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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 rg.nadal 11/25/2008 at 05:11 AM

lightforce101: Hi from a fellow Rafa fan.

Posted by rg.nadal 11/25/2008 at 05:12 AM

The Paris Masters the ONLY Masters series shield that Rafa has not won yet, right?

Posted by rg.nadal 11/25/2008 at 05:16 AM

Gabriela: Thanks for the thought about making me a honarary Spaniard. i would love that.:-) I think for that i would be required to speak some Spanish, other than saying "Hola, si and Vamos". I do want to learn the language, once i am fairly comfortable with Francaise, which i am learning now.

Posted by Gabriela Valentina 11/25/2008 at 05:49 AM

lightforce:: ha!ha!ha! "angelic" huh? maybe only in the name!!

I think that I agree with not taking it out anymore on the defeated team. In Spanish we have a saying that people all make firewood out of a fallen oak (in other words, it's such an easy thing to do). I make a solemn oath to keep quiet from now on and not to speculate anymore on the suspected pecadillos of Nalby and the Argies and what part they played in the defeat. They could have done EVERYTHING right and still have lost, that's just the way sporting competitions are.

as to nadal,I get goosebumps and heat rash just thinking about all the points he has to defend this year. I'm already nervous!!

Posted by Gabriela Valentina 11/25/2008 at 05:55 AM

rg nadal?? still there? I had to take the dog out again...

I was horrified at the choice of Ferrer vs Nalby!! It's not a question of sufficient rest. Ferru has been on a downward spin for the last 6 months at least and showing no signs of stopping. Until he can himself and his game again he is a goner. I hope his team mates and coach and family help him out of this. This is not Ferrer of 2007. Some people say the Ferrer of 2007 was a fluke. the bad part is that one of those people could actually be Ferrer himself.

Posted by katada 11/25/2008 at 06:03 AM


Rafa Nadal also haven't won Miami (two finals here) Cincy and yes Paris.

Posted by rg.nadal 11/25/2008 at 06:13 AM

Gabriela: I am here.

Posted by rg.nadal 11/25/2008 at 06:15 AM

katada: Thanks. I forgot about Miami and thought Rafa def Agassi in Cincy, then i realised that it was in Toronto. grr with myself.

Posted by 11/25/2008 at 06:18 AM

One thing that is missing in this analysis is further comment on the doubles rubber. Lopez and Verdasco have played together a lot - in fact, they are the 14th team in the doubles ranking - whereas Nalby and Calleri, I believe, had never played together. I remember one of the spaniards mentioned that they were helping each other (well, mostly Lopez was helping Verdasco) improve their game during the rubber, while they noticed that the Argentines weren't doing the same. I think that the previous experience of the spanish double made a great difference, too.

Posted by mina 11/25/2008 at 06:45 AM

hey all... my computer is broken, i'm using my cousin's right now, don't know when the shop will be able to give it back to me, so i won't be able to post til, i dont know when... :)

i agree that the pivotal point was when Elf lost, turned the entire tie around for Spain... also, the teamwork and cammaraderie was clearly evident in the Spanish side IMHO, and that sealed it for them, i think...okay, dont get all worked up, that's just my observation, biased as it may be :)

Posted by Gabriela Valentina 11/25/2008 at 06:59 AM

The doubles was important and that also might be Nalby's fault- indirectly. (I'm ducking the poisoned arrows winging my way from Nalby fans...) Wait? Didn't I promise not to enter this game anymore? Yup. So I'll hold my peace and not continue....

Posted by rg.nadal 11/25/2008 at 07:04 AM

bye folks.
see you all tomorrow.:-)

Posted by naughty T, no sex please, we're Raffuh 11/25/2008 at 07:36 AM

great post. I am afraid that Nalby did show himself up as a huge Diva over the weekend and Mancini proved a poor leader. The more I think about it the more astounded I am that there was no Schwanker on the team. He was there in Mar del Plata and had been used as a hitting partner. He really is the guy with the better results this year for my money and is young and hungry.
ah well l'esprit de escallier.

Posted by linex 11/25/2008 at 08:07 AM

Vilas said to Miguel Simon a reporter of Espndeportes that at the end of the day tennis is an individualistic sport and that matches lost by Argentina this weekend were tight and that they could have gone either way, that this was the simple reason of the defeat matches that were lost, and that could have been won. Nothing else.

It is clear we all relied on Delpo winning at least one of his matches, if the reasons for his defeat were just physical or lack of motivation still remains a mystery. It is clear that somethings were not properly done and that some trouble could have been avoided, it that would have been the case, all argentine players and the captain would be in peace and would have only talked about the matches.

This is like when you give your best in an assignment and still things go wrong, at least you feel in peace with yourself. And being in peace with yourself is such a great relief ...

Posted by Samantha Elin 11/25/2008 at 08:11 AM

Sorry for being OT, but I just read Jon Weirtheim open letter to Serena and Venus from the tennis establishiment where he says the Williamses had it right while their critics were wrong. He point out all the players who burned out chasing ranking points and playing in every tourney like Kim and Hingis. The Williamses have proven that quality, winning slams counts more than quantity. I hope Jelena learns because she's on the certain road to burn out. The injuries and lack of success in the latter stages of important tournament are signs that the human body wasn't intended for that much tennis. I love how the Williamses always seem to get the last laugh on their critics. Let's face it, they go into all the slams has the top contenders with the exception of the FO. Ask any player who is really the best and it's Sharapova and the Williamses if she can overcome her injury which I think she can. Go Serena! Go Venus! Keep getting the last laugh!

Posted by Maha (2009 = The Return of the King. The Mighty Federer will rise again) 11/25/2008 at 08:14 AM

HI ALL!!!!!! Ummm.. do we still have to be "on-topic" here?

Posted by jb (is it tennis yet?) 11/25/2008 at 08:37 AM

linex - glad i caught you online. I wanted to thank you for all the news / insite you've contributed to the discussions. I've really enjoyed reading your posts.

Posted by 11/25/2008 at 09:08 AM

Blaming Nalbandian for the loss is non-sense.
Mancini didn't have a plan B. Things fell apart when Delpo got injured. How on earth do you replace Del potro by Chucho? for starters he is not in the best shape physically to throw the burden of saving the final on him and he is not in the best shape mentally either, he lost the do-or-die rubber against Russia and that must've left a mental scar that sure came back haunting him. Mancini should've considered the possibility of having his #1 player injured/fatigued and should've prepared himself with a proper replacement.
I don't know why are we bringing up the choice of surface again now, Nalby prefered Cordoba for whatever reason so what? there was a fuss about it at first, so what? at the end of the day He showed up at Mar del Plata, he won his singles rubber and other failed to do so. End of story.
The blame should be on all of the players and the captain. They failed together as a team while Spain succeded together as a team.

Posted by linex 11/25/2008 at 09:12 AM


You are welcome. I do my best to keep you informed about news in Argentina even if sometimes the news does not favour my favourite player ...

Interestingly enough, 95% of the people who replied to Pete´s article on Espn blaming Nalbandian for the defeat disagree with him.

Funny some say, what a pity that Nalbandian did not take the back seat and allow Coria and Gaudio to to the job. With all my respects to Coria, one thing is true, Nalbi has always been committed to Davis Cup and has always looked for the same motiviation from his colleagues. Their colleagues of course have the right to chose their own priorites. Many top players don´t have davis cup as a priority. Perhaps this is time for Nalbi to take the same route, problem is that from next year on Davis Cup brings ranking points ...

