Nalbandian Argentina's hero again
David Nalbandian produced one of his finest Davis Cup performances to put Argentina through to the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas semifinals, after he won the decisive fifth rubber against Mikhail Youzhny in straight sets.
The Argentine had hardly picked up a racket in the last three months coming into the tie because of injuries, but he showed immense mental strength to beat his Russian rival in just under two and a half hours.
“I played great, much better than Friday,” commented Nalbandian. “I said I had to keep improving my game, and that is what I did today. We won so I’m so happy to be in the semifinals again.”
It was too tight to call a winner coming into the match. Youzhny had not lost a home Davis Cup singles rubber in five years, and had looked impressive in beating Leonardo Mayer on Friday. But Nalbandian was a completely different proposition and had beaten Youzhny in Monte Carlo in April, the last meeting between the two players.
The first set saw both players dominant on serve and with break points at a premium and it wasn’t surprising that it went all the way to a tiebreak. Nalbandian and Youzhny both had chances to take control, but it was the Argentine who eventually took it to move into the lead.
The second set was equally as tight, but in the ninth game, Nalbandian was finally able to break his opponent, which left him to serve out for the set and move into a commanding lead.
Youzhny had a mountain to climb, and his Argentine opponent took a massive stride towards victory in the first game of the third set, as he broke the Russian. There was to be no way back for the Muscovite as Nalbandian eased to victory, and ended Russia’s 14-year unbeaten home Davis Cup record.
Nalbandian put injury problems aside
It was a fantastic performance by Nalbandian over the course of this tie, to have beaten the world No. 6 and No. 14 within the space of just three days, given his previous injury problems, while the Cordoba native said things got easier as his game with Youzhny progressed.
“The entire match was very tough, especially at the beginning, where both players had chances, and I managed to take them. The second set was tough as well, but in the third I started much better and managed to get a break at the beginning of the set.”
Youzhny was philosophical in defeat, saying he didn’t really have much of a chance, given the form Nalbandian was in.
“He played well and it was a close match, especially in the first set. I had some break point opportunities in the second set, but he just played the key points better and was just better overall,” said the Russian.
The decisive rubber was needed after Nikolay Davydenko earlier beat Eduardo Schwank in four sets. The Russian had been dreadfully out of sorts over the first two days of this tie and was unsure whether he would even take part in the reverse singles.