Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - Underachievers United
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Underachievers United 11/10/2010 - 6:51 PM

Dn Shouldn’t slackers be making a comeback by now? It’s a recession, after all, and it’s a lot worse than the one in the early 90s that briefly made entitled sloth seem cool. Maybe 9/11 sounded a permanent death knell for self-righteous negativity, though the term and the identity were on the decline by the middle of the previous decade. In my memory, it was a combination of the fall of Nirvana and the rise of “MMM-Bop” that put an end to the slacker’s short, unhappy reign. But it did offer a few high points along the way. Consider Drugstore Cowboy and Matt Dillon’s triumphant words, “There’s nothing more life-affirming than getting your a-- kicked.” Or Pavement’s 1992 album, Slanted and Enchanted, and its ringing call to arms, “I was dressed for success, but success it never comes.” Or Daniel Clowes’ Eightball and Ghost World comics. The world would be poorer without them. Now look what we get, one more overachieving genius-nerd like Mark Zuckerberg to hate-envy.

Of course, there’s no room for slackers in sports, particularly in tennis. The game is designed to separate, as clearly as possible, winners from losers, to make it seem like those two categories really do exist and have some sort of significance (all part of the capitalist plot, of course). In a pro golf tournament, a player never has to say he “lost”; not true for the poor tennis player. On the ATP tour, failure to put in the “hard work”—or at least to make sure you say “hard work” 20 times weekly—is considered something close to immoral. I like to watch players who are into it, who improve, who find ways to win. Their effort makes me care about how they do. But I also find myself sparing a thought for the guys who don’t do those things 365 days a year. Every time I see a pro begin a practice session at a tournament, especially if it’s early in the morning, I cringe as they start hopping up and down to get the blood flowing. Doing that every day, just so you can hit the one-millionth forehand of your life? That’s work.

It’s probably unfair to call someone who has become a professional tennis player a slacker, but there are different levels of commitment to the cause. Underachiever is the more accurate term, because it takes in all the other reasons a player might not have lived up to this potential. The early days in Paris have been very good for talented underachiever spotting. We’ve had Ernests Gulbis’s “run” through two defaults—a totally slacker thing to do. We’ve had tragic man-child Richard Gasquet’s demolition at the hands of a former underachiever turned ridiculous paragon of success, Roger Federer (traitor). And today we had David Nalbandian.

What’s the effect of watching these guys? First, I like each of their games, even though it’s their natural talent that makes them frustrating and disappointing in the end; Gulbis at this worst is closer to depressing. In some ways, they're victims of their talent—the game came easily to them. In other ways, they’re victims of the unforgiving hierarchy imposed by tennis, in its tournaments and its ranking system. There can be only one winner, and one No. 1. With everyone else, however brilliant they are at 99 percent of the game, it will be the flaws that we remember and focus on.

Nalbandian may be the most interesting case, because he’s the most accomplished of the three, and because he’s the Guy Who Didn’t Become Roger Federer. He beat Federer as a junior and when they started on tour. If his talent and athleticism doesn’t quite rise to Federer’s level, it rises high enough that it could have won him a Grand Slam or two. But it hasn’t. (I was dressed for success . . . ) There are a number of reasons that have come together to keep him from them. There’s his much-remarked-upon spare tire—though I have seen Nalbandian putting in the “hard work” at various tournaments—and there was his fifth-set breakdown against Marcos Baghdatis in the Aussie Open semis in 2006. There’s his lack of a big match mentality and lack of interest in doing absolutely everything he can to win. Like another vintage slacker, Marat Safin, Nalbandian is a master in Davis Cup, where he’s playing for someone other than himself. Just as important, I think, is that as smooth as his game is most of the time—there’s never been a two-handed backhand like Nalbandian’s—there’s a slight tendency to sloppiness in it as well. He’s at his best when he’s set up and leaning forward, not as good when he’s pushed or rushed. That’s not true for Federer or Nadal, or even Murray and Djokovic.