Posted by 11/25/2008 at 09:51 AM

thanks Bobo! your articles make me laugh! In Spain we "love" you!

Posted by Naydal 11/25/2008 at 10:15 AM

"Feliciano Lopez, an ATP journeyman"

I guess we're redefining journeyman. To me, Vince Spadea is a journeyman...Lopez is a "top player" or "top 50 player" if you prefer. Also, the Nalbandian attacks have to end. You can pin this one just as much on Del Potro as on Nalbandian. Del Potro has played enough big matches that he should be expected to handle the pressure.

Posted by Annie 11/25/2008 at 10:38 AM

I hope everyone has gone back to read the open letter to Peter by Matt Wodzinski. very strong worded critiscism of his article about nalby posted at
calls for his head on a chopping block and worse. For me i like bodo's writing and think he's fair and balanced. his previous article selected Feli to examine and really gave that player something to chew on. it even may have contributed to his fine play during the finals. Hope he does the same for Ferru. I think Pete is well within his rights as a commentator (not a news reporter) to voice his opinion. he had positive things to say about delpo and it looks like everyone but Nalby thought it completely appropriate for him to go the shanghai. Rafa would have done both if he had been healthy, that's for sure. Had delp not become injured he probably would have won at least one of his matches. And i don't care how you sugarcoat it, to rag on your partner after a close call (nalby with calleri) is just plain tacky.

btw my surgery went fine i'm just sitting home in quite a bit of pain with only tennis posters for company!

Posted by MMT 11/25/2008 at 10:40 AM

Naydal said "You can pin this one just as much on Del Potro as on Nalbandian."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Nalbandian win his rubber in straight sets? I think all this talk of discord and team spirit is rubbish. Nalbo won his singles rubber, and gave it his best in the doubles. If anyone is to blame for the loss it's del Potro and Acasuso.

What's Nalbo supposed to do - dresss up like his teammates and win their matches for them? The more I read Bodo's article(s) and the way it skews the posts regarding Nalbandian, the more sinister and cynical I find them to be. Why should Nalbo share in the blame when he did everything he could to win the Cup?

Nalbo did what he was supposed to do - he's not at all to blame for the loss. For that matter, what about all those other Argentines who supposedly play professional tennis? Canas, Calleri, Moncaco, Chela...where were they when del Potro was supposedly "injured"? If they were worth a fraction of Nalbo's value, they would have stepped up to the plate and done the job for Argentina.

Argentina won 1 point in this tie - and that point came from Nalbandian, so why in the world should he share in any of the blame for the others on the team contributing zero points to the cause?

Posted by Annie 11/25/2008 at 10:41 AM

"strongly worded letter to Pete" geesh i'm an editor. the letter is at 3:20 am.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 11/25/2008 at 10:42 AM

Naydal, I also would have suggested a name such as Vince Spadea as the archetypal "journeyman" but then I looked up the word in my Merriam-Webster's. Here's how my dictionary defines the word:

"jour-ney-man 1: a worker who has learned a trade and works for another person usu. by the day 2: an experienced reliable worker or performer esp. as distinguished from one who is brilliant or colorful "

I think the second meaning would suggest that Lopez really does not fit the bill. He may not be a "brilliant" performer on a day-to-day basis, but he certainly has had his moments. And he is definitely a "colorful" performer. Of course, one could also argue that Spadea is a colorful performer, although I wouldn't.

Posted by linex 11/25/2008 at 11:15 AM

I think Feliciano is a 2 time Wimbledon quaterfinalist so that is far away from the journeyman definition. He is 4-6 against top tenners this season also.

Verdasco by contrast is a Roland Garros quaterfinalist.

Chucho reached the 4th round in Roland Garros, his best result in a Grand Slam.

Oh Nalbo is a semi finalist in every Grand Slam, 2 times in Roland Garros.

Posted by Gabriela Valentina 11/25/2008 at 11:27 AM

ANNIE: how good to learn that your surgery went well and that you are actually at home! are you housebound? I hope you are not in too much physical discomfort!

I have had my say in all this and will not add a word more although my fingers are itching. I have put up more stuff on feli on the other thread an interview with him and an interview with his coaches. I think at this point it is now more gainful to concentrate on the DC winners than on the defeated team. Also probably more elegant from a humane standpoint.

Posted by sonya 11/25/2008 at 11:36 AM

Annie, glad that your surgery went well.

Posted by Andrew Miller 11/25/2008 at 11:39 AM

Mr. Bodo: you suggest that the #2 is the most important player in a tie.

I think that's probably true. In the case of the U.S., their strategy tends to be to win ONE of the first two matches, WIN THE DOUBLES, and win ONE of the last two matches. If they are ever down 0-2, the U.S. would still have a shot at going up 3-2 or down 1-3 or 2-3, rather than 3-0.

In terms of surface...if the tie were based on clay it may have made more of a difference for Argentina. It seems foolish for Argentina to have planned the tie to Nalbandian's strengths and against Nadal's, rather than customized to ARGENTINA's strengths and history.

SO: Again, I have to agree with Mr. Bodo. Clay would have been fine for Nalbandian, and it would have benefitted other Argentines in need of some redemption - Guillermo Canas, maybe even Acasuso.

Everything BACKFIRED on Argentina - everything - because this was geared toward a "player's preferences" and a few assumptions, rather than towards Murphy's law: everything that can happen, will happen. Clay would have thrown in some doubt and would have made Verdasco and Lopez less effective. The Argentines LOVE clay as much as Spain, and chances are they would have had a better chance to

RISE TO THE OCCASION on the dirt of the motherland, rather than perish on the decoturf from some far away land.

All I can say is...stupid choices from Argentina. I think this is an enormous upset - especially without Nadal or Robredo in Spain.

Also, I think it is quite something that fortune favored a team that has been working hard in Davis Cup all year - Lopez and Verdasco. I don't think they were great doubles players, just friends with a feel for hard courts because of Spain's changing surfaces - Spain has more hardcourts than in the past, and the Spaniards play well on everything now, even grass. With the right set of circumstances, those two players made a difference. Unbelievable, but they won all of Spain's matches.

An unlikely pair of lefties from Spain win the davis cup. Who would have predicted that?

Posted by Carrie 11/25/2008 at 11:58 AM

MMT- I agree that the blame game is getting out of hand. But I don't know why one should question the worth of the other players who did not play.

Chela was doing something silly like recovering from surgery and getting married. He has not been active for a while and hopes to return next year.

Monaco was not called up to play. I happen to think that he could have been a good choice- in particular for doubles. He has not had great luck in singles this year since he injured his ankle horribly in a match in Vina del Mar and then contracted pnemonia. But he has had a pretty solid doubles year. He was not called to play- but how is that fault? He did not make himself unavailable- he was not asked.

Same with Canas- he was not asked. It was not a case of his refusing to help.

Posted by Pete 11/25/2008 at 11:59 AM

Hey everyone, just to let you know I'm having getting my new post up on Typepad, but it's in the pipeline.

