has done some pretty irritating things , but I still am not seeing him as evil incarnate , just yet.

Posted by Vie 11/24/2008 at 07:32 PM

malimeda, please, do you have an online link to that Cada Que Cada?

Posted by linex 11/24/2008 at 07:32 PM

I guess you always need an intelligent decision by the captian to win a Davis Cup:

Ex. chosing Rafa to close the deal when he was an unknown upcoming player in 04

Chosing Safin for the doubles and for the 5th point against Argentina in 06

Now emilio chosing fernando instead of Ferrer to close the deal, motivating the players in just the right way, chosing Feliciano instead of Verdasco to play Del Potro the first day, even when Delpo had said that with Verdasco it would be a longer match (for his game is not based on serve) and that at this state that would not benefit him.

Did Mancini make any clever decision before or during this final started?

Posted by sblily (Zen master, F-Lo is. Yes, hmmm...) 11/24/2008 at 07:33 PM

malimeda - That is hilarious!!! Good that the other players were good sports about it!

Posted by rafadoc 11/24/2008 at 07:35 PM

Beth...I think Nole's POD nickname occurred during YEC on a thread after his loss to Tsonga (?) when he appeared to give up in the last set after playing well prior...the rumours were that he "tanked" it. Various names were bantered around as Nole fans (there are a few here) and non fans bantered this about.

Posted by rafadoc 11/24/2008 at 07:36 PM

sblily-there is a youtube video of it which is hilarious...they actually show Ferru taking the NY mag from the "reporter" and he was cracking up-good sports!

Posted by Veruca Salt 11/24/2008 at 07:36 PM

Choosing a surface due to one player just isn't smart. But, I think the main reason why things blew up was because Argentina simply doesn't have the deep bench they used to.

Posted by Violetta 11/24/2008 at 07:37 PM

Beth-Nole started his transformation to the dark side with his speech after beating Roddick at the USO and completed his descent to hell with his massage-stealing ways during Shanghai. Don't get me wrong-I love Nole and find it amusing that he's considered evil. The Prince of Darkness thing started as a joke, but I kind of like it.

Posted by Vie 11/24/2008 at 07:38 PM

Nadal's surprise withdrawal threw a wrench in the Argie's well-laid plans.

Posted by sonya 11/24/2008 at 07:50 PM

gosh vie, with your last statement, i'm expecting some posters to come out and say that rafa withdrawal was a plan to put the argentinian team in trouble. yes a faker indeed, that i can't wait to see fake his way throught the australian:)

Posted by beth 11/24/2008 at 07:51 PM

Violetta - well , I can see how the crowd turned on him as a result of the NY interview
and he has taken a lot of heat about the injury faking
so maybe the nickname is ok

he has a long way to go to take over from Soderling in my book

Posted by sblily (Zen master, F-Lo is. Yes, hmmm...) 11/24/2008 at 07:53 PM

rafadoc - do you have a link to youtube video? i tried doing a search and couldn't find it.

Posted by Zonie 11/24/2008 at 07:53 PM

NP: I had to leave so I did not see your response to my post sooner. About Chucho not being match ready, I realize they meant that he had not played for some time (since Basel I think). You say there is nothing they could have done, but I don't agree. A player who wants to will always be able to find somewhere to play.

Now, I like Chucho and my intent is not to bash him, but I think that too much blame is being placed unfairly on Nalbandian. And also, too little credit is being given to the Spaniards. I have heard repeatedly how certain it is that Nalbandian would have beaten Lopez in the last rubber. No one can be certain of that result. Lopez was playing better than Ferrer and the surface suits his game.

Posted by Vie 11/24/2008 at 07:54 PM

sonya, I am basically just stating that the Argies became disorganized and disoriented and possibly affected in spirit by Nadal withdrawal.

Posted by Violetta 11/24/2008 at 08:00 PM

Beth-I don't really know the history about Soderling, so I guess I'm not making a fair judgment in this case.

Oooh...maybe Jackie needs to do Deuce Club column on which player is the true evilness of the ATP. Or would that get too ugly?

Posted by rafadoc 11/24/2008 at 08:01 PM

sblily-sorry-didn't mean to leave ya hangin'...looking for the video now...