I watched the first two sets of Nalbandian and Murray in Bercy on Wednesday. I don’t have any real fan connection with Nalbandian. His personality is a step too remote for me to quite comprehend; from that perspective, I like Murray more. But when the Argentine has it going, the way he did in the first set, I’ve never seen anyone make tennis look simpler or easier—move opponent off to one side, coast forward, knock off volley winner, repeat. There are no extraneous movements, no Federer-like flourishes, but at the same time his style isn’t minimalist or practical. Then Nalbandian got tight, and a little sloppy, late in the second and couldn’t close it. It’s frustrating—frustratingly human. We all want to be Federer, but really we're Nalbandian. We’re prey to fear, sloth, sloppiness. It’s just that tennis, with its pure individualistic hierarchy, leaves no room for any of those things. But there may be more to be learned, more to relate to, in the flaws, though that would require being a fan who didn't care whether his favorite player won or not. That would require believing the words of the drugstore cowboy, that there's honor in taking a beating. That would require saying, as a true slacker would say about Nalbandian: How can you blame the guy? If you can make the game look so easy, why would you want to make it hard?


Posted by antoinette 11/10/2010 at 08:09 PM

Great read as usual Steve, I was in Paris in 2006 and saw Nalbandian give Federer a lesson in claycourt tennis in the semi before he got injured. When he is on he is a joy to watch, perhaps we should just be content with that and not expect everybody to be a wiinning machine a la Federer or Nadal

Posted by jodiecate 11/10/2010 at 10:37 PM

That's a top picture for this article!!
Where do you source your pics from Steve, they're always great - maybe there's a photo credit here i haven't worked out how to look up, or perhaps you take them yourself??

Hahaha... wish i could underachieve like Nalbandian. He played 36 matches this year and won $575,726!! You would not believe how little i've got to show for the past twelve months.

Posted by MJ 11/10/2010 at 11:07 PM

Jodiecate, you've got to subtract travel and coaching/team costs.

Posted by JimF 11/10/2010 at 11:18 PM

Too harsh by half. Nalbie reached a Wimbledon final, Won a Masters Cup, and beat Nadal and Fed back-to-back at Paris.

that's better than, oh, 99.99999% of the world's tennis players can ever hope for.

Sometimes the glass is mostly full.

Posted by The Fan Child 11/10/2010 at 11:20 PM

Hey, David Ferrer a.k.a the anti-slacker won again today. The guy is a wrecking machine.

Posted by MZK 11/10/2010 at 11:22 PM

It's interesting you raise the 2006 Australian semi, Steve. Looking back, I think that moment and Slam represented Nalby's best shot at winning one. Had he been able to close out his two-sets-to-love lead in that semi, I think he had a fair crack at Fed in the final. He has just defeated him in a best of five in the Masters Cup final two months earlier, and even Baghdatis was up a set and a break on Fed in the final that did result; this was when Roger was really on the cusp of realising he was going to be a true all-time great, as revealed when he teared up when Laver presented him the trophy that year. I think he was a bit vulnerable and the mental challenge that his former nemesis represented might have had an effect on him.

As it stands, that Masters Cup win will remain Nalbandian's biggest. Like Davydenko's own year-end title, it will have to stand in for a Slam trophy.

Posted by Viktor 11/10/2010 at 11:27 PM

here's a video of Nalbandian trying to work hard...but the spare tyre got the better of him and contributed to his loss of balance...

Posted by ender83 11/10/2010 at 11:37 PM

Nice article, great close!

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 11/11/2010 at 12:03 AM

"But when the Argentine has it going, the way he did in the first set, I’ve never seen anyone make tennis look simpler or easier—move opponent off to one side, coast forward, knock off volley winner, repeat. There are no extraneous movements, no Federer-like flourishes, but at the same time his style isn’t minimalist or practical."

V ery well said, Steve. I saw the first set and thought to myself, This guy is simply toying with the number 3 player in the world. I'd never seen anyone make such quick work of Murray, and do it with apparent ease. He rarely missed a first serve, and hit the corners often, forcing a weak to neutral reply, then followed it up with a beautifully placed (and paced) shot to one side or the other that forced another weak response, then knocked off the next shot. And, as you said, he'd repeat this process, again and again.

Then something happened: Murray took some risks and came forwrad, despite not really having anythig to work with. On one point in particular, Nalbandian pinned Murray at the service line with a nicely struck cross-court return of serve, and Murray made a decent enough pick-up/stab volley, but it looked like it would be another routine forehand winner for Nalbandian; except that when he drilled the ball cross-court for the pass, Murray made an incredible reflex stab volley to the open court for a winner. Okay, so he wins one point. But no, the wheels imediately came off the Nalbandian Express, as he started to press more, attempting to thread needles and hit dimes. It was all so unnecessary. And inevitable. We'd seen it before.

