I apologize for the question mark. It’s meant to indicate that I am not sure. After all, we’ve been here before, haven’t we? And no, I am not being biyatchy. Truth is, I have always had a thing for Davide Nalbandian. And I myself can’t believe that this is the first time I’m actually writing about him.
I can’t explain it but to me there is something homegrown sexy about this six foot (almost) Argentine. (Full disclosure: I have a serious thing for Argentine men. I particularly love their sense of superiority, their sexual self-confidence, and the way they go about the world as if we are the ones who are lucky to have them in it. Yummm…..)
Although to be honest, these are also the last things I would say about Nalbandian. He has never struck me as particularly having any sense of being better than others. He is not exactly God’s gift. And yet I melt whenever he appears on my TV screen. Go figure.
It’s not as if he has the effete sexiness of a Robert Pattinson type who makes teen girls swoon. Not that I am in any way a teen girl. Nor does he look like the standard jock one would find in the locker-room of the Argentine World Cup Team. His sexiness comes from an air of confidence, combined with a kind of chunky huggable quality that would make you (me) want to spoon with him all night long.
I doubt he would find any of this to be flattering.
Nalbandian has spent as much time battling injuries as he has ratcheting up significant wins against every top player on the current ATP tour. He has lost time from the tour as a result of injuries, some repeated, in his abdominals, left wrist, ankles, left thigh, and right hip. Despite this, his head-to-head against Federer is closer than you’d expect: 10 to 8 in favor of Federer. And he has beaten Nadal as many times as he has lost to him (2 to 2). Nalby is one of only four players on the current tour to make the semi-finals of every Slam. (The other three are the current top three on the tour). He joins Boris Becker and Novak Djokovic as the only men to ever beat the world’s top three players in the same tournament. And he is one of the few players to beat Nadal and Federer back to back. There’s serious juice in his Yonex Midplus, and he has an impressive record of tennis achievement. Never mind his current 117 ranking.
As I watched him take out Gilles Simon in three sets yesterday, I found myself wondering whether I was witnessing a resurgence. And then it occurred to me that I could just as easily have written this article in 2006. And then again in 2008. And again in October 2009 when he played that exhibition match at the tournament in San Juan, Argentina, following his return from hip surgery.
My point is that Nalbandian has had many comebacks. The one we may be witnessing now is no different from the ones preceding them. Davide has a way of coming and going, succeeding and disappearing, rising and falling in the ranks. It drives me absolutely nuts.
I watched his match against Gilles Simon yesterday and was encouraged by what I saw. Although I must admit that am probably a bit biased because to me, there is something very annoying about Gilles Simon. I can’t put my finger on it. It may in part be the ease with which he is capable of dismissing Federer. Or maybe it’s the sneaky manner in which he plays tennis. Or the kind of rat-like aspect to his face and body. Or maybe it’s the pre-pubescent gawky non-grown-up quality to his demeanor that makes you (me) ask out loud to the TV, “Where the hell does he get the strength to return those balls?”
Yet although I don’t particularly like Gilles Simon, I must admit that not only can dude play some good tennis, dude can also play with serious pace. I breathed with satisfaction when Nalbandian finally put him away in three thrilling sets. It was so worth the broken racket.
Tonight Nalby faces the unpredictable Marin Cilic. Yet another player I have not given the level of attention he deserves. As I write, Nalbandian has just closed out the first set and is up 3-0 in the second. His signature shot – the double-barreled backhand down-the-line – is no less effective for its predictability. His forehand returns can only be described as lethal. His serves penetrate the corners. And he seems to create angles out of thin air. In other words, Nalbandian has a complete game, and it is effective on every surface. No wonder folks call him one of the best players to never win a Slam. His low ranking makes him a dangerous floater in any event.
I don’t like predicting but I would be shocked if Nalby did not win the Legg Mason event. I know that he has lost to Bhagdatis before but I can’t see this Nalbandian losing to that retriever tomorrow. Or maybe it’s just that once again, I am hoping and wishing that this is a signal of even more to come. With a healthy Nalbandian, anything is possible. So, welcome back David. I’ve so missed watching you play.