Tennis Prose



Nalbandian’s Success Is All a Mirage

David Nalbandian’s recent run of success, which includes wins in 12 of his last 13 matches and a title at Washington, DC, is quite impressive. But as usual, he’s peaking at the wrong time.

His biggest claim to fame may be taking out both Federer and Nadal at Madrid and Paris in 2007. But as the two least important of the eight Masters Series events, those titles are arguably less important than Washington, which at least leads up to a major. Nalbandian did win the ATP Tour final in 2005, but does anyone who doesn’t work for the ATP really care about that event?

Nalbandian’s best result at a slam was a second place finish to Lleyton Hewitt at Wimbledon in 2002. The Argentine won all of six games against someone who won’t go down as one of the tournament’s strongest champions. Nalbandian had a match point against Roddick in the 2003 US Open semifinal, but was unable to finish the deal.

The stocky 28-year-old has frequently been out of shape, but I view that to some extent as a fear of competition. If he was truly in shape, he’d have no excuse for a lack of results. Being overweight gives him an easy out.

Nalbandian is a joy to watch when he’s on, taking the ball early and making shots from all over the court. But I wouldn’t count on his hot streak lasting long at the US Open.


  • RIP · August 18, 2010 at 2:13 am

    Are you still haunted by your run-ins with Mr. Softee from your days living on the east side?

    I really enjoy watching Nalbandian play – his variety, court sense, the fact he can take the ball early and change directions so well and that he’s got good feel – but having said all that I tend to agree in that I think the NYC heat, the best-of-5-set format, the fact he’s only played 3 tournaments since the comeback and his relative lack of conditioning will catch up to him.

    But I think if he got lucky with scheduling and got some night matches in, or a favorable draw where he could get through a few rounds quickly, he could do damage. I did not see Nalby’s win over Looby today, but to shut out a guy who can serve as big as Ljubicic is pretty impressive. looking at the stats Looby did not win a point on his second serve in the second set and won only 5 points on his serve total in that set. I saw Looby beat Djoker in Indian Wells this year and Djokovic is one of the better hard-court returns (granted playing in the desert usually faster than Cincy) and he could not get to Looby and Nalbandian just picks him apart.

    During these 3 tournaments he has destroyed some top 20 players and looked impressive doing it. He’s so great at dictating and making the other guys move that he can get away with not being super fit in best of 3 sets. But I do think when he goes up against guys who can work him and make work in best of 5 sets it’s asking a lot of his body particularly given his recent injures.

    If he pulled a Mardy Fish and got into peak shape he could beat anyone at any event. the guy is that good, IMO.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 18, 2010 at 2:43 am

    Dang, throwing some rain on our Nalbandian parade! What a reality check. Us three went a little overboard on Nalbandian’s latest hot streak but Dan you are exactly right, he has never gotten the job done when it counted the most. Even in his beloved Davis Cup final he came up short. If Nalbandian loses in the second or third round at the US Open, this will all be for nothing, except of course for rebuilding his ranking. We’ll see if the hiatus from competition due to injury will spark King David with an extra boost, as it certainly did for Muster, Blake, Nadal.

  • Andrew Miller · August 18, 2010 at 2:49 am

    Nalbandian (diddo for Baghdatis) is a reason to appreciate Federer, unfortunately. Both are the right-handed versions of Marcelo Rios (more talented than both of them combined) with nearly identical results (with the exception of Davis Cup, where Nalbandian has a better record). Again, Nalbandian and Baghdatis are players who, as Agassi said about Baghdatis, I would “pay to see play.” There’s no good reason that Djokovic has a Slam and Nalbandian/Baghdatis do not, other than the latter two simply dont want it, in my opinion.

    I hate being harsh. However, when it comes to today’s game, Nalbandian and Baghdatis can do it all, but only a few players “do it all” and win: Nadal and Federer. Murray has a similar skill set (“A Poor Man’s Nalbandian) but a better ability, in my opinion, to hit the right shot at the right moment and use fewer tools in his arsenal. Nalbandian does less with more, and Murray does way more with less.

