Yes, you read that right. Argentina, without their #1 and #2 players Delpo and Pico, are in the Davis Cup semi-finals. How did that happen? Five words: Gervasio Esteban David Ezequiel Nalbandian.
A legend in his own lunchtime.
With no realistic chance of Mayer or Schwank winning a singles point for Argentina, this tie was always going to rest on David’s broad shoulders, and I didn’t think he could do it. Who did think he could do it? He hasn’t played since Monte Carlo, for god’s sake. How could he possibly turn up and beat Davydenko and Youzhny?
By being David Nalbandian, that’s how.
No, seriously, Kolya was looking pretty rusty in Friday’s match and although it wasn’t the highest quality from either player, David’s willingness to be aggressive really made the difference. It was nervy, with lots of breaks and rebreaks, and Kolya had plenty of opportunities to find his feet, including an early break in the first, serving for the second and breaking David’s serve when he was serving for the match, and then having two set points in the third. Still, David pulled off some amazing shots when he had to, kept taking risks and it paid off. Never one to mince words, he called the performance a ‘disaster‘ afterwards, but honestly I thought it was pretty incredible given his lack of matches in the past, well, year.
Sadly Horseface had a ‘mare against Youzhny, evening the tie at 1-1. Tito decided (wisely, as it transpired) to rest Nalbandian and tapped Zeballos and Schwank for the doubles against the seemingly-dead-on-their-feet Kolya and Kunitsyn. I had my doubts about Horacio reproducing the doubles form he showed with Nalbandian against Sweden, especially without an old hand by his side, but I was so wrong. He was absolutely brilliant for almost the entire match, kept Schwank going and with the exception of one small wobble was the better half of the better team. Well deserved win.
With Schwank as expected unable to do much against Kolya in the fourth rubber, it all came down to a live fifth between Youzhny and Nalbandian. I thought this would go to a headcasey five with David running out of legs. I was so happy to be wrong.
David was, and I’m sorry to be repeating myself here, quite brilliant. OK, the first set was edgy and the second set maybe even more so, but David kept himself in it with great serving and huge returns, almost visibly growing in confidence so that the third set was almost a foregone conclusion. You could almost see Nalbandian at something like his best resurfacing, with that laser-like backhand and assurance at net that he never gets enough credit for. Sigh. I am a fangirl today.
Nalbandian seemed almost incredulous to have won and played so well, and frankly, so was I. After such a protracted absence from the tour and his many aborted attempts to return, to show up and do what he did in a situation like that is both staggering and indicative of the fact that Davis Cup brings out the best in David Nalbandian.
Now please please please bring some of this to the tour.
So Argentina, wildly unfancied (well not strictly unfancied, but you know what I mean), are in the semi-finals where they’ll face France away in September (which Pico should be back for). Amazing stuff. Drinks all round.
R1 – D.NALBANDIAN (ARG) def. N.DAVYDENKO (RUS)
6-4 7-6(5) 7-6(6)
R2 – M.YOUZHNY (RUS) def. L.MAYER (ARG)
6-3 6-1 6-4
R3 – E.SCHWANK / H.ZEBALLOS (ARG) def. N.DAVYDENKO / I.KUNITSYN (RUS)
7-6(7) 6-4 6-7(3) 6-1
R4 – N.DAVYDENKO (RUS) def. E.SCHWANK (ARG)
4-6 6-3 6-1 6-4
R5 – D.NALBANDIAN (ARG) def. M.YOUZHNY (RUS)
7-6(5) 6-4 6-3
By the way, as usual VamosDavid have match reports, highlights, quotes and all sorts. Check it out.