Posted by Lleytsie 11/24/2008 at 08:02 PM

the ending is lovely

when you said - this was daveed's team right, since when it has surprised us that he hasnt delivered, when we expect him to

Beautiful -

Posted by rafadoc 11/24/2008 at 08:05 PM it is-if you don't speak Spanish, hang in there until :57 and you will start to get the joke...very funny imo.

Posted by Aussie Angel (Willy please play better in 2009 so you can get back on the DC team) 11/24/2008 at 08:07 PM

Hiya everyone

I have just heard the news that Marcini is quitting as Argentina DC Captain.

And with that I must be off to have shower, post chrissie cards and catch up with my sister.

Posted by Arun 11/24/2008 at 08:09 PM

Violetta @ 8:00 - Good idea! :)

Posted by Violetta 11/24/2008 at 08:11 PM

Hey AA! Yes, Mancini is out.

I'm off to watch SYTYCD. Enough tennis, already. :)

Posted by beth 11/24/2008 at 08:16 PM

Violetta - yeah , that Deuce club would get nasty
Basically , Soderling has gone out of his way to alienate many of the players on tour ( and thus , their fans )
He just seems to be sort of a weird dude , antagonisitic really .

off to watch Monday night football

Posted by sonya 11/24/2008 at 08:18 PM

i know vie, i was just teasing:)
Violetta, how can you be watching SYTYCD, the season is over right?

Posted by NDMS 11/24/2008 at 08:22 PM

malimeda (7:22pm), Thanks for that story. It's so funny.

I enjoy reading all the comments from all sides. And thank you Pete. I didn't realize there were too many things going on behind the scenes.

I'm very simple and simplistic in my analysis.

There was NO contingency plan for Argentina if one of the two heavies got injured. Calleri/Acasuso were chosen for a throwaway doubles rubber. The title was supposed to be had on winning 3 out of 4 singles rubbers. Nalbandian/Calleri had a more than enough chances to pocket the 3rd set with a 5-1 tiebreak lead.

And from Spain's side, Lopez/Verdasco found a way to win.

Posted by malimeda 11/24/2008 at 08:25 PM

Found the spoof "San Rafa" vid:

Not easy to be in such a huge shadow all the time, but they manage it by treating Rafa as a kid brother and teasing him mildly all the time (while respecting his game, of course). These guys constantly rib each other, as friends only can, and Rafa being the youngest is often the butt of their jokes.

They made fun of him on his first day at the Olympic Village dining tent, when he left the table forgetting to take away his food tray. And Ferru quipped "Xisca" to a question at a joint presser at the Olympics asking Rafa what was the secret of his mental strength. In one of their joint interviews yesterday Ferru mentions Tommy and Nico Almagro as other players who made all this possible, the interviewer interjects "and Rafa", and Ferru adds in mock horror "and Rafa, of course, I must mention him, otherwise he'll kill me".

So when Sanchez replaced Ferru with Nando, they all just proceeded as a team, Ferru cheering from the bench and receiving text messages from Rafa, and later being mentioned by everybody as one who helped the team come to this final.

Posted by Ruth 11/24/2008 at 08:27 PM

"Choosing a surface due to one player just isn't smart."

Yea, I can just imagine the the reaction if Argentina had chosen clay to play the the best clay court player in the world. The derision and criticism they would have received would have made some of what we're now hearing seem like compliments.

Posted by sblily (Zen master, F-Lo is. Yes, hmmm...) 11/24/2008 at 08:29 PM

rafadoc - Mil gracias! I love it!

Awwww, Ferru. :)

Posted by NP 11/24/2008 at 08:29 PM


Oh, I don't deny that Chucho could've played more events, which is why I said MANCINI couldn't do a thing about it. And I too think Nalby is being unfairly blamed for everything, and that the Spaniards haven't been given enough credit (by some). I do think Nalby would've beaten Feli, and even had a good chance to beat Rafa on indoor HC. You're right that no one can be certain of the result, but that's my guess. Your mileage may vary.

Posted by Vie 11/24/2008 at 08:46 PM

malimeda, thanks. That was funny.

Posted by jb (is it tennis yet?) 11/24/2008 at 08:48 PM

ok - i'm voting no on the duece club who's evil. it would just get into serious bashing....

veruca > But, I think the main reason why things blew up was because Argentina simply doesn't have the deep bench they used to.

Now that veruca - is really why the argies didn't win the cup. Spain had incredible depth, and each of those players did their parts to bring the cup to Spain, throughout the entire year.

