Sunday, August 8, 2010
David Nalbandian of Argentina won the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in DC today, defeating Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus in straight sets. Nalbandian has long been one of my favorites. I like him for many reasons:
- He is strong on all surfaces. He is one of very few active players who has made the semifinals at all four Slams.
- He is not afraid of the big boys. He owned Federer in the early part of their careers and has strong records against all of the current top 5. When he's on, he can beat anybody. A few years ago, he beat both Federer and Nadal in two consecutive Masters Series tournaments.
- While Nalbandian is, quite reasonably, looked upon as an underachiever, he has enjoyed some of the finest moments of his career when playing for love of country. On more than one occasion he has put the Argentine team on his back and essentially won a Davis Cup tie by himself. His all-surface game is a major asset for a nation of clay court specialists.
- His shots are very clean, including one of the best backhands in the sport.
- He's currently climbing his way back up the standings after having hip surgery, a career ender for many players.
All that said, Nalbandian is now 28, well past the age when a player wins his first Slam title. Odds are against him for a US Open title this year but if you're looking for a dark horse, he's not a bad choice. He has demonstrated in the past that if he can get hot at the right time, he can mow them down.
He will need to play better than he did today. If he serves at 49% against the likes of Nadal, he's toast. Still, I'll be watching with great interest.