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Brando Magazine Article

2451 Views 43 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  Elisabeth
Since it's too long, I'll do it by parts:

David Nalbandian. A legionary in search of his destiny.

From the international tennis circuit sumptuousness to the quietness of Unquillo in Cordoba, a hidden town in South America, David Nalbandian awaits the time of his defenite triumph. Implacable gladiator and pure cannibalistic appetite in the courts, the man who's a Davis Cup banner for Argentina, runs away from time to time from the vertigo and applausses to take refuge in his childhood.

Tennis has its artists and its gladiators. Roger Federer is an example of the first ones. If someone has brought near this sport to the art, that's the swiss, a man who plays like the gifted ones: he doesn't get tired, doesn't show emotions, doesn't sweat. The gods move their arms and regulate their emotions.
If Federer is a violinist, Nalbandian is a woodcutter.
His epic individualism is from someone that's axing his way through the circuit.
In that jungle that makes you tired which is tennis, you play a social darwinism a bit more sofisticated than it was with the first primates, but just as devastating. Here the battles are physical and mental. And they're not just the strength and the rage the ones with which you conquer the jungle: the mind is also there.

Tennis is somehow a fusion of chess and boxing: the power and the tecnic are ahead, but it's also indispensable the coldness to make a decision under pressure, the capacity to put up with abandonment and the frustration in those moments in which you're alone against the edge of destiny.

The boxercan feel fear and defend himself from that punches from fear. Make easier that desolation with more punches in the ring. The chess player, stunned, can retire. The tennis player, on the other side, can't do much to make his anguish easier. He can swear, he can destroy the racket, but he'll have to keep hitting the ball with the same precision, so the ball doesn't come back. He can't even go back to his chair and recieve the help from his coach or the word of a friend: he'll always be by his own, in a constant dialogue with his mind.

The perfection could be dangerous.
Sooner or later, the genious and the artists, end up paying with their bodies (and also with part of their soul) that heavenly wink which has made them trascendental.

A few months ago in Paris, during the last Roland Garros, Yannick Noah told me that to be a great tennis playeris necessary to be a little bit of a scoundrel. No sensitive boy can be a champion, observed: the dark hole of the circuit would crash him, would distroy his nerves.

At a first glance, Nalbandian doesn't seem like a scoundrel, but maybe he's trained well enough to manage himself with a minimum of tolerance and respect outside the court, and once inside, set free and release all that thearst of conquer his body trasures. The conquer spirit-that's how the History teaches it, it demands animosity, a reazonable animosity, it's understandable, but solid enough like to set battles free of five hours under a cruel sun.

That's Nalbandian: a misteriously hidden agressivity controlled which can take him to the glory, with pure animal instint, with the ferocity of a serial killer.
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"I always did what I wanted, that's why I've always been told that I have a shitty mood", says David Nalbandian in his home kitchen, while he smears, smiling, a toast with honey which he'll put entirely into the coffee mug his mom just made.

We're in Unquillo, Córdoba, a town with 18 thousand people without natural gas nor sewers, located 20 Kms away from the province capital. We're here, in the Nalbandian's all life home, at lunch time, watching tv, with the clock pointing 5:45 and with two friends who have come to visit.

The scene-this scene-is an overwhelming postal of the past: the same home, the same pictures and furnitures, the smell of so many afternoons after school, the same twilight coming through the window.

Alda, his mom, adorned with an apron, walks the 3 meters which separate the kitchen with the table and brings the toasts, the butter, and the homemade sweets. Darío, his older brother, a David clon with more forehead and less waist, talks with fanatism about cars. And asados. David always answers with some kind of rush, like he has no time to give himself to the others.

The house is a few meters from the center of Unquillo. It's the same house-the yellow paint in the front, the garden in the back-that Jorge Nalbandian built, the Armenian gandfather, who got here running away from the fear and the european hunger, with a fake passport and at the end of the '20s, to this town hidden in the remote Argentina

The hall hasn't changed as much either, except for a few new objects. There's a green vase made of ceramic, which fights with the '70s wooden furnitures: it's the Basel trophy, in Switzerland, one of the tournaments David won in his professional career; there's a trophy that evokes his consecrationas a junior in the US Open when he was 16 years old, beating in the final a swiss boy with some tennis full of future: Roger Federer: there's a plate he got after reaching the final in Wimbledon 2002, his best performance in a Grand Slam, which made him an international star. After reaching that final ( a feat for the Argentine tennis), Nalbandian went back to Unquillo, where he was recieved as a hero.