  • Andrew Miller · August 18, 2010 at 2:55 am

    I agree about the comment that if Nalbandian pulled a “Mardy Fish fitness commitment” he’d whoop all, but here’s the sad thing: it aint happenning. Nalbandian’s possibilities could include a run at the US Open 2010 title, and they will smack into reality at the end, into someone like a Berdych who has done way more work over a longer period of time.

    Will talent trump hard work? I’d like to say it will, but at the Slams (other than Roland Garros 2010, which looked an awful lot on the WTA side like Roland Garros 2004, the ‘Rise and Fall of Anastasia Myskina, Guillermo Coria [retired at 27] and Gaston Gaudio’), especially the US Open, the fit players move through the draw and the the fan favorites, unless they are fit, go home early.

  • Andrew Miller · August 18, 2010 at 2:56 am

    Maybe in the Williams’ case talent trumps hard work, but I think they focus on peaking at the right time. they dont give a hoot about non-majors and then win on the biggest stages. So they’re more an example of talent and timing.

  • Dan Markowitz · August 18, 2010 at 3:33 am

    I totally agree that Nalby is not a strong candidate to go far at the opening. But that’s some comment that Nalby has been perpetually overweight to give himself a crutch when he loses to the top players. I think getting in great shape is beyond Nalby’s reach and I think he embraces the Davis Cup as a way to deflect attention from his sub-par Slam performances.

    That being said, who are the darkhorses at this year’s Open to the Big 4? They’ve got to be Nalby and Bagdhatis. Are you feeling it for Gasquet and Fish, maybe Roddick, Isner, Querrey. How about Wawrinka or Chardy? I can’t think of anyone else.

  • vinko · August 18, 2010 at 4:01 am

    This may be off point but does anyone know if the Miloslav Mecir who plays in challengers is the son of the Miloslav Mecir who was so good back in the 1980s?

  • Dan Markowitz · August 18, 2010 at 4:15 am

    I think he is, but I’ll check with Sharko.

    Also, I meant to say Big 5 now with Berdych on level with the other 4, I think, or just below. And maybe Soderling is a not-so-big 6 now.

  • Andrew Miller · August 20, 2010 at 4:18 am

    US Open does rewards “performers” – the crowd has favorites and they do thrive (in the tradition of Connors). Ya never know.

  • NAME · August 23, 2010 at 3:52 am

    “His biggest claim to fame may be taking out both Federer and Nadal at Madrid and Paris in 2007. ”

    No, it’s when he won the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contest that one year upsetting Joey Chestnut.

  • Richard Pagliaro · August 23, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    I’m told Chestnuts played hurt that year.
    Re: Nalbandian – if Del Potro can come back for the Davis Cup semifinals vs. France in France (September 17-19th), which is a big if since the Argentine captain says he does not expect Del Po to play – Argentina would win that semi, IMO, as Tsonga has been hurt, Monfils can be up and down and I can’t see Simon beating Nalbandian and Del Po in a best of 5 match even at home.

  • NAME · August 24, 2010 at 2:59 am

    After the contest Nalbandian was interviewed.

    I believe he was quoted as saying that neither Fed nor Nadal hit any better than him and that if he could just shed his giant hot dog belly he could start piling up Majors too. But he liked his dogs too much. And he hoped to be back at Coney Island next year to defend his crown but I don’t think he ever went back.

  • Richard Pagliaro · August 25, 2010 at 1:52 am

    I’m flipping through the channels while Tennis Channel’s replay of Capriati vs. Henin is on commercials and I see Shaq (plus 3 teammates) take on Chestnuts in a made-for-TV chow down. Incredibly, Chestnuts almost took out Shaq and 3 other people.

    Chestnuts vs. the ATP’s top 3 – I favor Chestnuts.

    Chestnuts vs. Nalbandian and Shaq – might have to favor Nalbandian/Shaq though one of them would probably pull a muscle on the way to the podium.



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