Nalbandian Done Down Under

by John on January 22, 2009

The travails that torment David Nalbandian in his quest to win a Grand Slam title continue. The No. 10 seed from Argentina was bounced from the Australian Open by unheralded Yen-Hsun Lu 6-4, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 yesterday. The second-round upset was the earliest Nalbandian exit in Melbourne since his first Aussie Open in 2002, also a second-round departure. “I don’t think I played bad, but every set I was starting a break down and had to fight from a break down and come back,” said Nalbandian. “He played, I don’t know if it was perfect, but he played at a very good level.” Nalbandian was in no-excuse mode and being overly generous. He never should have lost to the No. 61-ranked player from Taiwan. So the mantle of “best player to never win a major” still rests heavily on Nalbandian’s broad shoulders. Okay. Technically the title belongs to Andy Murray, but the Scotsman’s reign should end very soon. The Argentine had come into the season’s first Grand Slam in superb form and brimming with confidence. Nalbandian won his 10th career title at Sydney on Saturday and had reached the finals of three of his last four tournaments in the fall, winning at Stockholm in October. ESPN commentator and former American tennis player Brad Gilbert had picked Nalbandian as his dark horse to win the tournament. Gilbert should know a thing or two about these things as the former coach of Andre Agassi, Murray and Andy Roddick. Regarded as one of the best ball strikers and most dogged competitors on tour it seems incomprehensible that Nalbandian remains without a major title. The 27-year old from Cordoba is one of only five current players to reach the semifinals or better at all four majors. Nalbandian reached his only Grand Slam final at Wimbledon in 2002, losing to Australian Lleyton Hewitt. He also suffered gut-wrenching semifinal losses at the 2003 U.S. Open and the 2006 Australian Open. Nalbandian wasted two match points against eventual champion Roddick in 2003 and blew a two-set lead and twice squandered service breaks in the fifth set against Marcos Baghdatis in 2006. Nalbandian’s comments in Sydney on Saturday after his Medibank International win were rather revealing, and perhaps prophetic, when he admitted that he has never had the mental and physical fortitude to go the distance at a Slam. “It’s not easy. It’s tough,” he said. “I was close a few times, or a lot of times, and I never could make it. It’s not easy to be physically, mentally and with confidence to win a Grand Slam. There are two weeks playing with a lot of good players. Always I try. Why I didn’t win it? I don’t know. Maybe unlucky some ones and maybe the other ones the other player is playing better than me.” Whatever the reason, Nalbandian has come up dry again at a major.

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