March 7, 2014
Del Potro and Dulko we can do without
For the Herald
This could be the last chance for some time for Argentina to win the Davis Cup for the first time. Why? Because after playing Germany away next week in the first round — which should be beatable by a strong Argentine team, further ties, most likely including the final, may be at home on the clay court at Parque Roca where Argentina have never lost.
The trouble is Argentina does not have its strongest team because now top 10 Juan Martín del Potro has once again decided that his individual career and raking in more dollars is more important than representing his country (which helped him to get where he is) at the most four times a year. Former top 10 and new Davis Cup captain Martín Jaite said he is not a traitor for not playing and understands his reasons. Jaite said Del Potro has said that he will be available for the next round (if they make it), but you can take that with a pinch of salt. Other people say Del Potro should not be picked again and this opinion will be a lot stronger if Argentina happens to lose in Germany. But I say now, don’t pick him again.
David Nalbandian, Argentina’s top player not so long ago, has always been a very enthusiastic Davis Cup player — even travelling to Sweden once at his own cost after not being picked because of injury, but feeling better when the tie approached. But he is now past his best and getting more injuries.
Nalbandian says his motivation to continue playing is to win the Davis Cup. He would also like to play in this year’s Olympic Games.
Juan Ignacio Chela is the oldest and also past his best. Juan Mónaco and Eduardo Schwank, who complete the team, do not compare to the so-called legion of good players of recent times who have nearly all retired... which is why this may be Argentina’s last chance for some time if Del Potro were willing. Against them will be Germany’s strongest team, with no injuries so far and a 21st ranked singles player in Florian Mayer — a higher ranking than any of the Argentines, although this is not so important in Davis Cup play. The doubles is usually Argentina’s weak point and two pairs have been playing in some tournaments — as suggested in this column some time ago — but without much success. The Davis Cup match against Germany, from February 10 to 12, will also be played on an indoor hard court which is not the favourite venue for Argentines.
Gisela Dulko is Argentina’s top women’s player and the only one who has won titles on the international tournament circuit — four singles and 17 doubles — but she was speaking out of turn when she told the media and anybody willing to listen that women’s tennis in this country will not improve if the Argentine Tennis Association (AAT) does not do more to foment it. She learnt the game in this country, surely with some help from the AAT, but she is another one who will not represent her country in the Federation Cup (the international team tournament for women similar to the men’s Davis Cup) at least three or four times a year.
SHORTER SEASON. Leading players finally had a meeting at the Australian Open to press for a shorter tournament season which currently goes from the start of the year to the Masters finals at the beginning of December and this is the reason for many injuries. This column has always said that they could play in fewer tournaments, but then that would not help their ranking. The solution would be that the ranking counted only the best — say a dozen or more — tournaments for each player, but no solution was reached at the meeting. In fact, Rafael Nadal, who takes the lead in these discussions, had quite an argument with Roger Federer. Players complain, but many go in for exhibition tournaments, to earn more money, apart from their heavy tournament schedule.
HAWKS EYE. David Nalbandian was eliminated in the Australian Open in a match of over four hours against John Isner when the referee would not allow Nalbandian to request a revision by Hawks Eye whether a ball hit by Isner was in or out of court. The line judge had called out, but the referee strangely changed the decision to “in.” On top of changing the opinion of a line judge who had a better view, the referee refused Nalbandian’s request which he had no right to do. An Argentine referee attempted a defence of that French referee at the Australian Open which did not really defend him.
This also brought up a recent question about many Davis Cup ties, also in Argentina, being played without a Hawks Eye to revise line calls. The installation may not be cheap, but there is so much money involved in the Davis Cup that no tie should be played without it.
DOPING? It seems that Novak Djokovic, who had such a phenomenal season last year, spends time in a globe or bubble which simulates altitude which produces a higher number of red blood bodies and also regenerates his muscles. Furthermore, he accustoms his body to function properly with less oxygen as during a match. Nadal also has this kind of aparatus which circulates the poorest of air, cleans the breathing organs and improves blood circulation to the brain, also regenerating his muscles and to overcome tiredness . The results have been evident when Nadal at times seemed tired out in a game, but the following day was completely fresh again and when Djokovic just carried on and on winnng.
There have been questions whether this can be called doping, similar to blood doping, but there is nothing in the body which would show if the players were tested. Andy Murray also has nothing to worry about. It has been reported that he recuperates with acupuncture and ice baths during tounaments.