Still, like you Steve, I don't think there's another player on tour (except perhaps Gulbis at his very rare best) who makes the game look as easy as Nalbandian can. Not even Federer. Perhaps its the lack of those flourishes. Maybe its his slacker comportment. Maybe he'd rather be fishing.

Posted by Geellis Ellis 11/11/2010 at 01:06 AM

As someone who feels that Roger is WAY OVERRATED (and don't lose it folks, I'm coming back to Nalbandian), players like Nalbandian and Safin have driven me completely batty. These are the two players who, by far more than any of their contemporaries, had the skill-set to steal several majors and much glory from TMF had they simply (or, perhaps, not so simply) had the will and hunger of players like Chang, Courier, Martin, or even Agassi (later in his career) or Nadal or, for the most part, Roddick. These are all players who, for the most part and for most of their career (with poss exception of Agassi here) squeezed everything they could out of their talent and their games. Nalbandian and Sain resolutely did not do this to, I firmly believe, Roger's great benefit.

Posted by petewho 11/11/2010 at 01:44 AM

I was often confused with Agassi in that respect because he was lot like the typical slacker too.

He could make people look like idiots off the baseline - and i still believe hes the greatest pure striker there
ever was , but then hed miss a few , throw in a loose game , getting distant and all of sudden that was it .

The only difference between Agassi though and these guys was you could tell he was hurting , confused , angry .

I dont sense this conflict of emotions with any of these guys .

So other than Federer and Agassi , who was the last slacker to turn to it around ?

Posted by johndoe 11/11/2010 at 02:45 AM


Goran Ivanesevic. Winning one wimby title was the one turnaround he ever hoped for..

Posted by noleisthebest 11/11/2010 at 04:52 AM

This time you've done Gasquet type of article: all fluff but no substance. The build-up (or maybe better the prop-up)and the structure (or effort) were impressively amusing; almost a Murray style weave, but not quite there.
The gap between Federer and Nalbandian, Nadal and Ferrer, Djokovi and Gulbis in the grit and heart, will ad deterination.
You don't learn those, you're born with the spirit, it's just that it takes time and stage of life for it to show.

Posted by Nancy 11/11/2010 at 05:49 AM

Enjoyable piece, Steve.

David might be an underachiever but he has achieved enough for this fan. Did I want/expect more? Yes, but I wouldn't think little of what he achieved and I wouldn't compare him to Federer either, because the likes of Federer are a rare breed. Simply can't hold anyone to that absurd standard no matter how talented they are.

David has given this fan lots of good memories, lots of painful memories, a rollercoster ride that I wouldn't trade for anything and hope it continues for a few years.
He beat the Federer but couldn't be a Federer...and I couldn't care less.
Frustratingly human, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Posted by wilson75 11/11/2010 at 06:27 AM

Nalbandian at Washington explained why he and others can't match up to Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal, they are mentally stronger. That's what makes them different than the rest.

Posted by daniel 11/11/2010 at 06:43 AM

Nalbandian is a World Tour Finals champion. unlike Rafael Nadal

Posted by John Culhane 11/11/2010 at 07:02 AM


That certainly came out of the "middle of nowhere."

(Great post, btw.)

Posted by crazycaro21 11/11/2010 at 07:08 AM

Such a great post, Steve! I totally agree with most of what you said about Nalbandian. And I'm a fan of the guy and have been for many years. His tennis is absolutely sublime when he puts his mind to it, but I think that he never fully committed to the sport the way he should have. As you rightfully pointed out, if he were committed to all the tournaments he plays the way he commits to his country for Davis Cup, then he definitely would've won a few majors, more than that lone YEC he won back then, in an absolutely beautiful fashion. He's one of the few players who can acutally boast of having beaten both Federer and Nadal in the same tournament and that was when he was carrying the spare tire. I can only imagine how many times he would've done it if little fitter and more committed.

