Our latest “Down the T” features an interview with David Nalbandian, the 2002 Wimbledon finalist, winner of the 2005 Tennis Masters Cup, and numerous other titles, including the 2007 Madrid and Paris Masters.
Tennis Frontier: So to start, after a very successful junior career, you turned pro in 2000, and won Basel and Estoril in 2002, by age 20. What was it like to attain such early success, and have you noticed that it’s very rare now?
David Nalbandian: The truth is that at that time I wasn’t very aware of the magnitude of the things that were happening to me in my first steps of my career. Nowadays I look back and I remember those times with pride and affection.
TF: You have played across several different eras of the game, by your own description. How would you characterize the evolution of the game in the time you played it?
DN: When I started playing, the game was less physical. Today the players are more skilled, meaning hit the ball from both sides with almost the same accuracy. Back then, players used to have a good serve or a good back hand or a good fore hand. What I see now is that players are much better from this perspective.
TF: What are your most memorable wins/losses?
DN: The win that I remember with greatest pride is the final match of the Masters in 2005, when I won against Federer in 5 sets.
And the most painful losses I remember are all the series of the Davis Cup that we couldn’t achieve, especially the final series we played in Mar del Plata against Spain. That was the one that hurt me the most.
TF: Our members tend to cite Madrid and Paris 2007 as an apex of your career. You became the first player ever to defeat Federer and Nadal in back to back tournaments. You also beat players such as Berdych, del Potro, Djokovic, and Ferrer on the way to those titles. It was an amazing run. Up until then your year hadn’t been stellar. What happened? And what happened just after, in terms of capitalizing on those wins?
DN: At that time I was playing my best tennis. It was an exceptional end of the year. Besides I finally could play without injuries at all.
TF: What was it like to play Federer and Nadal in their prime form? Not many have found the solution for them, and you have. Notably, you beat Federer at the YEC, when you were down 2 sets to love. Can you talk about that?
DN: Winning against Federer and Nadal is a very difficult task; they are two of the best of all times. To win against them it is important to play perfectly throughout the game, and during those years I was playing my best tennis. The truth is that it was very satisfactory; I remember those years with a lot of pride.
Regarding the Shanghai Masters final, even though I had lost the first two sets, I knew that I could have won those sets, so I felt pretty close. When the first set began, I knew that I could turn up side down the score, and I did it.
TF: What players have you enjoyed playing the most?
DN: The truth is that I enjoyed playing with almost every player in the circuit. I had the luck to play in an era in which there are great players, the best in history. I remember many matches with Roger, Rafa, Marat Safin, etc.
TF: Many of our posters have mentioned the beauty of your back-hand. Do you have an opinion about the greatest back-hands of all-time? And how do you rate Djokovic’s?
DN: I think it’s very effective. He hits the ball naturally, and the ball bounce is also very hard to read.
TF: What was your favorite Slam? And despite best results at Wimbledon, do you think you might have done better at Roland Garros?
DN: Even though I reached semifinals in all four Grand Slams, it was at Wimbly where I reached the final game. So I have a good memory of those days.
TF: Do you believe that the surfaces have been slowed down to the detriment of the game? Do you regret that carpet has been eliminated from the calendar?
DN: Yes, I do, even in Wimbledon. Regarding carpet surfaces, I loved playing indoors on those surfaces.
TF: When you see what Ferrer is doing at his age, and Tommy Haas and others, do you consider that you might come back from retirement?
DN: After many years playing on the circuit I have decided to retire, since after the operation, the shoulder isn’t allowing me to train with the requirement which the circuit demands. I’m not going to play professionally any more, I plan to devote myself to my family.
TF: Is there coaching in your future? Do you see yourself coaching Davis Cup? You have to know that there is a huge groundswell of notion that you should.
DN: I suppose that I will continue linked to tennis, but I still don’t know how. I don’t see myself as a coach.
TF: As you leave off your career in tennis, do you have any regrets? What will you miss? What will you not miss?
DN: I don’t regret anything in my career; I always tried to give the best of me. I know I will miss the trips, being with other tennis players, the tournaments and the competition, but I’m also happy to be able to spend more time with my family, my daughter and friends. Not winning the Davis Cup is the only thing hard to swallow.
Cover Photo (Creative Commons License): Carine06