Nadal Survives 5 MPs to Turn Away Nalbandian at Indian Wells

by Sean Randall | March 19th, 2009, 10:13 am

Looks like I missed a good one last night, er, this morning in Indian Wells. Just checking the results and the site comments and I see somehow Rafael Nadal saved five match points to defeat a nemesis of his, David Nalbandian, 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-0, in Indian Wells fourth round play. ADHEREL

From what I can tell, the match began around 11pm local time and finished minutes after 2am out in the desert, but it should have finished sooner. Nalbandian once again had his foot on the throat of Rafa with the World No. 1 serving down 6-3, 5-3 in the second set. But unlike his last two wins, both straight sets, over the Spaniard, this time Fat Dave just couldn’t seal the deal despite four match point opportunities on Rafa’s serve and another when he served for the match at 5-4. Wow.

Heartbreak City as they say. The match ended about five hours ago and I’m betting Nalbandian is not sleeping too well if at all right now.

That said, going in I didn’t give Nalbandian much of a chance in this one. Injuries aside, Nadal’s been dynamite lately when healthy, while Nalbandian, even though he has Rafa’s number, has been losing to guys like Daniel Koellerer. But credit to Nalbandian for showing that he can still “get up” for the bigger matches. I didn’t think he had that in him.

And of course credit to Nadal for proving without a doubt he’s mentally the toughest guy out there.

Rafa doesn’t just beat you, he rips your darn heart out and then shows it to you.

“David meet Roger, Roger meet David. Let’s begin our counseling session. What emotions did you each experience the morning after Rafa ripped your heart out?”

Wednesday’s earlier matches didn’t have quite the drama. Roger Federer struggled a bit with the explosive Fernando Gonzalez but prevailed in three sets 6-3, 5-7, 6-2. Novak Djokovic needed two tiebreaks to oust Stan Wawrinka, and Juan Martin Del Potro used that same two-tiebreak formula to end John Isner’s run. Fernando Verdasco needed three sets to beat Phil Kohlschreiber and Andy Roddick got through a stern test against David Ferrer.

Nadal, though, wasn’t the only player saving match points Wednesday. Ivan Ljubicic saved five in a third set tiebreak win over Igor Andreev. Looby now faces Andy Murray who advanced after Tommy Robredo banged up his wrist.

So the quarterfinals at the first Tennis Masters 1000 Super 9, or whatever it’s called now, are set, we have Nadal v. DelPo, Roddick v. Djokovic and today Federer v. Verdasco and Murray v. Ljubicic.

Of the four, I’m penning Murray into the semifinals right now. The remaining “Fab Four” will have to really go to work. I do like Federer over Verdasco. Fed likes the pace and in “Hot Sauce” he gets another guy like Gonzo who can really crush the ball but also run hot & cold at times.

I also think with the day off Nadal takes care of DelPo and complete the Argentine Assault he missed out on in December. DelPo’s going to do a lot of running and I don’t think he’s mature enough to beat Rafa yet. However if this match is scheduled for Friday night and if it runs long, will Rafa have enough come Saturday?

And in my showcase match we get Roddick v. Djokovic, Round 5. Most recently, Novak triumphed in New York as the two infamously exchanged barbs in the press. Then in the much-anticipated rematch in Australia, Novak did just what the Roddick called him out on, and he retired due from the heat against the American. Hopefully, this time both are fully rested and ready for battle. Novak’s the better player overall and let’s not forget he’s the defending champion (virtually the same scenario as was in Australia), but I like Roddick.

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34 Comments for Nadal Survives 5 MPs to Turn Away Nalbandian at Indian Wells

jane Says:

I know Verdasco is on a roll, but if it took him 3 to beat Khols, I just don’t see him beating Fed. Murray, on the other hand, could. And I think he has a very good chance of winning this whole tournament. He’ll be the most rested reaching the semis. Murray beat Ljub 63, 62 on hard in Rotterdam this year so…

On the other side, I think it’ll be Rafa and likely Roddick, but Novak vs. Roddick could go either way. I think Roddick has the edge given that he’s playing well whereas Novak is still struggling.

Frankly, after Nadal’s win last night, I really don’t see anyone beating him before possibly Murray in the final.