However, I read and saw some of the interviews he's given since his comeback in the summer and he mentioned that having been away from the tour for such a lengthy period of time made him realize how much he liked playing. Let's hope he keeps that frame of mind. Then again, he achieved the goal he set himself upon his comeback, which was getting back to the top 30 (he'll be somewhere around 25 next week again, third year in a row he doesn't finish in the top 10, but like last year, it was because of injuries and in 2008, he finished 11th) and wants to come back in the top 10 next year and still dreams of a Grand Slam. If he puts his mind to it, he can and will definitely do it. But... will he keep this frame of mind?

But geez, how frustrating it is to like that player at times!

Posted by fedfan 11/11/2010 at 08:10 AM

Thanks for this post, Steve. These 3 players are frustrating to watch. Nalbie and Gasquet, in particular have smooth, effortless looking games which make their lapses all the more puzzling. I do think there is sometimes a disadvantage to having a skill develop too easily. It makes the grind of improving and maintaining it seem a little alien. It also can raise expectations before a player is ready to deal with them. Gasquet, in addition, doesn't seem to have the killer instinct at all. It's as though he was given a physical gift that he didn't really ask for. He docilely plays his graceful game, but there's no joy of conquest. That can also be a result of expectations raised too soon. Where's the joy in achieving something you're supposed to do anyway?

Posted by monterey 11/11/2010 at 08:41 AM


You think Roger is "way overrated"? I guess you know more about the game than people like McEnroe, Sampras, Laver. Why don't you ask them what they think about Roger and his game.

You also put forth that fallacy about a weak era benefiting Roger. You do it indirectly but you still trot out that tired old argument whose only purpose is to diminish Roger's achievements. Yeah, if only this and that player were greater, then Fed would be lesser, etc. etc. It's all a bunch of coulda, woulda, shoulda stuff.

Fact is, Fed achieved, others didn't. And if Fed did not achieve what he did then he wouldn't be the player he is today. You know how it is, if pigs had wings.....

Posted by petewho 11/11/2010 at 09:13 AM


What is the difference between a guy like Berdych who is a slacker , but also a clear choker too ( Gasquet is like this too ) ?

Is choking part of slacking ?

For there where other guys , like Rios too , who were obvioulsy underachievers ( throw Goran in there too maybe ) that just choked in the big ones in spite of having pretty good tour careers no 1 and 2 respectively.

Then you have a guy like Sampras spent almost 3 yrs slacking off too after winning in 1990 , and already shown these qualties on very big occassions i.e. US Open , Grand Slam Cup

Interesting pattern , its seems slackers and chokers all have one thing in common - potential greatness at polar ends of the scale , sorta like Bio Polar Tennis when you think about it , maybe theres a cure ?

Posted by tenniphile 11/11/2010 at 09:17 AM

What about Nalbandian's loss to Roddick in the '03 US Open semis? He was up two sets to love and in a position to win the third set tiebreaker... that is until some fan interference helped Roddick's comeback cause. The fact is, there are only a fixed amount of Grand Slams available to be won. And their scarcity is only compounded by the dominance of great anomalies such as Federer and Nadal. We should therefore appreciate the significant things players like Nalbandian have achieved, like beating Federer in his prime (in a best of 5 too) to take the 2005 Masters Cup, for example. Focusing on the success which didn't come their way and equating it to "slackerism" is a bit of a stretch, considering all the other factors in play (injuries, depth of competition, and sports psychology, which can be argued is seperate and distinct from athletic talent).

Posted by Denise 11/11/2010 at 09:26 AM

"We all want to be Federer, but really we're Nalbandian"


Posted by Denise 11/11/2010 at 09:30 AM

tenniphile - enough with that 05 Masters Cup already. it's like fed fans raving about Hamburg 07. they were both injured. just take a look at the US open 05, or French open 07 for that matter.

Posted by Kimeron 11/11/2010 at 10:29 AM

In my opinion the biggest underachiever of all time award has to go to James Blake. Like if you seriously look at this guy's game and compare it to the Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi you will notice that his ability is at the same level as them. His serve = huge, his movement = flawless, his forehand = fear, his backhand = good, (his mental strength = poor/pathetic/dissappointment and the list goes on). He has the game to win at least 5 or more majors but he is so mentally weak its unbelievable. After his 2006 season there was no doubt he could win majors but he's been a disappointment since then. At 30 and struggling with health he is going to remain that biggest underachiever. Well in my book

Posted by Dunlop Maxply 11/11/2010 at 11:29 AM

If you seriously look at James Blake's game and compare it to Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Pete Sampras, and Andre Agassi you would notice that on Blake's best day ever on a tennis court, he has about 1/10th of the touch and skill, if that, of those players.