Also, I want to note that I focused this post on what I felt was the most resonant and outstanding feature of the DC weekend. It would have been nice to write more praise of the Spanish effort, but I feel my job is to write the most germane analysis, not merely to acknowledge the winner or mourn the loser. I also think I did Spain justice all the way up to the tie, incessantly urging that nobody rush to give Argentina the cup. Argentina losing this tie was a much bigger story in my mind than Spain winning another one - even without Nadal, and a couple of guys rising to hero status. They didn't need me to break down why they prevailed - it was kind of self-evident, and touched upon in the post.

Anyway, on to fight other battles!

Posted by Pete 11/25/2008 at 12:00 PM

And PS to Annie - glad the surgery went well, welcome home!

Posted by Annie 11/25/2008 at 12:17 PM

aaww thanks pete, thanks everyone!

Posted by MMT 11/25/2008 at 12:20 PM

Gabriela Valentina said: "On paper Del Potro is better than Feli. Delpo should have won that match. Why did the Argie doubles team lose?"

I find it hilarious that Bodo lays the blame at Nalbandian's feet for not winning the doubles (as if it were Canadian doubles) and say nothing of Calleri, or del Potro and Acasuso's failures in singles.

It's true that JMdP is ranked higher than Lopez, but Lopez played very well, and in tennis anything is possible. The problem for JMdP was that he had no plan B against a great strategy from Lopez. He kept the ball in play on his backhand, unloaded on his forehand when he had the chance, attacked the net at every chance, and served out of his mind. JMdP hit hard and kept trying to hit harder and that's it. No plan B, so he lost.

As for the doubles - Nalbandian and Calleri had the advantage, but they came up short as Verdasco and Lopez improved. Of the four on court, the best volleyer is Lopez, followed by Nalbandian. The key was Verdasco's power on his groundstrokes - he made it really difficult form the Argentines to control the net, and that's always the difference in doubles.

Don't believe the non-sense about Nalbo and Canas - Mancini chose what he thought was his best option and fought hard, but they came up short to a better pair.

As for Acasuso - why did Mancini select him at all? He had to know he would only be used in a decisive rubber, and given his failure in Russia, he really had a lot to overcome mentally, never mind technically with Verdasco. Chucho made too many unforced errors - why? Because he's one dimensional, and was unable to put Verdasco under pressure by coming to net. When you have to finish points from the baseline, and you're already nervous, it's hard to keep the ball in the court.

Basically Mancini had two (del Potro and Acasuso) players who are so one-dimensional, whereas Sanchez had players who can do different things. Verdasco didn't have so many winners, as errors from Acasuso - because he changed his strategy and kept the ball in play, and let the guy self-destruct. Chucho should have put Verdasco under pressure by attacking, but he doesn't have that in his arsenal.

In the end, Argentina didn't have a lot of options, and the options they did have didn't get the job done. They didn't lose because (Nalbandian) lost the doubles - that was just one match, and it is ridiculous to hold him responsible for the entire result - he is one of two players.

But how can Bodo blame Nalbo when he is the only one to win a point? How can he blame Nalbo for the doubles loss when he is only one of two in the team? And how can he blame del Potro's lack of motivation on Nalbo? This is absurd - is he also supposed to be a psychologist and motivate him? Why does he need motivation? This is the Davis Cup final, for god's sake; and anyway, why is that Nalbo's problem?

Nalbo's only crime was to want the Davis Cup more than anyone on his team - and for this he is castigated by Bodo. That's ridiculous. If anything he should question del Potro's pitiful effort. If del Potro was injured, he shouldn't have played. He did, and he lost, you don't get credit for trying - and if you get credit for trying, you should certainly get credit for DOING, as did Nalbandian, but no such logic from Bodo.

This article, and the other one at ESPN were ridiculously biased against Nalbandian. I have a feeling he's trying to pump up the importance of this "team leader" non-sense to give extra credit to Roddick for being so called "team leader" of the US. It's absurd. Every man is responsible for his own results, and after 30 years, Bodo should know this.

If a player fails to be motivated that's not the fault of his teammate. If a player fails to be resourceful and go to a plan B, when hitting as hard as you can doesn't work, that's not his teammate's fault. And if a captain can only choose from a wounded or unmotivated (whatever excuse you want to come up with for del Potro) or a player with a wounded heart (Acasuso), again that is not Nalbandian's problem.

This is beyond ridiculous from Bodo, and he should really come clean and admit that this article, and the other one at ESPN are just hack jobs against Nalbandian.

Posted by Sher 11/25/2008 at 12:26 PM

MMT, I'm curious,

>I find it hilarious that Bodo lays the blame at Nalbandian's feet for not winning the doubles (as if it were Canadian doubles)

What do you mean by 'as if it were Canadian doubles', exactly?

Posted by Sher 11/25/2008 at 12:31 PM

>open letter to Peter by Matt Wodzinski

don't see it anywhere

Posted by Master Ace 11/25/2008 at 12:33 PM

Look at 3:20 AM post for letter

Posted by Gabriela Valentina 11/25/2008 at 12:38 PM

MMT: you took my quote out of context. That came from a post directed to rg nadal telling him why I always thought Argentina was going to win(he had just posted me why he had always thought Spain would)

I'm not sure why you have included it in your post.

I don't want to be a part of any more of this. You might have taken another of my quotes,for instance:

"Argentina could have done everything right and still have lost"

This is a game for effing C's sake!! Someone has to win and someone has to lose and the post mortems are going beyond what is entertaining and/or useful.
I don't think Pete went out of bounds; his post was legitimate but I wish everybody would get off the Argie's backs already and leave this alone.

Posted by Sher 11/25/2008 at 12:39 PM

Ah, thanks Master Ace.

Having read this open letter, I particularly look forward to the day tennis players sue newspapers for writing criticism about them.

Posted by MMT 11/25/2008 at 12:41 PM

Sher: Are you Canadian - if so, please accept my apologies - I mean no disrespect. "Canadian" doubles is an expression we use here in the US to describe two-players playing against one. I'm sure if I did my research I'd find the term had it roots in something derogatory, but it was not intended this way at all. But that's all I meant.

Posted by 11/25/2008 at 12:46 PM

And i don't care how you sugarcoat it, to rag on your partner after a close call (nalby with calleri) is just plain tacky.

Yes but is Nalbandian's incident with Calleri anything more than inneundo? Some reports say that it was Nalbandian and Del Potro that were fighting, with Calleri stepping in to stop them.

From Peter:

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.

That link does not suggest what Peter is saying it suggests.

Posted by MMT 11/25/2008 at 12:47 PM

Sorry Gabriela Valentina - I thought this was a question directed to me. I only used it to point out that it was a GOOD question that BODO should be asking and answering, instead of trying to blame everything on Nalbo, which I find absurd.

Posted by Gabriela Valentina 11/25/2008 at 01:00 PM

MMT: oh that's ok I know I did address a post to you or posted about something you said(I thought you had a valid point) but it is simply that I don't want to go where all of this is heading;it's too divisive and after a passionate DC like this one,emotions run high and people say things they ordinarily wouldn't...


Posted by MMT 11/25/2008 at 01:01 PM

Carrie: You make a good point - in my zeal to expose the hypocrisy of Bodo's attacks on Nalbandian, I jumped the gun on these other players. I just think it's absurd to blame Nalbandian for the loss, when he won his singles rubber. If anyone is to blame for the TEAM loss is the members of the team that DIDN'T contribute, not the ONE who DID! And so, I pointed out that the team consists of a lot of players who did a hell of a lot less than Nalbandian, so why on earth is he the scapegoat?