That's what always happens: it doesn't matter in which paradise he's in, it doesn't matter the sumptuousness which estimulate his vanity nor the high tech confort of the big hotels, Nalbandian manages to go back to this piece of land formed and in zigzag, placed in the ankles cordoba's mountains.

I ask him why, being able to choose Monte Carlo-like Vilas or Boris Becker did- or Miami-where Gabriela Sabatini lives- he keeps coming back not to Buenos Aires, but to Unquillo.

-This is the place that fullfills me, it gives me energies. It's where I put my feet on the ground, it gives me the calmness the circuit doesn't give me. I don't change this for anything. I think I'll never leave this place.

It's clear: Nalbandian comes back here to stuff himself from childhood.

Even at his 23 years old, when his name shines among the best 15 tennis players in the planet and after humilliating Lleyton Hewitt in the Australian grass, in a Davis Cup match which made him a pagan hero, Nalbandian comes back to these meadows which for him are like an amusement park, a bath of innocence and freedom.

-Here-he says, and points his chin to the window-when I was a kid I did everything: I played football and basketball, I practiced karate and horse ride, I swam and I rode bikes, rode a horse.

He also put speed to the first motos while he started to take tennis seriously, here he chased the present like someone who enjoys a hunt.
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Nalbandian comes back home after playing golf with Angel Cabrera, the best Argentine golfist still in activity, and Marcelo Milanesio, a cordobes hero in basketball. When he doesn't pick up the insistent cell phone or answers some question with a steely moderation, he watches Andre Agassi on tv, that modern tennis legend, who at his 35 years old, doesn't show in his body signs of fatigue or tiredness.

Husband and father, Agassi doesn't need more personal glory, and however, he keeps travelling around the world like stubborn gypsy. He plays with the enthusiasm of a teenager, far from the 50 million dollars he made through so many years as a pro, and with that unhidden pleasure he shows in the court can refute that idea that the tennis circuit plunder people.

-He'll play two more years with no problems, sentences.

At his beginnings, when the 80's were dying, Agassi was the little blonde boy with long hair who arrived to make a revolution in the circuit with his two handed backhand and a game which woke the admiration of everybody. But he had trouble winning the tournaments.

It's not exxagerated to compare that Agassi, today in the prehistory-with Nalbandian, who's got in his imminent compromises with the Davis Cup the possibility to get the glory.
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Sitting at the table without his shirt on, the 82 Kg of Nalbandian are uncovered: the wide back and the hard shoulders are on the tablecloth. It's a firm torso without details. His muscles are not sculptured and you can barely see them when he leans back.

The ones that can see the shades of the circuit say that Nalbandian is, with the Russian Marat Safin, the only one that has a enough tennis to beat the undisturbed Federer. The ones that followed the rise of Nalbandian since he was 14 also say it: "When he gets into the court he doesn't fear anyone. He knows he can beat Federer. What he needs is to train well and get an international first level coach", can be heard once and again.

The injuries have stopped that moment last season. Some malicious rummors had said that he had gotten injured out of court, risking his body (and perhaps his future) practicing a high risk sport.

-I was unbalanced-says-, I had more strength in some muscles than in others. I had a very weird injury in the intercostal. A lot of bad luck: serving you can injure the abs, but not the intercostal.

I ask-it's a retorical question, of course-if he thinks he can make it to the top.

-My goal is to be among the best three in the world. I think I have tennis to do it-says.

He has emotional consistency, also.

I remember a scene from the Royal Tenenbaums, the Wes Anderson film which show the life of a disfuntional family. Luke (Owen Wilson) is a successful tennis player, who decides to give up his career during the Wimbledon final. While he plays the match which will be his last match, Luke suffers from an emotinal colapse and can't stop crying. He's a human doodle whose tears don't allow him to even serve. Till then he had been an introverted and laconic guy, but in this last act he's revealed like a sensitive sportsman, too vulnerable too keep up his public man and example image.