Posted by rafadoc 11/24/2008 at 08:50 PM are welcome...gotta love youtube!

Posted by Vie 11/24/2008 at 08:54 PM

oh sorry. thanks rafadoc for that youtube link.

Posted by NP 11/24/2008 at 09:06 PM

Well, Nalby is still denying the alleged spat with Calleri:

Let the hateration begin anew.

Posted by Vie 11/24/2008 at 09:11 PM

May Nalbandian find peace. The real disaster was not the loss to a good Spanish team, but because Argentina was the favorite and they got sucked into believing it prematurely. That was probably in reality not so true and Spain took advantage as perceived underdogs.

Posted by Frustrated Argentine 11/24/2008 at 09:14 PM

As an Argentine who loves tennis, I cannot but feel extremely disappointed at how things played out this weekend. It is getting even worse with all these rumours flying around about figths among the players. But, let's be frank, we Argentines are well known for not working well in teams, for being too individualistic and for taking care of just our own personal interests.

No, Pete's comments about Nalbandian were not harsh, just realistic. Of course, David is a talented player but he has no heart, nor the drive to work hard or achieve goals consistently.

Mancini's choice of Calleri for the doubles and Acasuso for the singles was not the smartest decision either.

The day we learn how to work together, whether it is to win the Davis Cup (or rebuilt our country), then we'll give Pete reasons to write a much different and long-awaited article.

Posted by gauloises 11/24/2008 at 09:15 PM

Hey, I'm not hating. I have sympathy for the devil, especially if he's Argentinian.

I just don't like Elf-bashing, so I may have swung a little too far the other way.

Posted by Sher 11/24/2008 at 09:16 PM

Prince of Darkness is the best nickname ever. It actually makes fun of the supposed anti-christness of nole. Cause he's evil, y'see?

Posted by Sher 11/24/2008 at 09:17 PM

thanks for the link & funny story, malimeda!

Posted by NP 11/24/2008 at 09:21 PM

Nole is evil only when he beats The Not-So-Mighty-Anymore Fed.

Posted by Arun 11/24/2008 at 09:29 PM


Posted by NP 11/24/2008 at 09:33 PM

Aww, c'mon Arun. You know in your heart of hearts it's true. :)

Posted by Arun 11/24/2008 at 09:35 PM

NP: I'm not sure if that's true. But I know something else in my heart of hearts which is true. ;)

Posted by greenhopper 11/24/2008 at 09:40 PM

that y'all are addicted to TW ?

Posted by NP 11/24/2008 at 09:42 PM

That Nole is evil thru and thru? But what does that make Fed when he was making everyone on the ATP miserable?

Posted by NP 11/24/2008 at 09:43 PM

gh, that's a given, though.

Posted by Veruca Salt 11/24/2008 at 09:45 PM

"Yea, I can just imagine the the reaction if Argentina had chosen clay to play the the best clay court player in the world. The derision and criticism they would have received would have made some of what we're now hearing seem like compliments."

Maybe, maybe not. The thing is, the most successful teams pick the surface that best suits the needs of their own players, not as a way to thrwart the opposing team. Nalby, Chucho and Calleri are all very good clay court players. Pre-Rafa withdrawal, they gambled on a possible hard court sweep instead of a 3-2 clay win and they lost. I repeat, they underestimated the other Spaniards contrary to their assertions to the press.

Posted by Jenni 11/24/2008 at 09:54 PM

"The thing is, the most successful teams pick the surface that best suits the needs of their own players, not as a way to thrwart the opposing team."

But I think this was a special situation. You *had* to take Rafa's spectacular record on clay into consideration, and even if you're Argentina and you have three very good clay court players I think you need to realize you're still practically surrendering 2 points right off the bat. There comes a point where playing to your opponent's weakness is more productive than playing to your own strengths.

Posted by 11/24/2008 at 10:46 PM

sorry if this has been mentioned but i haven't read through the entire thread:

i think credit should also be given to sanchez for developing a solid doubles team out of two very good singles player in verdasco and lopez. it has always been said how important the doubles point is in dc. spain hasn't always had a solid doubles team to go to. i remember in the 2006 relegation match where after robredo(?) lost his singles match against italy on the first day, rafa was asked to step in to partner with verdasco for an essential 2-1 lead (similar to nalbandian often stepping in for doubles duty). but now, their top singles player can concentrate on their singles matches while verdasco and lopez handle the doubles point. credit also to both these guys for their dedication to their dc role by entering numerous doubles event even i think, since last year. of course, it also doesn't hurt the spanish squad that these two are very good singles players and could be tapped to play singles rubber as was done in the finals. they were also the only two guys to play on all the ties this year. so yeah, spain has depth of players, team spirit, etc, but i think sanchez building the lopez-verdasco doubles team was a master stroke. and i think this is what the next argentine captain can look to to copy.