But you're right - you can't contribute if you're injured and/or not selected.

Posted by Annie 11/25/2008 at 01:02 PM

NP: what's this 5th Golden Slam youve claimed? i have to rest check in later. ciao

vamos spain ole o le ole!

Posted by Levon 11/25/2008 at 01:09 PM

Argentina team needs a coach like Tarpishev(Russian Coach). They could have now two Davis Cups.All year Nalbandian plays doubles with other playaers, including Acasuso. Naldandian-Acasuso, or Nalnandian- Canas had much more chances to win the doubles( it was a key point).

Posted by Annie 11/25/2008 at 01:20 PM

headless at 12:46 : i was qoing from infor provided in the 6th para of pete's piece. seems like more than innuendo and i really didn't care who nalby was scuffling with but that there was a scuffle at all. that's what i think is uncalled for. sharp words maybe in the heat of the moment? put getting physical is overthe top in my book.

GV: i'm okay with spending some time coming to pete's defense in this case though you're right, it's but a game, but a game which invokes so much passion from fan and player alike, no?

Posted by Arun 11/25/2008 at 01:41 PM

Annie: Glad that the surgery went well and I hope the pain subsides soon.

Posted by † Hallelujah 11/25/2008 at 01:41 PM

Scapegoating Nalbie (who won his match in straights) is a sick perversion of the reality. The critical loss was Del Potro's to Lopez - anyone without an irrational vendetta can see that. From reading your posts it's clear you've never liked the guy and are now writing him in as the villain of the piece, which leads me to ask:

where are the WMDs?

Posted by jewell 11/25/2008 at 01:48 PM

Annie: good to hear surgery went ok and hope you are better as quickly as possible.

Posted by Well Left 11/25/2008 at 01:55 PM

Hey Levon,
You're not being fair to Calleri. Nalby couldn't return anything from Lopez or Verdasco in the doubles. He similarly choked against the Russians, too (in the SF tie), with Kunitsyn spinning in 80 mph serves for the last 3 sets. A team cannot win Davis Cup without that doubles point, unless they have two clearly superior singles players. Del Potro won the SF for Argentina.
In the final, playing Nalby at doubles weakened their chances to win the cup, in my view.

Posted by Annie 11/25/2008 at 01:59 PM

thanks jewell and arun.
hallelujah, who is scapegoating nalby? we're just responding to things in pete's article. oh dont sense a vendetta at all. we feel bad for nalby and all the argies, especially chucho. it's just too bad the argies weren't as together as a team. it certainly would have helped them.

Posted by Sher 11/25/2008 at 02:23 PM

MMT, no offense taken; just with Nestor in the top doubles team I was wondering what you meant.

Posted by Ruth 11/25/2008 at 02:43 PM

It is always pleasant to see that, after all the shouting that immediately follows a major event, there is a calm during which some plain and simple points can be made.

For example,especially after Nadal pulled out of the tie, most people expected that Nalbandian would win two singles points for Argentina. He won one and didn't have the chance to play his second singles rubber.

Those who thought that Argentina could/would win assumed that the Argies would get their 3rd point from one of JMDP's rubbers. JMDP lost his only rubber.

Nalbandian was the only player to win a rubber in straight sets. All other rubbers went to 4 or 5 sets and featured several 7-5 and TB sets. In other words, the other rubbers were quite close.

Most people assumed that Verdasco and Lopez would win their doubles rubber over any combination that Argentina could put together. And why not? They have played more doubles together than any other possible pair on either coutnry's team. On the ATP doubles ranking list (they are #14), they are preceded mainly by doubles "specialists" and teams who make a large percentage of their income playing doubles matches. So, why should we be shocked that they beat Nalbandian and Callieri?

And so on and so on and so on. :)

Maybe, if we look at the facts staring us in the face instead of the rumors about what went on behind the scenes, we could understand what happened and, perhaps, lay off the speculation and blame games which, though entertaining, are not very helpful and not really revealing.

Posted by NDMS 11/25/2008 at 02:58 PM

Wow! The comment section has ballooned overnight. Interesting read. Thank you all for arguing what you believe.

Even as I get enlightened with all kinds of views, I still stick with my original assessment.

Argentina myopic plan was a Nalbandian-Del Potro show or a Del Potro-Nalbandian show depending on who clinches the tie by winning two singles. Calleri and Acasuso as veterans of DC were not chosen as match-ready, clutch substitutes for the stars. They were to play the throwaway doubles rubber and show up on coronation day. But the UNTHINKABLE happened: Del Potro couldn't win one rubber and got injured.

Spain's Lopez/Verdasco were not prepared to lose and found a way to win no matter what was going on across the net, in the stands, in the locker room, etc.

Posted by MMT 11/25/2008 at 03:11 PM

And that's the TRUTH, RUTH! Sing it, sister!

Posted by linex 11/25/2008 at 03:16 PM

I agree with Ruth.

And I already said this in other posts, at the end of the day the issue in this tie is that 2 single points that were supposed to be won (the 2 single matches that Del Potro was supposed to win) were lost.

The doubles point was the only point where Argentina was never the favourite (for evidence take a look at Steve´s predictions) or at the ranking for doubles of each player.

This does not mean blaming Del Potro. It is Mancini who has the obligation to chose fit players and fit substitutes in case the player gets injured. Of course, Mancini is not a magician, and Spain has more depth, but Argentina has 2 fit and young players in Monaco and Shwank, perhaps one of them deserved a spot in the team.

Even if the rumours story are interesting, even if Nalbandian had economic interests behind the selection of Cordoba as a venue, even if Nalbandian is jelaous of Del Potro, Nalbandian usually delivers points for Argentina in the court, and is by far the most talented Argentine player. If he is or not a perfect human being it is not my issue. I like his tennis, I like the fact that he is able to beat top players when he is fit and focused as none other argentine player has done in recent years. There are players who will retire without beating Nadal and Roger, then there are players like Gilles Simon, David Nalbandian and Andy Murray who can proudly say that they defeated the three best ranked players.

And Pete be proud: Blake and Andy achieved the feat only that they defeated Roger less numerous times and in less relevant occassions than David Nalbandian.

Posted by MMT 11/25/2008 at 04:04 PM

Pete: "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."

I really can't believe what I'm reading - it's Nalbo's fault if del Potro is so SELFISH that he won't go to the mat for his COUNTRY? Screw 40M people because you're jealous of one? And that's Nalbo's problem?

In what alternate universe does this speak to anything other than del Potro's selfishness? If the Argentines love Nalbo, it's because he's played 6 years straight without hesitation, and has won 17 singles rubbers (vs. 4 lost) and 10 doubles wins (vs. 5 lost) - if del Potro can't see past HIS jealousy of Nalbandian, how is that anyone else's problem?

This is positively absurd, and if the tables were turned, you'd be calling Nalbo selfish for not going all in at the risk of aggrandizing del Potro. This is a joke.

If del Potro were your son, and he told you he tanked because he just didn't feel like giving it everything in the tank for his country, would you pat him on the head, or smack him upside it?

Your blatant double-standard and bias against Nalbandian may have fooled others in to running with this absurd story about team discord, but you can't change the facts. Nalbo won his rubber, and del Potro lost his. Whatever the reason, you can't blame Nalbo for del Potro not coming through in the clutch, unless of course you've got it in for Nalbo.