The Wilson character is inspired, in a big way, by Bjön Borg, the Sweden who made great things in the courts in the '70's without saying a single word and was one of the traditional rivals of Guillermo Vilas.

Everything in Borg was cold ice: there were no signs of passion, but in his glance you could see melancoly. Something was rummiating inside of him, a deaf disconfort- Maybe the rumors of a not enjoyed childhood, the silence of the hotel rooms, the fugacity of the applause. Maybe the rigidity of a disciplinied and modeled sport, the success vacuity or the insatisfaction of those who have everything too soon.

The truth is, that when Borg retired, his life turned to hell: his broke up with his all life girlfriend, got married three more times, had adiction problems. When he wanted to go back to the circuit, his body didn't allow it anymore. He was a great champion, it's true, but his life suffered the consecunces of so much demands.

I ask myself if it will happen to Federer as well. If some day he'll had a psicotic outbreak and will kill someone in the side change. Or if at least he leaves aside his discreat elegance, so much refinement, and will eat his snots in camera.

Perfection could be dangerous. But the truth is that in the last years it's been almost impossible to beat him.
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I ask him about the fear that Federer awakes in his oponents.
-There's no one unbeatable, not even Federer-responds without meditating it. But it's also true that there are some that, by the face they have when entering the court, you can see they can't beat Federer.

Nalbandian is one of the ones that get into the court with a killer instinct. When I observe him I stop in his wide forehead and cleared, the tight skin, the deep blue eyes, then I understand what the ones that know him well repeat: he's a shark, a cold and merciless competitor.

They say that that same spirit is with him since he was a child, when the Argentine Tennis Association, among thousand of kids, picked him and Coria to be the future: they had at their service a coach, doctor, travel, advices. When Nalbandian was 14 years old, Horacio de la Peña, ex tennis player and coach nowadays, wanted to sign a contract to manage his career. "I'll take your son to the top ten", he promised. They said no. David kept on training in the National School, and a while after that the international successes arrived. He was a junior champion with Coria in Japan, won the US Open, lost the final in Roland Garros and became of the best juniors in the planet.

Each triumph shook the nap in Unquillo. The jump to the pro world arrived and the victories came with it. Also the first big money, the answered pledges, the speed on things. Life started to take in another color. Transformed in an elite player, Nalbandian turned into that he always wanted to be: an hedonist (sp?), a pursuer or pleasure and the intensity, whose work is to be one of the best tennis players in the circuit.

I want to know if tennis is his obsession.

-I'm not thinking about tennis all day long-says, and takes distance from the circuit-, because, otherwise, there will come a moment in which I'll explode. I have a lot of other activities which help me to take distance, I don't want to be thinking about the same thing all the time. There's people that's 24/7 into tennis. To me, for example, each thing I do outside of it is good to me.

"Each thing" is, among others, swimming with sharks in Melbourne, during the Australian Open pauses: speed up in the mountains in his Peugeot 205 with an engine prepared in Europe: do bungee jumping in Vienna from a 150 meters tower. Or in a weird moment, taking pics in the arms of a top model, Sofia Zamolo, in a caribean island. Those pictures sweat desire.

There's some contradiction between the cordobes quiet and the fast going of David, between the lethargy of the town life and the hormonal uproar.
Like there's also one between the austerity of this region and the glamour of the tenis circus, a circuit which travels the best cities in the world and gives prizes for more than 100 million euros a year.

The last time we met before Cordoba, was in Paris, during the last French Open, whose big champion was Rafael Nadal. Each day, Nalbandian was driven into the stadium in a Mercedes-Benz with a tournament chofer and with at least two men from the ATP willing to satisfy his demands. During the two spring weeks, the tennis pleayers feel the world moves accoring to their desires. The world are the enterprises, the sponsors, the tv, the women, the enviroment.

Nalbandian, however, prefers taking the glow off that fantasy.

-It's not easy. Anyone that comes one month in the circuit with us will want to get out. It's always the same: hotel-club-airport; hotel-club-airport, and that's it, I can assure you that. Change of schedules, change of hotels, change of bed.

I ask him if he's rather do something else, or what would he want to do when he retires.

-Run rally-the answer is a flash which echoes in the mountains darkness-. It's something I've decided to do, something I like from a long time ago.

