Nalbandian and Federer shine amid the gloom

11-17-2006, 04:11 AM
The Times November 17, 2006

Nalbandian and Federer shine amid the gloom
From Neil Harman, Tennis Correspondent, in Shanghai

A DAY of triumph, a day of tragedy. Sifting through the pieces of a supposedly routine afternoon at the tennis coalface, it was difficult to separate the goodness of the people in the game from the shocks engulfing them — hearing that David Nalbandian’s nine-year-old godson was killed when trapped by the doors of an elevator, Jimmy Connors learning that his father-in-law had passed away and, far removed from this extravagant tournament, news that Derek Bone, a dedicated LTA stalwart, had suffered a fatal heart attack.

There are times when nothing seems fair and when player A beating player B does not have the same resonance. There was a palpable sense of grief in the drizzle-filled air of this sprawling city yesterday, lightened only because Nalbandian, through his grief, played himself into the semi-finals of the Masters Cup by defeating Andy Roddick — from whom Connors, his coach, had kept his awful loss — and that Roger Federer continues to ride an air of imperiousness.

There is one more place to fill in the final four alongside Federer, Nalbandian and James Blake — for which we await tonight’s blockbuster meeting between Rafael Nadal, the Spanish world No 2, and Nikolay Davydenko, a match-up of the matador and the Russian who ought not to have any energy left with the amount of tennis he has played recently.

Those who were defeated yesterday, Roddick and Ivan Ljubicic, departed with heavy hearts while knowing that their seasons were completed in a manner that offers hope for a good deal of sparkle in 2007.

Roddick, beaten 6-2, 7-6 by Nalbandian, had still not disgorged the memory of defeat by Federer two days previously, when he had three match points. But he has been transformed since the summer.

Ljubicic, the Croat, had a career-best 60 match wins this year, having served more aces than anyone (875), claiming the highest percentage of first-serve points won (79 per cent) and finishing third in the percentage of service games won (89 per cent). What Tim Henman would have given for a serve such as that.

Ljubicic knew that to succeed in making the last four himself, he had to defeat Federer, which he had not managed in his previous seven matches. A scoreline of 7-6, 6-4 indicates a match that swung on a couple of decisive shots and — as usual — Federer was the man of decision.

The Swiss may remain unconvinced of the proliferation of round-robin events planned on the ATP Tour, but he has won his past 15 matches in this event, so why worry?

One wondered if he might release the gas a little against Ljubicic, knowing that if he had lost, he would still have been involved in the final weekend and Nalbandian, the man who defeated him in last year’s final, would be eliminated. That is not the Federer way. Nor, yesterday, was it Nalbandian’s. Obviously hurting inside, the Argentinian struck out boldly against Roddick from the off, nailing the lines off both flanks, but especially with a double-handed backhand with which he can switch the ball’s trajectory with such cunning craft.

The Chinese media are not the subtlest of spirits and Roddick has played a patient game with them. Yesterday, he balked a little. “I know this is a weird concept but going into a match, there’s going to be a winner and loser,” he said. “Where I am now is night and day to where I was at Wimbledon. There was a practice soon after I got home when I sat down and couldn’t have hit a ball into an ocean from the beach. Going into the summer, I was about 18 in the [ATP] Race, with people questioning if I would ever play top-level tennis again. I’ve righted that. I played as ordinary as I could for nine months and I’m still five or six in the world.”

11-17-2006, 04:15 AM
Quite a nicely written article. Indeed, so much sadness, it makes these guys seem that much more human. That was nice that Jimmy did not let Andy know about his loss.

Does anyone know if that David lookalike (rightmost on the screen among the 3 guys in his box) is a brother of David's?

11-17-2006, 09:54 AM
Yeah, that was Javier Nalbandian, his brother.

11-17-2006, 10:58 AM
So his godson is javiers son or is there a third brother?

11-17-2006, 11:09 AM
So his godson is javiers son or is there a third brother?

From what I know, a godson does not automatically mean a 'nephew.' It could be the son of a friend. Didn't you know that or don't you have godsons/daughters yourself?

11-17-2006, 11:20 AM
From what I know, a godson does not automatically mean a 'nephew.' It could be the son of a friend. Didn't you know that or don't you have godsons/daughters yourself?

As far as I know, the child was son of one of David´s cousins