Posted by abbey 11/24/2008 at 10:48 PM

sorry, my name didn't appear in the 10:46pm headless post

Posted by MMT 11/24/2008 at 10:50 PM

I have to say, I'm really shocked at this post. I really can't understand what all the fuss is about, and how this became Nalbandian's problem. He did, after all, win his rubber (which is all he would expect his teammates to do).

If del Potro, Calleri, and Acasuso need some "leadership" in order to show some professional pride and give their best to win a match, that's not Nalbo's problem. If Argentina had won, we'd all be comparing Nalbo to Ditka - but they lost, and we need a villain.

BTW - Mancini is the captain, no Nalbandian (and for the Americans, Patrick McEnroe is the captain, not Roddick). I know we Americans like to give Andy the crumbs of credit we can find, so sometimes some of us try to invent accolades for him, but let's just call a spade a spade...Mancini had little to work with beyond del Potro, and del Potro was either injured, or unmotivated. Spain, on the other hand, were without the #1 player in the world and they won 3 matches on the trot.

It's about depth of squad. Spain has it, and Argentina don't. All the non-sense about leadership, and motivation is crap. Nobody can help a player hit straight when he's on the court - that's up to the player, and that's what beautiful about tennis.

You all really need to get a grip.

Posted by Juan José 11/24/2008 at 11:00 PM

Pete, I think you're right on the money here.

I've been reading all these articles about what supposedly happened down there, and the more I read, the more antipathy I feel against Nalbandián.

Which is sad, since he was once one of my favorite players. He was already dead to me, but this is just too much. I just hope he retires soon.

About Del Potro, I think you're right. I feel like that kid calls his own shots, and that's not the way things are in Argentina. For example, you're supposed to crave the chance to play in the Buenos Aires ATP tourney, at their historic club. But he didn't see the point, and went to play the smaller events in the US instead.

The kid may seem too nice, too naive, but he's no pushover. As Nalbandián found out.

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

MMT hit on the nail.
- Argentina's defeat is not a result of poor team spirit. With good team spirit they would have lost too, due to the following point.
- The moment Del Potro got injured, Argentina was toast as the only plan they had was to win 3 singles.
- Spain won not because of better team spirit, but because they had replacements for injured/poor form players. Argentina did not... just look at the rankings.
- Even if Rafa had played, the result would have been the same: a Spain win if any of Nalby/Del Potro got injured, and an Argentina win if none of those two were injured.

Posted by F 11/24/2008 at 11:05 PM

Pete, you got it all wrong about fight or argument within the Argentine team. It is a false rumor that became gospel in the same way as guaranteed endless house price hikes became the expected norm two years ago... if many others believe it, it must be true.... ridiculous!!!
It is merely some reporter's chance at making a note which obviously worked.

Posted by rg.nadal 11/24/2008 at 11:48 PM

Hello all!

Posted by Jenn 11/25/2008 at 12:20 AM

Hey everyone... very late to this particular party, but I just wanted to say that this was one of the most enjoyable TW threads in a long time, IMO, both for the quality of the Post (article) and the quality of the posts (comments). Some excellent analysis here to which I have nothing of substance to add. I enjoy all of the Spanish players, and I have really come to respect Lopez in particular, so I was happy they won. Not sure if I buy the blame Nalby thing or not, but it was a very interesting read. Thanks!

Posted by manuelsantanafan 11/25/2008 at 01:58 AM

Juan Jose, 11:00:

About Del Potro, I think you're right. I feel like that kid calls his own shots, and that's not the way things are in Argentina. For example, you're supposed to crave the chance to play in the Buenos Aires ATP tourney, at their historic club. But he didn't see the point, and went to play the smaller events in the US instead.

The kid may seem too nice, too naive, but he's no pushover. As Nalbandián found out. . . . . . . .