Even McEnroe, who admitted in "Serious" that he tanked the 1984 Davis Cup final in Sweden just to screw Connors out of a Davis Cup, did so with SHAME, because he is responsible for his own selfish, bitter pettiness and the consequences, NOT Connors. That Connors is/was a jerk is universally accepted, and has nothing to do with McEnroe tanking. If McEnroe tanked, he alone is responsible for that, not Connors.

And how on earth can anyone fall for this gossip column non-sense? Are you all blind, or just lemmings? It's all pure telenovella speculation, and even if it's true, what does that have to do with keeping the ball between the lines? Playing with honor for your country? Neither del Potro nor Acasuso had what it took to bring the DC to Argentina, and that has absolutely nothing to do with Nalbandian.

Jeez Louise...

Posted by Carrie 11/25/2008 at 04:16 PM

MMT- How do you know that JMdP did not try.? Perhaps Pete was quick to judge Nalbandian. But I never agreed with him in the assertion that JMdP was not trying an did not care. He certainly looked like he cared when he was out there on Friday.

I don't quite see where there is this evidence that JMdP refused to play and try because he can't see past his jealousy of Nalby. In your quickness to defend Nalandian which is understandable- I feel that you are maybe quick to then bash JMdP for something that has not been proven. Where is the proof that he did not want to try and did not care?

I agree that JMdP can be blamed for not winning the match against (imo) a player who has good talent on the surface. But I can't blame him for being a selfish person who is filled with jealousy and faked an injury in an attempt to refuse to play. There is no proof of that in my eyes. He is 4-2 in Davis Cup at the age of 20. He clinched the semis for Argentina. So I think while it may be unfair to paint Nalby as the cause for all that went wrong- I also think it is a little unfair to paint JMdP as someone who did anything beyond fail to win a tennis match.

Posted by Carrie 11/25/2008 at 04:27 PM


I would like to add that I do think something that would help Argentina is to have a more congenial team atmosphere. You saw it in the semis- and I don't quite think that it should disintegrate when a match is lost. Not every tie is done in three rubbers- and there can be upsets in a DC rubber. But it would be good for Argentina to learn how to come back from that without tearing each other apart. That's not saying that I feel one player or another is wholely responsible for a loss. But accusations, etc. do not help with a team atmosphere- in fact it can be poison.

Look at Spain for an example of great support that they give to each other. They did that in 2004 and they did it again this year. A player may lose- there may be an upset- it does not mean that the team needs to fall apart.

Posted by MMT 11/25/2008 at 04:39 PM

With respect Carrie, I believe I've overstated my point.

My point was that Bodo cannot logically blame Nalbo for Argentina's loss EVEN IF all of the allegations against him (and the laboriously derived conclusions about the impact on del Potro) are true. The blame would still fall on those who DIDN'T win points in the tie, and NOT he who DID!

Maybe Bodo is a malevolent genius - I mean the only way to refute his preposterous opinion, is to enter into an even sillier stream of (il)logic to refute it. If so, congratulations're a sinister genius.

But for him to do so at Nalbo's expense is, in my view, intellectually dishonest, disrespectful to a man who's only crime is to love his country and want to win the Davis Cup for it (which Bodo has construes as virtue in Roddick, but somehow as evidence of egocentrism in Nalbandian), and most importantly, ABSOLVING all the other members of the Argentine DC team (players and coaches alike) for their failures in the tie.

At worst, Nalbo's a half up for winning the singles and losing (with Calleri, which Bodo conveniently ignores) the doubles.

The rest of the team is a combined 2 1/2 down, and that's why they lost the cup. Not any of this other non-sense about Nalbandian.

Posted by MMT 11/25/2008 at 04:45 PM

Carrie: BTW - I didn't say del Potro wasn't motivated, BODO did. I agree, del Potro looked like he was trying to me, but Bodo claims he was not sufficiently motivated due to all the extra-curriculars, and my point is only that Nalbo is not responsibile for del Potro motivation, so Bodo's really grasping at straws and going out of his way to stick it to Nalbandian by claiming the loss of the entire team was HIS fault.

Posted by † Hallelujah 11/25/2008 at 04:48 PM

this 'story' has as much value to it as credit-default swaps. And we all know they aint worth spit.

The direction of this post seeks to spin the tangible on-court performances (Del-Potro's pivotal loss) and turn into a skeezy daytime soap opera, with an ego-maniacal Nalbandian as the villain of the piece.

Next up, 'Calleri sex Tape Scandal Costs Argentina Davis Cup.'

Posted by Carrie 11/25/2008 at 04:57 PM

MMT- thanks for the clarification.

I do agree that Nalby is not responsible for delPo's motivation and is not an evil entity who is the sole reason for the loss. . One thing that he could maybe have control over in the future is helping to shape a better team environment. All players can play the part in that of course- but I do feel that is something they need to work on. I do feel a good team environment can be beneficial.

Posted by Carrie 11/25/2008 at 04:58 PM

Hallelujah- hmmm....interesting upcoming scandal. I must confess if it is Pico who is caught in such a scandal- I may need to get a copy of that tape.

Posted by Ruth 11/25/2008 at 05:45 PM

MMT: I posted from work earlier, and just got home and saw your 3:11. LOL

Thanks, linex, for your added comments at 3:16.

Let me add that I specifically mentioned the closeness of the three rubbers won by Spain because I'd seen words like "massacre" and "debacle" used to describe the tie. And it made me think, "Say whaaaat?" This is not exactly a 5-0 (or even 4-1) victory with 2 or 3 straight-set whippings by the victors.

Posted by † Hallelujah 11/25/2008 at 05:50 PM

slight a tangent, but it's relevant imo - Personal biases are rife in journalism. If we hadn't seen the matches ourselves and didn't know those pesky sidenotes called the scores, relying entirely on Bodo's musings, how many of us would think Andy Roddick was the best player of his generation? *Raises hand, looks around* Peter Bodo's never liked Nalbandian as clearly evidenced by his ceaseless attempts to paint him as a seething misanthrope with horn-like bulges on his head. How else can you explain this reasoning:

DN wins in straights + Del Potro loses + DN/Calleri lose doubles = it's Nalbie's fault?

Posted by tommy 11/25/2008 at 06:05 PM

You expect a writer and posters on a blog to be biased.
Last spring Bodo called Henin a mouse and Serena the cat. Justine was about to win a major for the 5th straight year. Serena hasn't won a major with Justine in the draw since 2003. Then the mouse beat the cat in 3 straight majors. And finished the year as a dominant #1.

Posted by lightforce101 11/25/2008 at 06:25 PM

MMT, ruth I'm with you on this. You make valid points.

It's one thing to make a commentary or "germaine analysis" as Mr Bodo puts it, about the DC and nalby, but to make disparaging remarks to a specific player the way that he did, makes me think that there is some sort of grudge there somewhere. Is it payback time? Just an inquisitive mind asking.

Posted by linex 11/25/2008 at 06:56 PM


Come back the story has gotten a little more objective with all the brainstorming we have done today.

Even if Nalbi is the devil, and in spite of the fact Delpo could assist in the coronation of the devil, Del Potro like his teammates were also obliged to play for their personal glory, pockets, and country, none of the defeats were explained by that. If they chose revenge as a motivation, it was at their own peril, and not a very altruistic motive.

And everyone in Argentina press, public, playes, former players are responsible for this Gossip Center that has been built around the defeat. If the result would have been a victory probably the underlying issues would have been hidden.

