Given DelPo’s withdrawal from Paris, his tennis season will come to an end at Davis Cup. Which, if you’re a fan of Team Argentina, is the all-encompassing event for which DelPo and Nalby will be fighting for glory and country. Nalby’s firstborn will probably be named Davis. It’s that important. If you’re an Armada fan, you’re thinking “Oh Davis Cup, how nice would it be for Rafa and Ferru to finish an already successful year with yet another Davis Cup win. It’s the tennis version of a nightcap.” Argentina is hopelessly over-matched here.
In DelPo’s own words, he thinks about Davis Cup everyday. It’s the central event around which Nalby has focused many a tennis season.
Does this seem like the first sign of impending tragedy to anyone else? You’ve seen this movie before. The one with the sad ending you can see coming from the very start. This will end in tears. If you build something up, then you set yourself up for a letdown.
DelPo structured his 2011 season around the summer hardcourt season. He spoke specifically and optimistically about peaking during the summer, on the surface that suited his game. Losses to Djokovic at RG and Rafa at Wimbledon didn’t hurt as much, because he was gearing up for the summer. Unfortunately, he had a poor summer, with early losses in LA, Montreal and Cincinnati, followed by a 3rd round defeat at the USO. He mortgaged his confidence on the summer hardcourt season and took a hit.
This is why it irritates me when people openly wonder, “Can JMDP win Davis Cup and have a Djokovic-like run in 2012?” No, and no.
Winning the Davis Cup will require a small miracle. Vintage JMDP can certainly make a match of it with Nadal and Ferrer, even on clay. The question is whether he can summon his best form at the critical moments. The DelPo of early 2011 certainly could, but his form has been on-and-off recently. His withdrawal from Paris adds to the concerns, as he will head into Sevilla with little momentum and a lingering injury.
Nalby is not the Nalby of prior years who was capable of pulling off magic at Davis Cup. He played extremely well in Serbia, but Spain is a four-headed monster of a different ilk (How do the Armada stay so maddeningly healthy all the time? Also, could Argentina borrow their physiologists for a week? They’re three men down, only Pico’s standing)
Following his poor summer season, DelPo has now taken a double mortgage on his confidence for Davis Cup. He withdrew from Paris, forsaking valuable ranking points and momentum, in order to fully prepare for Davis Cup–which Spain is going to win anyway. He could have scored big results in the Asian swing and in Paris—he could have diversified, but he’s pinned it all on Davis Cup.
On one hand, he’s setting himself up for a huge, colossal disappointment. On the other hand, is there any other way to prepare for the final than the current way he’s chosen? Even if their chances are lower than 10% here, that’s all the more reason to push everything aside and go for what will admittedly be Argentina’s only chance to win a Davis Cup in the next 5-10 years. Once Nalby retires, all the talent of JMDP will not be enough to carry Argentina alone. A good team needs at least two strong players.
As for the blather about JMDP potentially having a 2012 run a la Djokovic—have you seen his recent form? He needs to work on fitness and stamina. I don’t know if he needs to lose ten pounds, try altitude training, or go gluten-free/light, but something needs to change before 2012. Even in the best of times, he is injury-prone. So no, please let’s not raise senseless expectations that way. He’s ranked no. 12 in the world now and the goal next season is to be a steady performer in the top 10, maybe even the top 5.
Back to Davis Cup: No one can say DelPo hasn’t committed 100% to the event. DelPo’s schedule management this fall has been questionable–he didn’t play in Asia and he withdrew from Paris. If Argentina were to win DC, it would look like the genius move to end all genius moves. In the all-too-likely event that Argentina loses, he will be left to rue his missed chances this year.
If nothing else, I hope Team Argentina take their tour books to Spain. I hear Sevilla is a beautiful city. So there’s that.