This part of the off-season is about sending off David Nalbandian, and to a lesser extent, Nicolas Massú. Nadal and Djokovic, the world’s numbers 1 and 2, have joined in for exhibition matches and festivities. Here’s some of the news from the front in the Spanish-language press.
The red-carpet was rolled out in Chile. The tennis players were received by President Sebastian Piñera. Nicolas Massú, who has also retired this year, was quoted as saying, “To have the honor of sharing this with Rafa, Novak, and David is a pleasure for anyone who cares about tennis.” Massú has now signed on as the Chilean Davis Cup captain. Chilean future hopeful Christian Garin was also in attendance. Also while in Chile, during a presser with Djokovic, Nalbandian, and Massú, Rafael Nadal offered to translate for Novak, and, hilariously, started restating what Nole said…in English. He had to be reminded that he was speaking English. He excused himself in Spanish, then saying, “At this point, I think English is my first language.” Likely it’s his first “press-conference” language, anyway.
They also played some tennis in Córdoba, Nalbandian’s home town. Massú beat Nalbandian, 6-4, 6-2, and Djokovic got it over Nadal 7-6(3), 6-4. According to the Chilean press: “That never seemed like an exhibition, except for in the second set, where they joked about some fantastic points.” Otherwise the press in Spanish reckoned that they took it very seriously, for a “friendly.” The only break of serve came in the penultimate game of the second set. Interesting. I guess it’s not so easy for them to leave all the competitiveness aside.
In his home town, Nalbandian also beat Nadal 6-4, 7-6(6).
This is a particularly great point from the match:
In between the exhibitions, Nalbandian and Nadal appeared together on the Susana Gutierrez show, a major talk show in Argentina. King David looked tanned and relaxed, and sartorially resplendent in a navy shirt, pink jacket, and red shoes. Nadal, according to the hostess, looked surprising tall. (“They always tell me that,” he said.) The conversation was light and full of humor. When asked about some of the longest matches they’d ever played, Nalbandian mentioned the six-and-a-half hour doubles match he’d played vs. Russia in Davis Cup. “Even I got bored,” said Nalbandian, to much laughter. Nadal said his was in Australia, lasting six hours, vs. Djokovic. “You must have won,” says la Susana. “No, I lost,” admitted Nadal, with a smile.
When the hostess told David that everyone was heartbroken that he was retiring, he said, “Don’t be sad. Anyway, it was a great excuse to get Rafa to Argentina.” The two do seem to be very genial friends.
You can see the videos of their appearance on the show here:
Before everyone got back together in Buenos Aires, Nadal and Djokovic met in Patagonia for a hit-around with the glaciers as background. They took part in an exhibition on Friday, hitting on a barge in front of the Perito Moreno Glacier, near the southern extremity of Argentina. From Nadal: “I’ve just been in one of the most spectacular places that I’ve ever seen before, the Perito Moreno! Really amazing!”
Novak and Rafa also got to hit goals in the Boca stadium in Buenos Aires. Not sure why River couldn’t get their attention, but:
In the rematch between Nadal and Djokovic in Buenos Aires, Nadal prevailed, 6-4, 7-5.
(Listening to Djokovic’s speech in Spanish, it seems clear he was coached by Rafa, because he used the Spanish idioms!)
Nadal and Djokovic then combined to play doubles against Nalbandian and Monaco. By all accounts, they had a very good laugh. At one point, Djokovic threw himself to the ground so as not to be hit by Rafa’s serve. Nalbandian feigned arguments with the chair, and Monaco tried to hit his opponents at the net.
Clearly, Nalbandian was well sent-off. The Chilean and Argentinian fans were greatly entertained, and Rafa and Novak seemed to have more-than-a-little fun. An Excellent Adventure, indeed.