Probably, some of the gossip could be true, but everyone there bears a share of responsability.

Posted by Pat Kernan 11/25/2008 at 06:56 PM

Why blame anybody? One team lost, one team won... they'll all try again soon: YAY!

If Nalbandian can beat Federer a few times while carrying a spare tire and a medium-size chip on his shoulder, perhaps next year he'll beat him in the final of a Major, with or without a spare tire or any fans or overdramatic journalism :]

Posted by linex 11/25/2008 at 07:37 PM

Guys for a moment of laughter:

Please take a look of the lookalikes that was done by the argentine TV show TVR.

The video shows the lookalikes between different tennis players and public people example the similarity between Martin Jaite and Paul Newman. International players like Wilander are also included in the video.

While some public characters are internationally known like the actor I mentioned before, some others are only known in Argentina, I know Bismark or any person who likes soccer knows Diego Forlan Atelitco Madrid´s main striker (former player of Villareal and Manchester United and of the uruguayan national team). Well diego who is such a nice person is the lookalike for David Nalbandian.

Pls find the video in this website:

And pls I want your comments ...

Posted by linex 11/25/2008 at 07:45 PM

The video is under the title "parecidos del tennis"

Roger´s lookalike is none other Tarantino.

Feli Lopez lookalike is the former football player Gabriel Batistuta (famous argenine player, former striker of Fiorentina in Italy´s Series A)

Posted by Aussie Angel (Willy please play better in 2009 so you can get back on the DC team) 11/25/2008 at 08:21 PM

I still think Argentina should of stuck with the four who got them through the SF. Nalbandian and Canas didn't play that bad in the doubles and they lost in five sets. You can't blame one or the other for that lost as they are a team.

Also if Canas had played he would of been the obvious choice to play against Verdasco, admittedly his results haven't been that great this year but as I have kept saying he would of left his heart and soul on the court (not that Acusaso didn't). The major factor being Canas is far fitter and I think mentally tougher than most of the Argies players and would of got through a tough five setter. He has a big serve and fh. I know the surface doesn't suit his game but if he was selected he would of been training and being surrounded in the team environment which I feel would of pulled him through.

Carrie - I would agree with Pico playing doubles. Hopefully Monaco is training hard and putting back on the muscle which he lost whilst being sick.

I can see this subject is going to keep us going until the tennis begins next year.

Posted by linex 11/25/2008 at 08:34 PM

AA Cañas lookalike is Italyan an player Camoranesi a world champion with the Italian national team ...

And yes Willy Cañas is very tough, to be honest I was there in the semifinal and when they were about to loose that doubles match it was him who lifted his level and won that tiebreak for Argentina ... and they were close to winning the match.

But rumour says Nalbandian and Cañas do not get along since that semis ... I find it odd for Cañas and Nalbi shared the same fitness team (with the exception of Nalbi´s phisio Diego Rodriguez who is at the exlusive service of David).

Posted by linex 11/25/2008 at 08:42 PM

And remember my words David Nalbandian is as proud as hell, I believe that now instead of quitting tennis, and eating choripanes in Cordoba, he will use this as a spring board to prove everyone worng in Australia ... I may be wrong but there is that strong possiblity, as soon as people declare him dead, he arrives again, with him it is just an issue of finding motivation.

The guy is as proud as it comes, as resilient as it comes, not precisely Mother Theresa, but an excellent tennis player, he does not even care what the press says, but I guess for his own sake and that for that of his sponsors he felt the need to give this press conference that he gave yesterday.

Posted by Ruth 11/25/2008 at 08:47 PM

AA: I would have liked to see Canas in the mix, too; but I have to believe that, even with Canas's dismal record (one match win since the Olympics), Mancini must have given him (and any other potential Argentine player) a look and decided that Acasuso was the best choice at the time. That is supposedly what most of the captains that do not have an almost automatic foursome do in the weeks and days leading up to the deadline for announcing the team members.

linex: That's a very good compilation of lookalikes. I even enjoyed seeing the celebs whom I don't know. :) But why did they have to pair poor Kolya with that awful THING??? :(

Posted by Nancy 11/25/2008 at 08:59 PM

This response is coming after gazillion hours so if I'm repeating somebody else's point, I apologize.

"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."

Well You did a great job piling, more than necessary. Numerous reports SUGGESTED? see, when you say suggested that gives plenty of space for doubt that this "backstory" is untrue or exaggerated on which the rest of this blasting article is based on. Why do the rest of Argentine players need Nalbandian to act like an inspirational captain? what do they need "inspiration captain" for? If playing for their country is not inspirational enough then they need some serious help. He is not their godfather, it's not his problem to fix.

"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."

Okay, so let's say he has personal interests in having DC held in Cordoba, so what the point here? how did that exactly contribute to their defeat? It ended up in Mar del Plata and he did play there and did his best in the singles and the dubs. so I really don't see the point of bringing this up now.
Regarding the instalation of surface, let me ask you this; Did he point a gun to Mancini's and other player's heads? did he tell them "Either I have it my way or you die" If they didn't like Nalby to have much control over this then why the hell did they let him in the first place? and even if Nalbandian is the teammate from hell would that prevent them from doing their best in a historical moment for their country? As far as I'm concerned, they wanted this to be their moment, then they MAKE it their moment and that's what the spanish team did against all odds.

"This became an especially important question 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."

insufficiently motivated? huh?! Again, if he wasn't motivated enough or inspired enough by this moment then that's not Nalbandian's problem. He was well aware that this is DC and this is a chance to win the first cup and make history and as the Argentine #1; millions were counting on him to seal the deal so I don't see how this was "Nalbandian's coronation". If he had some sort of psychological problem with Nalbandian then he shouldn't bring it on the court to HIS OWN match. A player can create his own moment on court instead of focusing his energy on his teammate's behaviour (I'm not saying that this how Delpo thinks/feels about it, I'm just responding to your "feelings")

"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."

What are the sources exactly? and is this the first time media blows things out of proportion? and how can we not discount this? were they in the locker room with the players? did they have hidden cameras or something? let's assume they had inside sources lurking somewhere in the background, how do we know that these sources aren't making up things just to make headlines? And why on earth is Nalbandian expected to be the leader? that's Mancini's job, if he is not doing it right then he is the one to blame. And if the team is not functioning together then they're all to blame and it's something they collectively need to work on for the future. Not everything is the universe is his fault for f***'s sake.

"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."

I'm sorry, was Nalbandian playing the dubs alone? doubles is an effort of two. I don't know why is Nalbandian being blamed for everything here. What else was he supposed to do rather than play and try his best (which he did)? and as far as I see it, they both did all they could against a formidable dubs team who had a better game and more experience on court together as a team. Sometimes you give it all and it still doesn't pay off and at the end of the day, the better team won. End of story.

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

Interesting, what do we know exactly? that he has an ego? Oh right, the ATP players are such humble bunch so he really stands out in that department...hmmm That he has personal interests? a human being who has personal interests. Oh shocking.
Wait, did you mean that we know that he is the devil? well in that case, yeah you're right. it's not so surprising.

Posted by linex 11/25/2008 at 09:02 PM

Ruth in Argentina Kolya is known as the extraterrestrial, as "the androide", as the ET, as the human machine, running from left to right always returning with deep powerful shots from both sides ...