Blake is actually a candidate for the biggest over-achiever in tennis. Its amazing, really a testament to the ability to grind it out, that he made it to the top 10 and managed to stay there.

For any young player, Blake, who barely cracked the top 400 in college, yet made it to the top 10, is an inspiration.

Posted by sd 11/11/2010 at 11:50 AM

Can someone explain to me when Federer was ever the underachiever?

Posted by Abraxas 11/11/2010 at 11:53 AM

An underachiever is someone who, having vast talent and skill performs less well than expected. This is clearly the case of Gasquet, Gulbis, Baghdatis, Soderling, Berdych, Safin and, may I dare say, perhaps Murray to date (although he can easily reverse this in the future).

I don’t think this is Nalbandian’s case, though. As it is true with the majority of professional athletes, Nalbandian certainly has talent and skill. They all do. Nevertheless, it isn’t evident that Nalbandian was blessed with more talent and skill than his peers, nor that he wasted it and, hence, has achieved less with what he had at his disposal.

On the other side of the spectrum you find clear cases of overachievers who, through hard work, an unbreakable spirit and shear determination better themselves and achieve beyond the possibilities afforded to them by their original talent and skill. This is the case of Ferrer, but most all, the case of Kutnezova and Nadal.

Posted by Abraxas 11/11/2010 at 12:08 PM

@ sd. In the five years ranging from 1997 (playing qualifiers) to 2001 Federer won a total of 5 tournaments: four 250 and one 500, and would easily lose his way during matches.

Compare that with his performance after that point. He has gone on to win 60 additional tournaments, including 16 majors, 17 master 1000 and 4 year-end championships.

Posted by s 11/11/2010 at 12:31 PM

abraxas, thank you - this does explain what is meant by Fed's former underachiever status. I assumed, perhaps erroneously, that most players, even the ones that go on to be great, struggle in the nascent stages of their careers. But thinking about it, some win their first slam at 17 (like Borg) or 19 (like Nadal). I also didn't realize this phase of his career went on for four years. But it was worth the wait:)

Posted by linex 11/11/2010 at 12:44 PM

I felt quite depressed after this defeat by Nalbandian. I was very hopeful that he would win after that performance in the second set but everything turned around and he got tight in the tail end of each of the last 2 sets. For Murray it was key to improve his serve. Also his medical timeout was very badly timed as it was the time when Nalbi seemed focused and ready to break him again ... Nalbi said in his presser in Spanish that Murray is a great player and that he played better than him in key moments of the match but that he shouldn`t be crying when there is no real problem, that a wrist is aching or not, and that if it is really aching then you cannot play.

Posted by Kristy 11/11/2010 at 01:11 PM

Steve, I enjoyed this, and I miss slackers too. They're definitely out of fashion, but Gulbis seems to be flying the slacker flag and that's refreshing. (For a while, it seemed like Nole might be doing that too, but then he seemed to gather himself and decide to live up to his talent.)

Also, thanks for quoting one of the all-time best Pavement songs... seriously one of the top 3.

Posted by Abraxas 11/11/2010 at 01:19 PM

Another argument against Nalbandian being an underachiever is the fact that he has done rather well against the very best, Federer and Nadal: 8-10 and 2-2 respectively. This is includes the fabulous come-from-two-sets-down five-setter win against Roger in the 2005 Year-End Championship final.

Compare that 10-8 Federer vs. Nalbandian record, with the heavy losing records of the other top players that have lost at least 10 matches against Federer:

Andy Roddick 20–2
Lleyton Hewitt 17–8
Robin Söderling 14–1
Nikolay Davydenko 14–2
Ivan Ljubičić 13–3
Fernando González 12–1
Nicolas Kiefer 12–3
Novak Djokovic 12–6
Jarkko Nieminen 11–0
David Ferrer 10–0
Mikhail Youzhny 10–0
Tommy Haas 10–2
Marat Safin 10–2
David Nalbandian 10–8

It takes heart, pride, courage, and great effort to forge a competitive record against the very best. These are the traits of overachievers, not underachievers. Under this light, is Nalbandian really the best example of an underachiever? I don’t think so.