I don’t know if he ripped out Nalbandian’s heart, but Nalby got nervous serving for it, and then Rafa just ran away with the match. I knew he would when it was 5-1 in the 2nd set tiebreak. And Nalbandian was playing beautifully until then. But Nadal’s last two holds were gritty and crucial. In the end, he deserved to win for his focus. And he is tenacious R after all.

Based on what I have seen, I am inclined to say a Rafa vs. Murray final, with Murray winning. But who knows right?

I like tennis bullies Says:

…And of course credit to Nadal for proving without a doubt he’s mentally the toughest guy out there…

nadal mentally destroys his opponents just as he did to federer, last set bagels says it all.

Long live the king! Says:

As Safin said – Nadal is a psychologically better player, but tennis-wise Federer is the better player. In another year or two, nadal is going to get a step slower, then his annihilation will be much faster than you can say mental strength.

As good as Nadal is, he is yet to produce a 3-slam season like Roger did – not once but 3 years. And let’s not forget that Roger waxed a more fit nalbandian during his peak multiple number of times. He did not have to employ trainer break tactics to throw nalbandian off or wait for nalbandian to choke. This should be a reminder to anyone who says Federer did not face much competition. Players like nalbandian, hewitt and roddick have beaten nadal easily and trouble him quite a bit on the faster courts. There is no doubt that the Marat Safin 2004 would have given nadal a sound beating even the new hard-court trained version of Nadal.

I still think Federer will be holding the most GS record after both nadal and Federer end their careers. It is great to such contrasting players make a case for the GOAT in their own ways. You can bet your house that when they both retire, the GOAT would either have gone to dubai or spain!

Nadal Imperial Says:

“Long live the king!”… How many grand slams had Fed won at the age of 22?
Should I remind u wat happened the last 3 times they met?
..Give some credit to the kid mate

funches Says:

Waiting until the other player has match points is a little too late to prove you are unbeatable in a tournament.

Nadal was lucky to win that match. If Nalby doesn’t choke, it’s a routine straight-set win.

King Rafa Says:

Wow Rafa is the GOAT. Roger Federer is a poor tennis player- he always has been. Federer should kiss Nadal’s ass. Nadal will end up winning 25 Grand Slams. He will win calendar slams in 2009,2010,2011 and 2012. Federer will never win another grand slam in his life. He won 13 because there was no competition.

Thangs Says:

“Long live the King” got his heart ripped too:-)

Vamos Rafa!

jane Says:

funches makes a valid point; there is a reason that “survives” is in the title of this article. For the bulk of two sets, Rafa was outplayed by Nalbandian. However, one has to give credit to Rafa as he could’ve been broken in two of his last service games in the second set, which would’ve meant the match, but he would not surrender; he kept fighting, and Nalbandian did more-or-less choke to let him back into the match. And then, essentially, Nalbandian disappeared.

tenisbebe Says:

Rafa was gifted that match by Nalby – AND HE KNOWS IT – listen to his presser. David had the match on his racquet & got nervous and couldn’t close it out. Credit to Rafa for holding his serve under pressure in critical games in the 2nd after he was broken.

Long live the king! says:
“He did not have to employ trainer break tactics to throw nalbandian off”

That was complete BS – calling the trainer to tape toes that were already taped up! And then the stalling and taking over a minute at changeover after 1st game of the 2nd set: liquids, rooting through his bag, fiddling with his racquets. This was another stall tactic and I for one for furious with Rafa for such obvious ploys.

fedster Says:

It’s fun to see the Butt-Picker’s butt-lickers declare the Butt-Picker as the Greatest Tennis Player Of All Time…. ha ha ha…………!!!!!!!!

fedster Says:

However I wanna apologise to Ezorra and Zola for what I said previously, but it has become necessary to give a really really foul mouthed reply to people like the Rafa-fanatics like NWO, I like tennis bullies etc! Ezorra, I never intend to degrade Rafa as he’s a really really amazing player as you and me as well as people like Grendel, sensationalsafin(where are they now and why are they not posting?) etc know. I’m appreciating Rafa’s improvement in tennis level, in fact I have always in my heart loved Rafa as the player who came to the tour with the aim of Fed-conquest and doing hard work; kudos indeed to Nadal! So I again repeat that I like Rafa, but when people start talking shits like Rafa’s way better than Fed or Fed’s way better than Sampras, my blood really starts to boil! That’s why I have made some angry comments about Rafa. So forgive me if possible!

fedster Says:

By the way congrats to all of you whose fav players managed to win today! Tomorrow’s a new day which guarantees a lot of excitin tennis matches and maximum headache for me! I’d anyway be rooting for Fed as always. Ha!

marron Says:


You do not need to denigrate Rafa when replying to some foul-mouthed posters.. why? Denigrate the posters instead. Right?