In spite of that, the argentine crowd, even gave Kolya an ovation, once he had given David Nalbandinan his first singles defeat in Argentine soil, when he left the court.

Poor Mago Coria was paired with a victim of a kidnapping and assasination. That kid whose surname is Bloomerg is Argentina´s most famous victim.

Posted by linex 11/25/2008 at 09:08 PM

Nancy be happy at least David was paired in the lookalike department with someone universally known as nice and an excellent teammate DIEGO FORLAN.

Posted by Nancy 11/25/2008 at 09:14 PM

Sorry Linex, this has been bugging me since yesterday but I was too shocked to write anything so I needed to let it off my chest now. That's all.

Posted by jb (is it tennis yet?) 11/25/2008 at 09:19 PM

*hugs nancy - though she may be too ticked off to accept it*

but FWIW, i'm not thinking this is a nalby 'defeat' here. the guy has an amazing game, and multipe interests outside of tennis. the one thing he absolutely, bar none, hands down, running out of cliches for, be depended on for is his support of davis cup. year in, year out. no matter who else is taking the court with him, he's in. vested. and playing for his country.

the speculation the jmdp was 'unmotivated' is a crock of crap, imo. the guy was pumped about 2 things yr end, the masters cup and davis cup.

the weekend played out the way it did, you can't second things. what could / would have happened if jmdp played ferru, w/ daveed taking on f-lo? would ferru have played better? would jmdp been able to take him? would his injury not have happened? and perhaps daveed may have takend down feliciano, and with 2 points going into the dubs, perhaps chucho and calleri would have played, instead of daveed and calleri.

there's too many things to look at that may have effected the outcome. dunno, to point at one player or another and say 'yes, that was it' is pointless, imo.

Posted by linex 11/25/2008 at 09:35 PM

I know how you feel, so pls Nancy take a look at that video, it will be a fresh break for you.

I can still picture David Nalbandian singing ARGENTINA ARGENTINA ARGENTINA immediately after defeating Ferrer, it was his shout of war, it was his most genunine moment during all this tie, apart from some of his customary brilliant return of serves.

Posted by Annie 11/25/2008 at 09:42 PM

Hi folks, i just reread pete's piece and have to say boy he seems to have it in for nalbandian. For pete's sake i hope he doesn't run into him in a dark hallway.
MMT: your posts have been excellent. i couldnt have said it better. in fact i couldn't have said it half as well as you.

p.s. modern medicine is amazing. yesterday i was knocked out, sliced and diced, sewn up and was home in 5 hours. minus one bursa. :) thanks for all the good wishes.

Posted by Annie 11/25/2008 at 09:43 PM

I'm hopping over to master ace's thread! congrats to him!

Posted by Ruth 11/25/2008 at 10:28 PM

Nancy: I'm glad that you returned and had your say. If you read my comments, you realize that I am just as baffled as you are by the blame and recriminations that are being brought down on Nalbandian.

I am just a tennis and Davis Cup lover, not an expert, and I know of numerous times when there was major dissension among the ranks of players on the same team. I particularly remember the Arthur Ashe and JMac problems when Ashe was captain of the USA team. And Pete himself mentioned others. These difficulties have been discussed in tennis books written long after the incidents occurred. But I cannot remember any player ever suggesting that jealousy of or resentment toward another player made him play worse than he would normally have played.

And I am darn sure that, even if the stories of the problems with Nalby are true, there is no way that JMDP or Calleri or any Argentine player gave or would have given any less than his best during his DC matches. That would not be the Davis Cup spirit as I have always known it to be.

Posted by Alistair 11/25/2008 at 11:51 PM

What nonsense from Bozo, he was going to blame Nalbandian if Argentina lost no matter how the tie played out. He builds supposition upon supposition to hold Nalbandian responsible for the loss (hiding cowardly behind such copouts as “We’re dealing in intangibles here, I’ll be the first to acknowledge it”) when ultimately and objectively Argentina lost because Del Potro and Acasuso floundered under the pressure. Bozo needs to do a lot better if he’s going to make the case they failed because of Nalbandian. But hey, why let clear thinking get in the way of an embittered preconception?

Posted by Sher 11/26/2008 at 12:24 AM

Hey Nancy, I think there's some sort of a compromise between the position people who blame Nalbandian for it all are taking and the one where he's not responsible at all. In my eyes, he is a little bit responsible as a team member, and a little bit more than a person like del Potro who is younger and not in such a position of authority on the team. It's all these intangibles that add up to one person who is more in charge or more visible getting more of the blame or more of the praise. However, I'm sorry that you are upset. I know it's a tough time right now. One thing I'm 100% positive on is that this isn't going to stop him from trying his best next time, and I admire that a lot.

Posted by ILR 11/26/2008 at 05:38 AM

The thing is that Nalbo has been inhumanly committed to Davis Cup in a manner completely unheard of in Argentina. During this decade, there have been other great players spearheaded by Coria and Gaudio who've been fiddling in and out of the DC lineup, pouting for a extended periods after a bad tie, etc. The only constant has been Fat Dave who's never failed to skip a tournament in the preceding week to focus completely on the DC tie. In 2006 when he did the Masters-DC final combo there was a week between them. No matter what kind of financial incentives of gift-cards to Rosario's brothels he gets in return, that kind of loyalty is genuine.

From what I gather, Davis Cup has been one of his main career goals, comparable to Grand Slams. And this is where we run into the problem of the last weekend. I can't imagine any way that Nalbandian did not grill Del Potro very harshly after his loss to Lopez. "How could you go to Shanghai like this, don't you know what's important? etc." There are better and worse ways to tear into someone and I'm certain that Nalbandian took one of the worse ones, that's the kind of guy he seems to be.

There he was, in front of an adoring home crowd, ready to reap the fruits of eight years of commitment to DC, the focal point of his team, but the wheels were starting to fall off. Surrounded once again by willing and compentent support players who were unable to overcome their nerves, the grand prize eluded the big man.

One thing that has not been emphasized enough is Nalbandian's lacklustre sequence of points in the doubles 3rd set tiebreak. Coming back from 1-5 to lead the set 5-1 in the tiebreak, he shanked an easy volley, doublefaulted, and made one other unforced error. That was the turning point of that particular rubber: Nalbandian had it on his own racquet and blew the chance.

Of the three lost matches, I consider Argentina to have had a legitimate change to win in two of them. The doubles was discussed in the last paragraph and a five-setter is always a five-setter, especially as Verdasco was playing VERY nervous for practically the whole match. In case of a fifth rubber, I'd expect Nalbo to beat Lopez in three out of four times in conditions like these.

About the player selections, Monaco has been as horrid as Calleri and Acasuso this indoor season, Cañas worse than that, and Chela completely non-existent. The selection that could have made a difference was Lucas Arnold as a doubles specialist and I'm curious why Mancini hasn't selected him in ages. The last time I remember Arnold in DC was from year 2005 or so where he was replaced in the doubles by Mariano Puerta or some other wildcard. They won the match but even at the time the decision was quite odd.

Within the Argie DC team, Fat Dave has always been liked and they generally have had a coherent enough team apart from the short-lived Gaudio-Coria phase. Even as the biggest star, he's out there training, playing and joking with the other guys unlike for example the clique-riddled French team or the hideously underperforming Nicolas Kiefer-led German teams. As a spirit-building leader, Nalbandian is nowhere as successful as Ivan Ljubicic for example, but even during Croatia's miracle run in 2005, they got no live points from Ancic until the final and even then his opponent was Mighty Michal Mertinak.