If this is an accurate depiction of Del Potro's attitude, Argentina's ability to pose a threat to Spain in future Davis Cup competitions will be much less than it potentially could be. Good news for Spain.

Now, I understand that Davis Cup need not hold much, if any, importance for a player. Davis Cup didn't float Jimmy Connors' boat much.

But Del Potro is no Jimmy Connors--just an overgrown, somewhat misshapen, albeit highly talented elf. For Spain's sake, I'm glad Del Potro is choosing not to maximize his contributions in Davis Cup.

F, I think you make many good points in your last two posts. Enjoyed reading them.

Posted by Bethany 11/25/2008 at 02:06 AM

In a similar way now, Rafa stepped back without ever really leaving the team, and Lopez, Ferrer and Verdasco _shared_ their responsibility rather than fighting for who would be the one to achieve glory.

Bang on the money Sher! I totally agree. The Spanish knew they were up against it, really backs to the wall stuff. They knew they had to fight to win and they stayed united. They wanted to win for Rafa but also themselves - it was a great team effort.

Verdasco is HOT! Lucky Ana :)

Posted by rg.nadal 11/25/2008 at 02:50 AM

AM: You there!?

Gabriela V: Congrats. Hope you have included me in your celebrations. Saw the final match and the subsequent celebration.

Posted by DontLaughAtPeterBodoPlease 11/25/2008 at 03:20 AM

Dear Peter,

You have been discrediting (translate => purposely writing utter nonsense, translate => attracting traffic to whatever website you post at) yourself for years. By doing so, you have become the biggest joke in the tennis industry. It is actually somewhat amusing to read over some of your writing once in a while, just to confirm that I too could be a star tennis blogger/writer. What is not amusing however, is the fact that the legions of followers that read your rubbish actually take it at face value.

You are lying to people. That is highly unethical. That is the part of your little blogging scam that you are missing. I haven't given up enough time to read more than 3 or 4 of your articles, yet what I did read was exactly spot on towards your self destruction.

Do yourself a huge favor, and read the comments to your article on about Nalbandian. I am at least glad that people no longer fall for your absurd rantings. I myself could not be less bothered by your fairy tales and fantasies, and thus I've ignored you entirely. But enough is enough. Through your article about Nalbandian, you have crossed a career-ending line.

Have you ever heard of the infinite monkey theorem? Given enough time and attempts, hitting keys randomly, a monkey will write the complete works of William Shakespeare. Now, I am fairly certain that there are less intelligent animals than monkeys.

Let's take an ostrich as an example. I hope you can take some time off from pouring over the latest tennis stats and gossip, and picture this hypothetical situation. It is well known that ostriches like to hide their head in the sand at any sings of trouble. They then consider themselves totally hidden, which is besides the point, but shows how intelligent they can get. Follow me here, and imagine that every time the ostrich (we'll call him dodo for now) hides his head into any random hole in the sand, he strikes a single letter out of a conventional keyboard. I would give dodo no more than a year to come up with a more sensible story about the reasons for Argentina's Davis Cup loss.

Accusing Nalbandian of costing Argentina the title is neither wrong nor stupid, absurd, libelous, crazy, or delusional. No, it is outright medically insane. Please see a psychiatrist on that note. But your mental health is of no concern to anyone and far beyond the scope of this letter.
Your latest article is full of insinuations and gossip. You treat those rantings as facts. Yet you fail to cite any of that garbage. And guess what, it's not surprising, because that is exactly what it is - garbage. You tried to create controversy for the sake of your article, and it backfired on you as proven by the one-sidedly negative comments on That is really unfortunate for you, and it almost makes me sympathise with you. But you have to pay the price for your ignorance and insulting your readers' intelligence.

I will not even mention your stance on Luxilon strings destroying the game of tennis. I am not willing to waste any more of my time proving you wrong on this subject. And by God, I do believe I read an article in Tennis magazine advocating that players return to wooden racquets. If that is in fact your actual opinion on the topic, please refer to an earlier paragraph suggesting psychiatric help.

