Nalbandian seals it for Argentina - just
David Nalbandian edged past Robin Soderling 64 16 46 64 97 in a five-set thriller that lasted four hours and nine minutes, the fourth rubber of this Davis Cup by BNP Paribas quarterfinal.
Argentina now has an unassailable 3-1 lead over Sweden, and advances to a home World Group semifinal against Russia.
Nalbandian started by putting all he had into the game, the toll of four sets on Friday and four more on Saturday suggested an approach to finishing it all as quickly as possible. He put pressure on Soderling, breaking his serve and reaching 64 to give Argentina the first set.
Soderling takes control
The second set saw a very different picture. Soderling took some risks, upped his game and suddenly he took the set 61. Nalbandian appeared a bit confused, upset with the playing conditions (cold, windy and the court was not too good), and the Swede seized the opportunity. Firmly planted at the baseline and attacking the Argentinean’s backhand, Soderling broke and went 64 ahead.
Worse yet, the Argentine star was 13 down in the fourth set, and by pure force of will managed to break back, supported by the noisy crowd. Another break near the end of the set put Nalbandian once again in the match.
The fifth set once again showed Soderling a break ahead, but an incident in the stands stopped the match for a couple of minutes giving Nalbandian the opportunity to refocus. The Argentinian broke back and started to control the match from then on. After losing four match points, Nalbandian ended his own personal struggle by winning his fifth match point, putting Argentina into the semifinals.
David Nalbandian burst into tears when the match ended, having overcome tough match conditions, rough weather, his own personal fatigue and an almost permanent score disadvantage.
“What I lived today with my people was very exciting: I gave it all, run all the way to hell and back, and won, that’s why I could not stop the tears, I expressed myself like that.”
Overwhelmed by the fans’ support, he admitted that was key to breaking Soderling, who showed no signs of being affected by the environment.
”I was not fully fit on one of my legs, but the people deserved the effort and I took no precautions.”
Nalbandian admitted that, of his 14 consecutive wins in Buenos Aires, this had been the most difficult match by far, but now he was looking forward to the semifinal match with Russia.
Soderling, on the other hand, was comprehensibly sad about losing, but at least he was comforted by the effort he had put into the match.
“If I could ask something of this match I would have wanted to play better, serve better, run better… it’s not that I played bad, but I hope I could have played like I did on Sunday, with (José) Acasuso,” said Soderling.
After this match, Juan Monaco takes on Thomas Johansson for the dead rubber.