The relationship of Nalbandian with the cars is like the one from a married man with a lover: the speed seduces him, and the vertigo. A day before our encounter, he went to pick up a BMW Z 42.5i that the German company gave him by his triumph of the Munich Open, last May. The car costs 50 thousand dollars, nothing for someone who's earned just in prizes (the publicity contracts double those sums) more than 4 million dollars.

Besides his new BMW, a water moto, and a Harley Davidson which shares with his brother, Nalbandian drives a Ford Ranger 4x4 black with a Power Stroke engine. The car looks like his owner: is wide and arrogant, and its sparkles seem to light the path. Sitting in the driver seat, some beard and frown, Nalbandian has the aspect of a character of Sin City, the last Robert Rodriguez film: looks like a comic hero, rough and untempered.

I remind him that a few seasons ago he cried, in September 2003, Davis Cup playing for Argentina. It happened in Moscow, in a doubles match with Lucas Arnold against Marat Safin and Yevgengy Kafelnikov, when a whole country was looking at his effort. I asked him if that happens often or if it was one in a lifetime.

-No, no it only happened there, I don't get emotional. Not in life. Very little-he responds in a laconic way, like he was about to open a door which will make his face to some very deep feelings.

His brother says that since he was very little he always has that personality. That he always protects himself. But protects from what?
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I remember a Marlon Brando phrase which he said to Truman Capote when the author of Cold Blood interviewed him in a hotel room in Tokyo:"The more sensitive you are, the more certain will be that you can feel the cruelty and try to immunize against it by building up walls. You don't evolve, you don't give the luxury of feeling anything, because you always feel in excess".

By then-1956-, Brando was already a myth walking through the edge of his mood. A man exposed who protected himself from the outside demons-the camera flashes, the scream of the crowds, the fame-not to feel.

-I always did what I wanted in my way-recognizes Nalbandian-. That's why I've always been told I have a shitty mood. (Barely smiles: is the first smile in hours, and there won't be more). But it's each one's personality. I always tried to do the things I like. I'm like my father. (a deep silence opens) Yeah, I'm very much like my dad.

Norberto Nalbandian, his father, the man who helped building the hardcourts in which David learnt to play tennis, died last Dicember. I ask him if that emptyness is still intolerable.

-It's terribly hard, it's a time I can't handle. I ask myself thousand of questions. I'll spend the rest of my life missing him.

A weird humidity appears in his eyes. The distance echos a shock. For once, this inscrutable man who plays the dies with his destiny seems to look back in the past. But wants to get out of there.

-You have to look ahead, you have to go on-says quickly, with a two handed backhand which exorcise the ghosts with.
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Thank you so much Jazz for the excellent article and all the hard work in translating it for us non-spanish speakers. :) :worship:
You're welcome. I'm glad you liked it :)
I'm sure there are a thousand mistakes, but it was too long, and I rushed through it ;)
thank you sure took you alot of time it's so long, graet job :yeah:
the last part about his father is really so touching...
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Thanks again, Jazz, for the article. It was a good read.
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And one more thing: at least he does have a pulse-despite what the media has us believe.
crazy_nanine said:
thank you sure took you alot of time it's so long, graet job :yeah:
the last part about his father is really so touching...
Yeah, in the last part it seems like he's proving the whole article wrong.
jazz_girl said:
Yeah, in the last part it seems like he's proving the whole article wrong.
I see.
Thank you for the translation of the article, Jazz. It’s curious for me to know if the journalist that took the interview is a man or a woman.
bibi_s said:
Thank you for the translation of the article, Jazz. It’s curious for me to know if the journalist that took the interview is a man or a woman.
I think it's a man myself.
I was thinking the opposite, that it’s a woman.
An interesting take on it. Why? Is it because of the novel references that he/she writes about in the story. I find the article interesting for that very reason-regardless of who wrote it.
Reading the article I can sense some tenderness, besides there is lots of psychological thinking that suggests to me that it’s a woman.
bibi_s said:
Reading the article I can sense some tenderness, besides there is lots of psychological thinking that suggests to me that it’s a woman.
Or perhaps the intuitive nature of the article? And the fact that he's a little more relaxed and open about who he is.
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