The Curious Case of David Nalbandian

by John on March 31, 2009


When he’s good, he’s extremely good. Brilliant would be a better term, really. When he’s bad, he’s very bad. Okay, let’s be charitable – very disappointing. David Nalbandian, one of the most gifted and talented players on tour, should have been playing Andy Murray today in a marquee round of 16 match up at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. Instead the enigmatic Nalbandian was long gone from sunny South Florida. The “Curse of Miami” struck the 14th-ranked Argentine in his opening round once again on Saturday, a 6-1, 6-3 loss to unheralded Serbian Viktor Triocki. Last year it was journeyman Xavier Malisse, then a 6-1, 6-4 victor. This is the same Nalbandian who, just two weeks ago, had No. 1 Rafael Nadal on the ropes, befuddled and staggering, in the fourth round at Indian Wells. Nalbandian lead 6-3, 5-3, was totally in control, and then watched Nadal stage a miracle comeback. Nadal dodged four match points on his serve and one on Nalbandian’s, and prevailed 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-0. The win was Nadal’s first in three tries against his longtime nemesis, in fact the first sets he’d ever taken from Nalbandian. Nadal went on to blitz Murray in the final. Perhaps the Argentine was still feeling punch drunk at Key Biscayne. “There simply is no explanation,” said Nalbandian. “”I played horrible. After playing as badly as this, it’s very difficult to analyze anything. He played much better and I couldn’t capitalize on anything, neither my serve, nor his errors.” Nalbandian’s career has been plagued by under achievement. He is as renowned for his early exits as he is for reaching finals and beating top players. The title of “best player to have never won a major” definitely fits the mercurial Argentine. He’s 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 Lleyton Hewitt. The 27-year-old Argentine, also, has an impressive 13-13 record against the top four in men’s tennis. He won the 2005 Masters Cup in Shanghai over Roger Federer and finished 2007 on an incredible run, winning back-to-back Masters Series events in Madrid and Paris. In 2008, Nalbandian, reached the finals of three of his last four tournaments, winning once, and began this year by taking the title in Sydney. So what is it about Nalbandian and his inconsistency? Some say it’s his fitness and conditioning. Others, his mental toughness. Hopefully, new coach, Luis Lobo, and fitness trainer, Mariano Scara, can find the key to this mystery. There’s way too much talent going to waste here.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Evan Jones June 24, 2009 at 6:57 pm

“He’s one of only five current players to reach the semifinals or better at all four majors.” They just said the same about Novak D. today on ESPN, and Federer and Nadal could both say the same. Who’s the 5th?


tennisguy June 25, 2009 at 11:58 am

Evan, Marat Safin is the fifth player. The big Russian won the U.S. Open in 2000, was a semifinalist in 2001, won the Australian in 2005 and was a semifinalist at the French in 2002 and Wimbledon in 2008. Safin was also the runnerup at the Australian in 2002 and 2004.


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