Does this look like a winning team to you?
I felt just as excited about Argentina’s prospects against Serbia in the Davis Cup semifinal. Del Potro was coming off a string of poor results, Nalbandian struggled with injuries, and Monaco would not be contesting the singles matches.
Maybe it was the indoor hard-court surface at Belgrade Arena, but Del Potro seems to have found his second wind. No more of the huffing and puffing that led me to peg him as overweight. Then again, he’s on the same team as Nalbandian, so the “fat niche” on Team Argentina is already taken (in fact, it’s bursting at the sea— alright alright I’ll stop!)
I kid, I kid. Nalby showed up for Davis Cup, as he always does, and he started off in impressive fashion by beating Troicki. Del Potro motored through Tipsarevic in straights (it was a close match, but I like to think he motored), which meant Argentina could win the tie and move on to the final.
The Chela/Monaco pairing lost to Troicki/Zimonjic in doubles, which meant it’d be up to Del Potro and/or Nalbandian to close out the tie. Team Serbia made the 11th hour announcement that Djokovic would be replacing Troicki in the reverse singles. Dear reader, I was not confident at all that Argentina could pull through. I expected Del Potro to lose and for an unfortunate set of circumstances to prevent Nalbandian from his deserved shot at Davis Cup glory.
But Del Potro surprised again. He stayed focused enough to pull through with a win via retirement. Sure, Djokovic was carrying injuries from his USO feat, but he was playing well enough to compete. Del Potro clinched the first-set tiebreaker (which, for anyone keeping track of JMDP’s recently shaky tiebreak form, is a victory in itself). Then he broke the Djoko serve to start the second set. For Djokovic fans, the second set was a bit of a heartbreaker, as he fell down in pain and grimaced on the ground. He was helped to his feet and retired from the match in tears. It’s a sad sight when you consider Serbia were defending champions.
To his credit, Del Potro urged the Serbian crowd to cheer for their injured tennis star. But Team Argentina were through to the final and it made for a joyous, if slightly muted, celebration. For the first time in a long time, Delpo broke out in happy tears of his own.
So Argentina are through to the final, where they will face the hosts Spain. I hope Spain do not pull a fast one by picking a grass-court surface, because that would be cruel. This final is a rematch of the 2008 DC final, when Argentina imploded in tragi-comic fashion against a Nadal-less Spain. The year 2008 marked the breakup of the Nalby-Delpo brotherhood. Nalby questioned Del Potro’s decision to compete in the WTF right before the DC final. Words were said and punches were thrown in a locker-room fight between the two. I don’t look kindly at all on those who throw punches at Del Potro, but…I give Nalby a free pass here. After all, no one works harder than Nalby has for Davis Cup. Plus, if Nalby were an older brother he’d totally be the type to throw routine punches in the face as a form of greeting. In any case, this is the first time since the 2008 final that Del Potro and Nalby competed on the same Davis Cup team. Things look rosy between them now…
Argentina, please do not beat yourselves! Even if Nadal plays the final, you have a reasonable chance of taking the first Davis Cup championship for Argentina. But Spain is a tough opponent, it’s a big ask even without the infighting. Stay upbeat and try to beat the Spaniards in their own backyard. Do it for Dave!!