I agree, I’m a huge Rafa fan, but sometimes there are a few way-out fanatical posts about him that make me cringe. They accomplish nothing, NWO and others, except to anger everyone.

Long Live The King, there are so many ‘if’s’ in your post at 12:08… if this, if that, Nadal hasn’t done this yet, yada yada….


vesna Says:

and once again Sean writes about a match he hasn’t seen.I wonder if he actually watches tennis at all.If we were to go over his columns we would notice that on quite a few occassions he said that he hadn’t seen the match at all…so unprofessional

tenisbebe Says:

vesna says:

“and once again Sean writes about a match he hasn’t seen.I wonder if he actually watches tennis at all.”

Most of the posters didn’t see the match. Since it didn’t start until past 3am est, not a big surprise. Did you see the match? Didn’t think so. Having watched it myself, think Sean did a good job of reporting on it. Thanks Sean.

zola Says:

Great write , thanks a lot!

I watched the match and I think Rafa was very nervous the first set. Once it went to 3-5, he had to do something and he just fought back. Like the way he won a set against Murray in Rotterdam on one leg.

Once Rafa was able to hold and fight back, Nalby got nervous and started double faulting. He completely disappreaed in the third set. But it was all because Rafa played a great match.

Rafa asked the trainer to cut the tape on his foot. It was not stalling at all. At that time Nalby had taken a bathroom break anyway. There was not time out.
He took a time out after he WON the second set and it was the trainer who said the tape has to be changed.

I guess if you want to dislike a player, you will always find a reason. but Rafa did not win last night’s match because he had the trainer. But because he came out on fire with great tennis where it was needed.

he was 3-5 down and saved 5 match points. That’s why he won.

Vamos Rafa! Great heart!

zola Says:

there are always people who are going to use a player to say foul-mouthed or vicious things to other posters. But why get involved in their game? why be like them?
Those comments are made with the specific aim to make other posters react to them. so the best is just to ignore and enjoy the tennis.

Today is Djoko-Roddick, tomorrow Fed-Verdasco, Rafa-Del potro. IW has never been so exciting.

tenisbebe Says:

Zola says:

“I guess if you want to dislike a player, you will always find a reason. but Rafa did not win last night’s match because he had the trainer”

I don’t know when you appointed yourself keeper of the Rafa flame (probably after he won his 3rd FO) but as someone who has watched & supported him since he was a junior player, I find the simplicity of statement childish & laughable. Nalby went to the loo BECAUSE Rafa called the trainer, instead of sitting there waiting for him to have treatment, not the other way around. And his dawdling during the changeover I mentioned was painfully obvious – he was rattled & buying time. I don’t have to make excuses for players I support if I find their gamesmanship or any other behavior dislikable and I will express those opinions if I please.

zola Says:

I didn’t know that calling a trainer would cause someone to go to the loo!

“I guess if you want to dislike a player, you will always find a reason. but Rafa did not win last night’s match because he had the trainer”

well, I think your reply justified my statement.

Ra Says:

Props to Rafa for lifting his mindset and his game back up after getting clobbered well into the match. At the same time, though, last night confirmed in my mind Nalbandian’s status as the greatest underachiever of the Open era (not sure if I had any doubts left prior to last night, but still)…

jane Says:


I totally agree with your post. First, about the props to Rafa. But secondly about how amazing Nalbandian is to watch when his game is clicking. It was a pleasure to watch him play. Some of my comments on the other thread, which I posted during the match, were: “what a backhand,” “how come he never seems to be out of position,” “how at ease he is” (until that last game), and “how unusual his style is, his selection of angles and shots.” He is an under-achiever. You’d think, watching him last night, he’d have won at least one slam by now!

jane Says:

Hi zola,

I think Rafa played well enough but I wouldn’t say it was a “great” match. I’ve certainly seen him play better. He was making a lot of errors last night for the first two sets. I think his fighting spirit was amazing though.

