ATP Tennis 360

February 16, 2010 5:35 AM

Nalbandian is back while the big are recovering

This week the big are on a rest. So the real news is that David Nalbandian came back on the circuit. He was out since May 2009, and he chose "his" Copa Telmex in Buenos Aires to return oncourt in the first round against the Italian claycourter Potito Starace: the match was suspended after Nalbandian won the first set 6-2 for the rain.

During his forced holyday Nalbandian passed much time in his hometown, Unquillo, where last summer he bought a bar, the Mumù Mamà. Here, where he's not the champion but simply David, or "El Gringo", he passed most of the second part of last season, sidelined after the injury and the hip surgery.

The bar is now managed by Ines Gorrochategui, once the second best Argentinian best woman player behind Gabriela Sabatini. And the asado, every Monday, became one of the good habuts in a diffficult period, when he was obliged to sacrifice also his other passions: rallies and golf. But he remained in touch with Adolfito Cambiaso, one of the greatest polo players.
In Buenos Aires even Gaston Gaudio tried to come back, after a week showing ex big players resurging on the top again. It was the case of Juan Carlos Ferrero, who outlasted the upsetting Polish Lukasz Kubot, who had dispatched Igor Andreev. Mosquito left just one game to the new top-50 and celebrated his 30th birthday with the 30th career title. After the quarters reached at Wimbledon and the Casablanca victory, Ferrero confirmed his a not-discardable atout during the claycourt season. Evidently he hasn't the same depth and pace of strokes he showed in 2003, when he gave the impression to be a sort of Spanish Andre Agassi. Forced to left for an injury the Australian transfer, where he wouldn't have been practically any point to defend, Ferrero relaunched his ambition for a difficult berth for the World Tour Finals.

Admiring his triumph, and Andy Roddick lose in three against Fernando Verdasco, now nearer to come back into the top-10, it became clear the new consciousness of the big players, moving around the overcrowded calendar with more and more clever schedulings.

Roger Federer opened the new way a pair of seasons ago, choosing to cut "superflous" events to focus only on the big appointments. Now the Swiss, apparently involved in a lighter training program than last years, should come back in Dubai.

And his opponents seemed to adapt. Novak Djokovic last year was the player with more matches than everyone else, 97: in 2010 he started at the Australian Open and didn't manage to reach the final in Rotterdam.

Andy Murray played only the Hopman Cup before the first seasonal Slam, and avoided leaving to both Rotterdam and Marseille, revolutioning his program compared to last season's.

If Nadal and Del Potro were forced out for this or that injury, the Stakhanovist of the circuit, Nikolay Davydenko, played more than any other top-10: his results anyway have been slightly disappointing.

What's becoming clearer and clearer is this new attitude by the players, aware that the average physical level is increasing and that easy matches are at a premium, prefers prevent injuries, wear and tear, to focus only on the key-events.

Probbaly, about that, it should be appreciable more homogeneity in surfaces but, anyway, it's an unmistakable message to ATP officials and opens new perspective in the not so easy relationship between them and the players.

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