the masters cup without its gaucho



Let there not be any doubt that the real story (and prologue) of this year’s Tennis Masters Cup is David Nalbandian’s absence, a matter well-noted by NYT’s Chris Clarey.

I, for one, can forgive him for not making the schlep from Argentina to Shanghai — a trip which would have demanded a minimum of 32 hours travel time from Buenos Aires, one way — to be the first alternate. True, he won the Cup as an alternate in ’05, but he’s just won two Masters Series events in less than 3 weeks; why risk jet lag if all he’s going to do is keep the bench warm (Tommy Robredo is doing a mighty fine job of doing so, by the way)? This way, Nalbandian gets to end his 2007 season on a high note.

This year’s eight-man draw seems to be missing an ingredient -– a sauce, or perhaps some spices -– to make things interesting. Despite the close contest between Roddick and Davydenko, I slogged through it impatiently. Maybe there’s more to be said for style — both in fashion and play -– than some (at least those not familiar with this blog) may think. Without a stylist to counter their respectively stiff presences, there’s little flavor to find here.

The exception, of course, was the match between Roger Federer and Fernando Gonzalez, a battle so moist, it needed extra bread to soak up all the sauce. Once the inevitable (Federer taking his 11th straight win over Fernando) turned into the impossible (Gonzo upsetting in three sets), the whole Cup has taken on a vastly different tone. It hasn’t hurt that the ATP’s latest darling, Nole Djokovic, has also stumbled.

There’s no sheriff in town now. Let’s see who can find their gun.

Michael Shaw writes about tennis and other subjects for the Los Angeles Times, and is also an artist. He can be reached at michaelshaw_sar AT yahoo DOT com. Read his previous posts for TSF here.

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