So, to summarize, Nalbandian can't be directly blamed for any losses he did not participate in, but I think it's reasonable to assume that he didn't exactly inspire the ideal sort of confidence in his teammates during this final. I also don't think that there's anything between him and Calleri. Those guys seem to get along mighty fine and their body language was completely normal in the fourth rubber sitting in the sidelines. Some things may have been said in the heat of the moment but that's likely as far as it goes.

Posted by jan 11/26/2008 at 08:42 AM

It is easy to pour salt in the wounds of the injured, a primitive instinct that Bodo has loads of. But further analysis reveals that Del Potro, may not have possessed the 'sheer toughness' that he is quickly credited with. Not seasoned enough, he panicked at the prospect of losing the fourth as he couldn't find the belief to last and pull out a fifth. He may be physically strong, but has not been tested in five set Grand Slam matches, or its equivalent, potential five set matches in Davis Cup Finals. The tie may have turned at that moment. Converse to his predictions, Potro was 'not what the doctor ordered"! But Bodo is conveniently quiet on that, or too busy enjoying the overkill.
Strategically, Nadal or no Nadal, why choose hard courts when your depth is cut, and you were probably not going to win two points from Nadal anyway.
It is not any individual's fault, but please spare us the Roddick example of leadership; the Byran's top play is not the result of anyone else's leadership, it is in fact the 'free point' that has brought the US team through, over and over, which Roddick is so fortunate to benefit from. Nalbandian does not have the good fortune of having a first class doubles team to pull the point out of the fire. When the great two man pairing of Kafelnekov and Safin tried to win the Cup, they could not do it on their own, (w/ no doubles specialists), they had to go to a totally inexperienced backup man, Youzhny. Mancini also needed to work more strategy into his plan. There was no Plan B, they felt it was inevitable!

Posted by MMT 11/26/2008 at 08:51 AM

"But I cannot remember any player ever suggesting that jealousy of or resentment toward another player made him play worse than he would normally have played."

There is one example - 1984, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors are playing Davis Cup for the US, and they are in the final against Sweden in Sweden. Connors bagged his opening match against Wilander, and McEnroe was playing Henrik Sundstrom, and somewhere during the match, the sight of Connors cheering him on created such resentment in McEnroe that he tanked the rest of the match just to spite him. He admitted as much in his book. But I still say that's not Connors fault. That's McEnroe's problem, just as it would have been were it the case with del Potro.

Posted by Nancy 11/26/2008 at 08:58 AM

Sher - I didn't say he is not responsible at all, he takes PART of the blame but this article portrays him as the devil who single handedly ruined Argentina's chances by his ego or personal interests or by hypnotizing his teammates, damaging their psyches and destroying their motivation . They failed COLLECTIVELY as a team so why the hell are we puting the weigh of the world on his shoulders?
This whole article is based on assumptions, allegations and some mystery "sources" so I'll not react reasonably to this non-sense. This is just pure bashing and kicking a man when he is down and that just pissed me off.

Posted by Ross 11/26/2008 at 09:01 AM

It's more than fair to blame Nalbandian for the off-the-court incidences (selfishness, lack of leadership, **fighting in the locker room**). However, it's nothing short of absurd to grill him for the doubles loss. Quite frankly, I expected Verdasco and Lopez to win in straights. They regularly play with each other on the tour and are both ranked within the top 50. Nalbandian hasn't played with Calleri since 2006 Davis Cup, and he's far from a proficient doubles player. Faulting Nalbandian for not being able to pull off a very improbably upset is utterly ridiculous.

Posted by Vie 11/26/2008 at 09:05 AM

Good posts ILR, jan, Nancy.

Posted by linex 11/26/2008 at 09:13 AM

Clearly there was no plan B in Argenina. The idea was to win at least 3 single matches, the doubles always was a point that Argentina could expect to lose.

And I agree that Arnold could have been a clever selection he has plenty of chemistry with Nalbi for historical and present reasons and they had decent results during this indoor season.

Nalbi confessed in his press conference that he made Mancini the suggestion to chose Arnold but that Mancini did not accept his proposal. Mancini likes to play with singles players in case someone gets injured.

Posted by linex 11/26/2008 at 09:32 AM

Sorry for this one Pete,

You already know that since a couple of years I am a regular of your Site and that I try to be fair, objective, well mannered but why not passionate ... if not no one would enjoy reading any post of mine.

You have woken up my soccer-southamerican-spirit. While I am uruguayan, I always felt for Argentine sport, uruguayans feel sport the same was as the argentineans, and as them we have talented sportmen:

I was wondering if your anti-argentine spirit makes you part of those who say Manu Ginobli does not deserve to be one of the all stars in the annual NBA event because he is not part of the starting lineup of the Spurs ... Or one of those who criticize him for his physical game ...

I wonder if you recongnize in him leadership qualities since he is an olympic champion and a triple NBA champion with the Spurs, apart from a bronze medallist in China where he played with an injured ankle and risked the automatical renewal of his contract with the Spurs and starting the season with them.

I tell you something, from now on, just watch how the Spurs will improve in the Western conference, now that their inspiring leader is there.

It is never good to generalize, Argentina is an underdeveloped country, still there is plenty of people with intelligence, with heart and with principles. There is another group of people who might not share these same values but are still very talented and intelligent. I say David Nalbandian probably does not share some of my values and some of my background, but I know that he is extremely talented and extremely intelligent and resilient as a sports competitor. At the end of the day that is all I care that the reasons why I admire him. What he does in his private life and his policitical ideology is not my business, as I said most argentines are totally aware that he is not Mother Theresa, he openly participated in Cristina Kirshner political campaign (in an advertisement, and the presidential couple is not very popular in Argentina ... Still people who totally dislike the president, applaud David Nalbandian in Parque Roca.

Posted by Vie 11/26/2008 at 09:41 AM

Strategically, that was not such a smart plan by Mancini, to rely on 3 singles win. Consider, the doubles is pivotal in giving momentum and mental edge going into Sunday, especially if Friday was a 1-1. The doubles is one valuable point. What is the use of the 5-match format, with the doubles in the middle. The swing of who wins was cumulative.

Posted by Ross 11/26/2008 at 09:49 AM

Another quick point... Bodo is quick to peg Nalbandian as selfish for politicking for a venue close to his home, as well as a surface that best suited him rather than the team. One can easily argue that he has earned and deserved this right. ILR correctly depicted Nalbandian's DC career... he has been the one constant in that lineup, and no one can question his dedication to Davis Cup. Moreover, he was potentially playing in 3 of the 5 matches (the 2nd reverse singles was not played), which was more than any other player on the Argentine team.

Posted by Vie 11/26/2008 at 10:00 AM

Linex, sorry for the pain you feel. There is comfort in knowing that this Argentine DC players tried their best. A lot of weight was put on the immature delPotro to help win this DC tie.

Posted by linex 11/26/2008 at 10:01 AM

Yes Vie Emilio outfoxed Mancini that is clear.

Emilio told the Spanish press "You said that I did not have a plan B when Nadal announced his withdrawl, I have shown now that I had a Plan B".

Plan B the clue of the tie ... Team spirit did not hurt the Spanish niether, top 15 players in indoor hard court niether.

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