But all that is beside the point. As I already wrote, you have crossed a professional line. I believe libel is the correct word. It won't be tough to find Nalbandian's contact information and make him aware of your great article. That is if he hasn't already read it. Certainly, he can afford a lawyer who'll present him with the options that he can pursue to put you back in your place. should also seek legal advise and consider a separate lawsuit against you for publishing lies and attacks of personal nature. should follow suit and sue you for the same reasons. Now, I am not sure if your own blog can sue you, but it definitely should do so. If you are its owner, do yourself a favor, file a civil lawsuit against yourself seeking a permanent ban from writing, posting, talking, and even thinking about tennis. Trust me, it'll be to your advantage. No offense intended.
Matt Wodzinski

Posted by ryan 11/25/2008 at 03:50 AM

Read the last line, especially.

Posted by Gabriela Valentina 11/25/2008 at 04:13 AM

Mr.Bodo: I usually enjoy your posts,Pete, and then add on "but..." . However,today I find myself in total accord with your assessment of what we saw enfold in Mar del Plata. I have the feeling that perhaps you were even holding yourself in. Anyway,the piece was full of memorable quotes but I'll choose a non controversial one that I particularly liked and with which nobody can have any trouble dealing:

"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."

And, as one of the countrywomen of this year's winning team and still basking in that warm fuzzy glow (and hopefully for some time to come) ....thank you for another informative and entertaining post.

Posted by rg.nadal 11/25/2008 at 04:19 AM

Gabriela: Hola Senorita. Congrats.

Posted by rg.nadal 11/25/2008 at 04:23 AM

Gabriela; Though not from Spain, i demand that i be allowed to bask in the glory as well. After all, i have been a Rafa and Alonso fanatic since time immemorial.:-))
More importantly, i was PREDICTING a Spanish victory and not just hoping for it (i was taking Potro's toes as a factor btw).

Posted by Gabriela Valentina 11/25/2008 at 04:24 AM

rg nadal!! I have been missing you!! How i wanted to share in the celebrations with you!! I have been posting on the other thread. Glad to catch up with you finally!!

Posted by lightforce101 11/25/2008 at 04:25 AM

I wonder what prompted Bodo to write such an article. Does he really hate nalbandian that much or he just wants to create controversy to attract attention....hmmmmmm?

It is a destructive article. Could have written a piece re: the valiant efforts of the Spanish armada, but instead went on a negative route. What is the motive behind it? I wonder if something happened between him and nalby, and now he's getting back at him? Just asking.

Posted by Gabriela Valentina 11/25/2008 at 04:26 AM

rg nadal of course you are included in that warm glow!! It's big and wide enough to include everybody!! How perspicacious of you to imagine that Spain had a chance. I wasn't even confident that Spain would win when I still thought Nadal was going to play(too tired; too injured)

Posted by rg.nadal 11/25/2008 at 04:27 AM

Gabriela: I have read your posts. Thanks for the translation on the Rafa-Lopez conversation after the tie. I did not see it on the tv. You saw the match in your home?

Posted by Gabriela Valentina 11/25/2008 at 04:35 AM

lightforce101: of course you are entitled to your opinion and I have often felt that Pete uses this forum to express personal likes and dislikes under the guise of an objective tennis analysis. However,I really am not convinced that this writeup is one of them. You could argue that as a selfconfessed UNconditional follower of the Spanish camp that I am not qualified to say this. You may be right on this score.

But, as a true admirer of the Argentine players and of Argentina and most particularly of Nalby ,as a player and as a larger than life icon, this time I really think he dug his own hole and fell into it. Most of the Argentine press is saying the same. Perhaps it is less palatable when a foreigner says it. I can understand that.

In this case.all the anger flowing towards Pete from so many posters is misguided. He's only the messenger. The tale he's telling is being shouted from the roof tops of Buenos Aires to those of Cordoba and Mar del Plata.

Posted by Gabriela Valentina 11/25/2008 at 04:36 AM

yes,rg nadal. It was on the main Spanish TV station all day Sunday and even hours after the match was over. We have all gone crazy!!

Posted by rg.nadal 11/25/2008 at 04:38 AM

Gabriela: Thank you. These were my reasons.
1. Potro's toe/toes would trouble him and hence he would be beaten in atleast one single's match by Ferrer/Verdasco or Lopez
2. Spain wins doubles
3. Nalby gets tired after playing a lengthy first match (which ofcourse did not happen) and a long doubles match (wasn't that long. Could have been shorter esp the third set). After this he would be dog tired for his last match 9like against Davy in the semifinals)
4. I was confident that Lopez would play solid. For some reason i felt that he would play like he did in Dubai this year.