Are you willing to reconsider your position Steve?

Posted by pogiako 11/11/2010 at 02:14 PM

Early on, David was busy betting Roger but he did not have the same intensity when playing against others. Maybe he is considered an underachiever because if he played in the same passion as he did with Roger, David could have achieved higher ranking and more tournament troupies.

Posted by Kris 11/11/2010 at 02:21 PM

@sd - to go further into "Roger the underachiever" days, prior to winning his first Grand Slam in 2003, he was horrible at the majors, mostly losing in the first or second round. He had one good run at Wimbledon in 2001 - when he beat Sampras, then the King of Grass - but that gave everyone hope and he did little to back that hype up.

Posted by sd 11/11/2010 at 02:58 PM

oh ok --- I stopped watching tennis right around 1999/2000 and I have this vague memory of Federer as being just another young player on the tour, nothing more than that, but I assumed this was short-lived bc when I started following in 08 he had risen to greatness and appeared to have been on that precipice for some time...So in another sense, I wonder what other players floundered for the first five/six years of their career before they delivered (though I know noone has done it in the way Federer has)???

Truth be told, I am the real slacker here having 1) not done my research and 2)leaving the game for 9 years...

Posted by Jerell 11/11/2010 at 03:00 PM

As a massive supporter of Nalbandian since his major arrival onto the scene at the 2001 US Open, it is without a question of a doubt he has underachieved in his career. And his list of accomplishments show how much even more he could have achieved.

In the beginning of the Argentine's career, the main foible (weakness) preventing him for winning the big matches in the latter stages was simply his nerves. The 2002 Wimbledon final against Lleyton Hewitt was the commencement of the moment getting to him, and that was understandable considering the circumstances (Hewitt at #1, all the momentum of being in his 2nd Grand Slam Final, relaxed compared to the "deer in head lights" 20 year old from Cordoba).

The jury was still firmly out on whether he was truly a world class talent instead of an overachieving young grinder back then, as Hewitt really hit him (along with Nalbandian's nerves) off the court that day. But there was no question about Nalbandian's class the following year, and that is when his fitness was still high in 2003. Still, his nerves haunted him in the ultimate moments against equal opponents with more experience than him, as hence by his two defeats to Andy Roddick in that summer.

The Montreal final was a disaster for Nalbandian as Roddick blew him out in one of the first tournaments Brad Gilbert coached the American in. And we all know about the collapse when Nalbandian's nerves crept up again at the wrong time while he was dominating Roddick at the US Open. No question against a gassed Juan Carlos Ferrero, we could be talking about Andy being one of the best players to never win a major instead of this man.

Latter that year in the Masters Cup, Federer finally turned it around on Nalbandian by dominating him in Houston. And that was the last time I can remember the fitness levels of Nalbandian being sound.

Since then, it has been his commitment to fitness, along with the nerves and expectations placed on him after re-emerging to the pinnacle (05 Masters Cup and 07 Madrid-Paris double) in the subsequent Australian Opens (the collapse against Baghdatis in 06 and coming to Australia out of shape, getting injured, and blown off the court by Ferrero) that has held him back from winning the few Grand Slams his ability should have given him.

Outside of Davis Cup (where as Steve said, he's similar to Safin as when he is motivated to go all out for country), those several factors have lead to him not reaching even higher heights than the ones he has already reached.

Nalbandian's accomplishments thus far show how great of a talent he is. But if Safin is an underachiever with two Grand Slam titles, than there is no question about Nalbandian being one.

Nice careers still don't exempt you from being an underachiever, especially when your commitment to achieving is routinely in doubt. And that can be firmly said of Nalbandian for all the prodigious gifts bestowed to him.

Posted by Liz 11/11/2010 at 08:28 PM

Any discussion of underachievers must start with Monfils.
What a disaster he is
At least with Gulbis, we can hope he gets motivated and uses that glorious talent he has soon. Age is on his side, not the others as much, especially Nalbandian
Let us all pause and think of marcel Rios!!!

Posted by catrice 11/11/2010 at 09:25 PM

Ok...I can't even be impartial about David. I am the most faithful and frustrated fan. The "Aussie" meltdown was tremdous for me, because at the time I was nursing my mother through a terminal illness. I would stay up because of the time change and her pain was worse in the night. She was coming to the end and I remember saying to myself that I was going to take whatever David did as a sign....he lost and she died a few days later...but I am still a fan.

