Is he doing something special by making the very best of skills that are more limited than other top ten players or is he failing to fulfill his potential …


I had to drive to the west side of Los Angeles today. Unfortunately, I didn’t start until early afternoon which meant that I returned late afternoon which meant that it took all afternoon and some of the evening to do exactly one thing: drop a data CD off eight miles from my house.

Therefore I have not had much time to watch the Andy Roddick – David Nalbandian match but I do have a few things to say about it rather quickly.

Whatever you say about Nalbandian, no grand slams, only five career titles, only one big title (last year’s Masters Cup) – he has to be the most consistent semifinalist in existence. And this is after a down year. I’d love to spend a few hours in a room with him and pick his brain. Is he doing something special by making the very best of skills that are more limited than other top ten players or is he failing to fulfill his potential and should have a few slams by now. He’s somewhere in between. He’s not as good as Federer and Nadal and maybe slams are a bit much to ask, but he should at least have two or three Masters titles and definitely more than five career titles. That’s the number that sticks out most to me: only five career titles. He seems to have some psychological barrier to passing beyond the semifinals or, when he gets to a final, on to victory.

Earlier this week, someone asked Roger Federer if he learned his calm demeanor himself or did he get help from an expert such as Dr. Freud. Unbelievably, Federer responded with this: “Don’t know him. Who is he?” When he was told who Freud was he said, “Nope, never needed him.” I was standing around at a media session once when a journalist huffed that Pete Sampras had to be told what the word jocular meant. That was a double edged criticism of Sampras, he wasn’t very smart and he wasn’t very funny. But not knowing Sigmund Freud? That means you haven’t seen any popular movies or watched television or looked at many cartoons. He’s the stand-in symbol for all things psychological.

Anyway, someone should slip Nalbandian Freud’s name and suggest he get in touch with one of Freud’s disciples so he can get over the hump more often and claim a few more titles.

Since I live in Los Angeles and sometimes have to drive forever, I’ve come across a time-saving device. Magic Sports 3 from Cyberlink is a software package that analyzes baseball games recorded on a PC with a TV tuner card. The program picks out the important parts of the game – home runs, strike outs, stolen bases etc. – and leaves out the unimportant parts – foul balls, Nomar Garciaparra strapping and unstrapping and strapping and unstrapping his batting gloves, pitching changes, etc.

The software also works for soccer games but what if there was a version for tennis? We wouldn’t have to watch Rafael Nadal pretend to pull up his socks then unwedgie his underwear and bounce the ball ten million times. We could skip Hawkeye challenges and medical timeouts and first serves and double faults. How long do you think a match would take if we distilled it down the one thing: points during which the ball is in play?

The match between Roddick and Nalbandian, for instance, took about one hour and forty minutes. Tomorrow I’ll play the Rafael Nadal – Nikolay Davydenko match looking only at points where the ball is in play and skip everything else. How long do you thing the match will take? Leave a guess in the comments section. The closest guess gets to write a column on Tennis Diary about anything you choose. As long as the subject passes the decency test, of course.

See also:
2006 Masters Cup: Blake Gets Hot
Yanks On Fire In Shanghai

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