Danica Says:

no need to be a bit harsh to Vesna for stating the obvious. Btw, I wouldn’t be so sure about her not seeing the match. Not everyone is in the States. Here in Europe, most of us did see it.

Von Says:

I watched the first 1 and one-half sets of the match and went to sleep — I saw the trainer break and David’s bathroom break. I mentioned at the time “David is going to lose his momentum” and it happened. I watched the match today again to see it in its entirety and it was obvious after the second trainer break he completely lost his momentum. Some players are pace in, pace out players and they don’t like their rhythm to be broken. I thought David’s match play deterioration happened after the second trainer break, beginning of the third set, because he played to me, as though he didn’t care.

Ezorra Says:

It’s ok Fedster… I understand you. Honestly, I’m thinking that some of them who refer themselves as Nadal fans, they are not really his fans actually. In fact, some of their statements are made like they purposely want to provoke other players’ fans to hate Nadal. So, don’t worry be happy – like one of my friends here always tell me :)…

Joe Says:

How about the Bryan bro’s tourney?? They beat Fed and Rafa…that has to be exhilarating for the venerable doubles duo

Why did Fed and Killer Cahill not have a love connection? Fed is coachless once again…not sure that bodes well for his 2009 season…i still suggest a “scared straight” session with J Mac and hitting some balls with a lefty like Goran…

Speaking of J Mac, don’t you think that deep down Fed considers Mirka’s pregancy “inconvenient?” I’m the biggest Fed fan in the world but I worry that this will hasten his decline by diluting his already diluted focus. Children have a knack of changing ones priorities…just ask J Mac.

Verdasco, what’s in your hot sauce?

tenisbebe Says:

“Speaking of J Mac, don’t you think that deep down Fed considers Mirka’s pregancy “inconvenient?” I’m the biggest Fed fan in the world but I worry that this will hasten his decline by diluting his already diluted focus. Children have a knack of changing ones priorities…just ask J Mac.”

We talked about this at length on another thread. Look for the “Fed announces Mirka’s ……”

Nadal is the GOAT Says:

Hi, tennisbebe and Von, you must have really enjoyed Nadal\’s great comeback victory against Nalbandian. How did you celebrate the victory?

zola Says:

Hi Jane,
How have you been?

I agree. It was not Rafa’s best match. he was very nervous the up to those match points and had lots of errors. He relaxed and played better afterwards.

And yes, the comeback was amazing. I was ready to go to bed. It was so late and I thought the match is over and Nalby will win again and it will be something for Rafa to work on and improve. But he did it and I was really happy.

zola Says:

I think Fed said in his statement or maybe an interview that it was a dream come true. So perhaps he is not too unhappy about it. Of course it is a big change and lots of responsibility, concerns, etc., but seems he is up to it.

It might give him extra motivation to achieve his goals sooner than later.

zola Says:

oops, tennisbebe, please disregard my 4:04 post. It should have been addressed to Joe.

Sean, could you please delete the comment at 4:04? I will re-write it later.

Andrew Miller Says:

Nalbandian is basically the top 2 out of three set hardcourt tournament player in the world when he’s interested.

Others in that list include the post-2005 AO winner Marat Safin, as compared to the during-2005-AO winner, or even the pre-2005-AO player, as well as Marcelo Rios, the best player ever from Chile (sorry Fernando man – neither you NOR your buddy, another Olympic Gold Medalist, have the talent of Marcelo Rios).

So much for talent but insufficient interest.

Andrew Miller Says:

Here’s some advice for Federer: use some of that outstanding paycheck you receive every year, from bonus or other tournaments, and get yourself a great babysitter. I am sure you still have it in you to win tournaments.

Bram Stocker Says:

Tennis is more like the physical form of chess. The psychological part of it is as important as the physical part. In quantitative terms, Tennis is half mental half physical. You need to be strong in both these aspects to dominate the game. Right now it seems Nadal is exceptionally strong in the mental aspect while the physical aspect of his game is pretty much at the same level as others. However Federer is nowhere near Nadal’s mental capacity. Federer definitely has a better game than the rest but it’s error prone and the fact that he is mentally frail as compared Nadal renders him mortal. Now he has met another formidable foe in the form of Murray, and so has Nadal.

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