I really hate that the term "underacheiver" is applied to both David and Safin. No, neither had the career or the results that I would have liked, but who are we to decide what their "best" is, or determine if they reached their own personal goals?

What is overlooked here as they are compared to every Tom, Dick and Harry is the injuries. Roddick, Federer and others have never had to come back from the injuries that Nalbandian or Safin have. Mentally injuries take a toll on you, espcially injuries that threaten your ability to perform your best shots. I don't know the history of anyone but Gulbis, but the money to train, etc and the levels of the facilities also play a part. Marat had to move to another country.

I think that both have been frustrated by tennis, and I don't deny that I feel they could have won more, but I also feel that both of them have found some level of happiness with what they have acheived and obtained some joy, even if it was "just Davis Cup." What I know is that those "underacheivers" have acheived much more than club pros or those of us sitting down typing disparaging comments about them. I for one am grateful for those glimpses of brilliance that I was lucky enough to watch and will feel the same loss when David leaves that I felt when Marat hung up his racquet. No one will have the presence or pressers that Marat did. When I think "underacheiver"#1 or not, I think RODDICK.

Posted by Syd 11/11/2010 at 09:59 PM

"If you can make the game look so easy, why would you want to make it hard?"

Yeh, to whom much is given much is expected. Although it's more the exception that prodigious talent reaches its full potential, for a whole bunch of reasons both apparent and hidden.

It's pretty harsh to have a look at Nalby at this point in time, coming back from hip surgery in his late twenties, and call him a slacker. It's true that in his youth he had the goods to win multiple slams—he could have been a contender—that's what's so sad for his fans and even his critics. But who knows for the man himself. Once he said tennis was just a way to make a living.

Posted by An Old Man 11/11/2010 at 10:41 PM

Nalby has had two hip surgeries. Two rehabs at different times in his career. Tough to overcome, physically and psychologically.

Posted by Edie 11/11/2010 at 11:09 PM

The only reason I cannot think of Roddick as underachiever is that I do not think he is very talented, except for the huge serve.

He has been shoved down our throats for almost a decade by the American tennis establishment. So many of us dislike his boorish, obnoxious behavior that they all ignore, even promote. The tennis elitist crowd running US tennis has tried to make us love Andy. They are the only ones obivious to the fact that their efforts never worked.
Again, not a great athlete. Just a big server.

Posted by Game Lover 11/12/2010 at 01:28 AM

Come on guys: We (Steve, me and others) love/admire/respect Nalby so much, that we consider him an underachiever!

Exactly my thoughts after watching his first set against Murray (he was killing him) and past victories against Rafa and Roger...

Now maybe he doesn't train as much as Rafa nor Roger to be as consistent, dunno, maybe it's just weaker nerves period? For most of us, I think it's a combo of both, won't you agree?


And do you play tennis daily? I sure like hell don't want to miss one single day! :D

Posted by susan 11/12/2010 at 07:02 AM

i watched the nalby-murray match. yeah, no ruffles with nalby, seamless and fluid.. sharp as a surgeon's favorite scalpel. clean cuts. then the tenor of the match changed so quickly i barely noticed it. an irreversible stream of errors and murray was suddenly shaking his hand. bah!

Posted by BeautyAndJustice 11/16/2010 at 02:43 PM

Good article about David Nalbandian! He is a true underachiever. When I took a look at his picture, I understood why. David Nalbandian is more suitable to a wrestler than a tennis player. No offence, but that is the truth. Tennis is still a game of flair and beauty and precision, but David Nalbandian has strength more than skill. Just take a look at his neck, then you will see what I mean. This is the neck, bigger than the head, of a wrestler. A professional wrestler must build his neck to prevent other wrestlers to injure it with their chops to the throat. Why does this tennis player have a neck like this? His strength is known because he can come back after hip surgery and play well. How many people can do it? Gustavo Kuerten cannot. Leyton Hewitt can only do so so. David Nalbandian plays a two-handed backhand and it is so powerful that the strong Rafael Nadal has to fear his backhand than any others's.
His first name must be a misnomer. We should call him Goliath Nalbandian!

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