DelPo took the first point for ARG in his opener for the DC SF tie, by defeating Steps in straight sets, 6-4 6-4 6-2. With Nalby seated in the stands, along with DelPo’s close friend Martin Palermo (who had been in NY to cheer for him, just last week) and Argentinean legend Diego Maradona), DelPo motored through to a relatively straightforward win.
Steps definitely tried his best to target DelPo’s BH side, and the tactic worked for the first few games of the match. However, as DelPo started to get past his slow start, he was attacking more and serving well on the T. With a FHDTL, DelPo won the first set 6-4.
After playing a loose game in which Steps broke his serve, Steps returned the favor and DelPo was then able to break again at 4*-3 in the second set. The rallies between the two players were entertaining, and DelPo finetuned his wrongfooting techniques, catching Steps off guard on many occasions. As for Steps, he tried to bring DelPo forward to the net, in order to test his movement.
However, Steps could not fight the ardent crowd nor the power of DelPo’s groundstrokes, and the match ended in straightforward fashion, 6-2 in the third set.
DelPo was clearly emotional after this victory, as he cried during his post-match interview in front of the home fans.
After the match, Nalby gave DelPo a congratulatory hug. This, in my opinion, is as good as it gets — recognition from one of Argentina’s greatest DC warriors for a job well done.
Thus, Argentina led the tie 1-0 before the 2nd rubber between Pico and Berdych took place.
With Berdy leading the H2H 5-0 (twice on clay), it did not seem likely for Pico to pull off the upset. However, Pico gamely challenged the hard-hitting Czech and pushed him to a tough five-setter, which he lost 6-4 in the 5th set. Much credit goes to Pico for sticking with Berdy, who was the favorite coming into this match-up. The result is very disappointing for sure, but this can also give Pico confidence for playing his reverse singles rubber against the Czechs’ number 2 player. In that sense, we should take a bow for the fight Pico displayed against Berdy, who is frankly a slightly higher caliber of a player (when it comes to aggressive shotmaking) on most days.
Pico left the court in tears as well — it was a very close result, and he is likely upset for not winning the second point for Argentina. Still, a 1-1 scoreline heading into the doubles rubber on Saturday means there is still a good chance for the home team. Schwank-Berlocq will face Rosol-Minar, and this will be the critical point of the tie.
Let’s hope Schwank can channel the DC warrior that his former dubs partner Nalby imparted, at Parque Roca this Saturday. This is a must-win match for Argentina.
Drama in the Ranks
Apparently, Steps was ungracious in defeat. In a Czech interview, Steps said that DelPo was probably using his wrist injury for gamesmanship purposes, and that the tears DelPo cried right after the match were “blown out of proportion.”
To which DelPo replied, “”I wish I were perfect. I’m surprised to hear what he said, because it’s not what he said to me.”
Two things stand out about this accusation. First is the fact that Steps only had the courage to say these words in Czech — I love it when people hide behind another language to say things they would never have the gall to say in English. That is classy, Steps. Lastly, DelPo’s left wrist problem is very real and at the end of the day, it only concerns him. For sure, it is relevant for the other player to know if his opponent is coming into a match with an injury — but to assume that the match will be much easier or that victory is guaranteed, simply because the guy is reported to be injured, is lazy thinking.
Mostly, I think Steps needs to take a chill pill. He used to do yoga with DelPo on the baseline — maybe he needs to remember the Lotus Position again.