That is why i was very very surprised when Tignor predicted a 3-1 win for Argentina.

Posted by Gabriela Valentina 11/25/2008 at 04:47 AM

Have just read MMT who makes a very convincing argument. I wouldn't dismiss it at all but agreeing that there is a lot to waht he says doesn't mean that Pete's take on all this is totally false. On paper Del Potro is better than Feli. Delpo should have won that match. Why did the Argie doubles team lose? I have been reading in the Argie press that Nalby boycotted Cañas(a better player than Calleri!! certainly beter than Acasuso!!) and left Mancini with no choice. Something is wrong with a team that allows a player to dictate to the captain.

Posted by rg.nadal 11/25/2008 at 04:48 AM

Gabriela: I can imagine. I was going crazy in my room. Indications that i was going crazy: Gobbling chocolates; jumping around my congested room; refusing to switch channels; joining in the celebrations with the Spanish players ater the victory.
This lists as my third fav sporting moment this year. First being Rafa's wins at Wimby & RG. Second was Alonso's two race wins and this Dc is the third (this is not second because i somehow expected this to happen).
My favourite moment in the tie was the other players and the Spanish team piling in on Verdasco after his win. That was PRICELESS. If you are still celebating, count me in.

Posted by Gabriela Valentina 11/25/2008 at 04:54 AM

rg nadal:
1. I always thought that Argentina would field a doubles team that was stronger than Spain's. Any doubles with Nalby in it is dangerous.

2. I too was confident that Lopez would play well;he's one of my favourite players. But!! I think Del Potro lost because Nalby over-planned that fast court!! I even read an interview where he was laughing at Del potro and saying that Delpo was going to find the court too fast and that Delpo did not enjoy playing on fast surfaces. If nalby had not interfered and made that surface so fast,I think Delpo would have probably beat Feli.

3. the crowd factor was huge!! Ferrer and Verdasco both had panic attacks. verdasco was strong enough to work his way out of it but poor ferru with Nalby across the net from him just curled up and died. Lopez was mentally strong enough to actually make the crowd factor WORK FOR HIM!! But he was the only one of the Spanish who was able to do this.

Posted by Gabriela Valentina 11/25/2008 at 04:58 AM

ha!ha!ha! rg nadal. I think somebody should be thinking about making you an honorary Spaniard!! You can keep celebrating with me if you like. The warm glow still has some hours to go yet.

In Spain we feel that this win was similar to 2007 when the Spanish team won the World Championship in basketball with their top player and their icon Pau Gasol injured. If anything,they played that final better than ever.

Posted by Gabriela Valentina 11/25/2008 at 05:02 AM

Frustrated Argentine @9:14 should be read by all those who violently disagree with Bodo's Post

Posted by Aussie Angel (Willy please play better in 2009 so you can get back on the DC team) 11/25/2008 at 05:02 AM

All I can say is I hope the new Argentina DC Captain can create a great harmony among the players and bring unity.

Posted by rg.nadal 11/25/2008 at 05:03 AM

Gabriela: Crowd especially in an away tie is a huge factor and this was no different. Especially the language of both the teams was common. I read somewhere that the crowd said uncharitable things to the Spanish players when they were on court! This i guess i common to all sports. This happens in cricket between players of opposite teams. Its called sledging (players resort to it, sometimes it gets heated!:-D). Just google "famous sledges". Quite fun to read.

Back to tennis, frankly i expected Ferrer to give a real tough fight to Nalby. I thought that Ferrer would be well-rested after not making to Shanghai and would use this tie as a springboard to get 2009 on track.

Posted by lightforce101 11/25/2008 at 05:06 AM

Gabriela, i respect your stance. I was mostly referring to Bodo's
article in I just feel that he's unfairly blaming it all on Nalbandian. It's like he has a personal grudge on him or he just wants to sensationalize things up. That's just my take on that article.By the way you have a very angelic sounding name.

I am also one of the biggest fans of Rafa (thereby a fan of all the Spanish team), but i feel that people are kicking an already injured horse.

Anyhow, I can't wait for Rafa to sweep all the grandslams next year + atleast 4 masters shields. I know its almost impossible, but i am praying for it. I know there are alot of rafa fans in here.

Posted by rg.nadal 11/25/2008 at 05:08 AM

Aussie Angel: Amen to that good thought.
Also, hope Mancini is not lynched for this defeat.

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