If you’re keeping a list of potential spoilers at the 2010 US Open, David Nalbandian has to be at the top of your list.
Nalbandian won the Legg Mason Classic in Washington, DC. It was his 11th title. He wasn’t expected to win, but he managed to beat several seeded players and decisively defeated Marcos Baghdatis in the final. “I didn’t expect to win my first tournament,” Nalbandian said. “In the beginning, if I had to bet, I (wouldn’t have) bet on myself, of course.” During the course of the tournament, he beat Marin Cilic (seeded fourth), Stanislas Wawrinka (seeded seventh), Giles Simon (seeded thirteenth), and Baghdatis (seeded eight). That’s a lot of seeds.
His success has come from hitting his returns extremely well and cranking his two-handed backhand. Nalbandian was able to control the rallies because of his well struck ground strokes. That will suit him well, especially on the fast courts of New York.
Nalbandian was returning to the game after hip surgery that sidelined him for over a year. For his first tournament back, he didn’t expect to do too much. But if you know his track record, this win shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. He was ranked as high as number three, and posted runner-up finishes at Wimbledon and the US Open. He’s been to the semis of a grand slam five separate times. Nalbandian is not a slouch of a player.
Baghdatis felt the same way. He was overwhelmed by Nalbandian in the first set. The second set was closer, as Nalbandian struggled with his serve at various points. “If he plays like that,” Baghdatis said, “he can beat a lot of guys in the top ten.” He noted that his play in the final was stellar, even if his ranking is still low. “So far, the ranking doesn’t say so, but I think I won some great matches and that’s what counts,” Nalbandian said.
With this win, Nalbandian will be in the top 50. The probability of him being seeded at US Open is low, which makes him a potential bracket buster. He matches up well against the likes of Federer and Nadal, but the pressure at a grand slam is always intensified. The test will be if he can handle several back to back five set matches in the New York heat. That’s something that Nalbandian hasn’t had to deal with in over a year. Still, with his recent results a top player wouldn’t want to play him too early.
Asscoiated Press. “Wild card Nalbandian ousts Baghdatis in Legg Mason final.”