AUGUST 8, by Paula Schumann
Even before the two finalists walked onto the court, chants of “Ole Ole David” could be heard from the highest seats in the Stadium Court, and the Argentine flags were waving. It appeared that we had a crowd favorite. 28 year old David Nalbandian (ARG), who is ranked 117th and came into the Legg Mason Tennis Classic on a wild card, was about to face Marcos Baghdatis (CYP), age 25 with a ranking of 25, in the singles final. Nalbandian’s ranking had dropped after not playing for nine months due to hip surgery, and being out again for two month
this summer with a hamstring injury.
After the obligatory photo ops and hand shaking, the coin was tossed and Baghdatis was the first to serve. It was broken and Nalbandian went on to serve and held for an early lead at 2-0. Both players continued to dazzle the crowd, Nalbandian with his whip-like forehands and Baghdatis with his adeptness at the net. Despite some double faults at key points, Nalbandian began to dictate play and finished off the set at 6-2 in 53 min. As people got up from their seats you could tell what everyone was thinking….this won’t last long.
In the second set, neither player could hold onto the lead. Baghdatis got an early lead when Nalbandian double faulted twice on his service and gave the game away making it 0-2. Baghdatis served next but lost his lead as Nalbandian broke and got back on serve for 2-1.
Nalbandian served next in what turned out to be the longest game of the match, going to deuce 9 times before he was able to close out the game. The points were riveting as both players stepped up their game. Baghdatis yelled “Yes!” after getting to ad out, only to be leveled by a searing back hand winner from Nalbandian, who went on to hold his serve as a shot from his opponent sailed long. Finally, a fist pump and a victory yell from the leader, the score was 2-2.
The next game was equally competitive and it went to deuce 5 times before Nalbandian was able to break serve and take the lead 3-2. The energy level in the stadium rose as the anticipation of a duel to the finish was in the air. Nalbandian broke serve to win the next game after challenging an in call, which shot spot called out, taking the score to 3-2. But Baghdatis broke again after one of the best points of the match when he ran to get a drop shot by
Nalbandian, made a winner and leveled the score to 3-3. At 4-3, Nalbandian started to look tired, saving energy by letting a couple of drop shots go, but managed to hang in and hold for 4-4.
At this point the sun was relentless and fans were getting out their seats to find bits of shade, if only for a few moments until time was called. But the two gladiators continued to press on, both hungry for a win. Eventually the set went to a tie break and the flag waving chanters were back in full support of David. Cheers for Marcos could also be heard from a few loyal fans. Nalbandian seemed impenetrable as he took the first 5 points of the 7 point tie break. Despite double
faulting on match point at 6-4, he was able to keep the momentum and close out the tie break 7-4, thereby winning the set and the match. The final score was 6-2 7-6(4). After winning today’s final, his ranking is projected to go up to the top 50. This will be the third year in a row that the Legg Mason championship was won by an Argentine player.
Earlier on the Stadium Court, Mardy Fish (USA)/Mark Knowles (BAH) defeated Tomas Berdych (CZE)/Radek Stepanek (CZE) in what proved to be an action packed final match. The Czech team got an early lead and took the first set. Fish/Knowles fought hard and won the second set in a set tie break. A tie break for the match ensued and Fish/Knowles were able to maintain their thrust, wining it 10-7. The final score was 4-6 7-6 10-7. Kudos go to the respective 28/38 year old duo.