Nalbandian recovery effort continues as Djokovic advances

Friday, November 5, 2010

BASEL - Argentine David Nalbandian continued his steady return from last year’s hip surgery with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 defeat of slumping Croatian sixth seed Marin Cilic to reach the quarter-finals of the Swiss Indoors.

Defending champion Novak Djokovic survived a stiff challenge from Finn Jarkko Nieminen 6-4, 7-6(6) to set up a meeting with Robin Hasse of the Netherlands while fourth seed Andy Roddick, back in Basel after a seven-year absence, put out Kazak Andrey Golubev 6-3, 6-4.

Nalbandian, now back to a 29th ranking after once standing third in the world, is keeping his aims simple as he plays this week in Switzerland and next in Paris to end his comeback season, which he characterised as “strange”.

“My goal is to return to the Top 10 in 2011,” he said Thursday.

Nalbandian feels at home in Basel, where he won the event out of the box in his first appearance in 2002, then placed into the finals over the next two editions, plus in 2008 when he lost to hometown hero Roger Federer.

The Argentine has been struggling in 2010 after returning to the ATP in February but suffering an abdominal muscle injury which further delayed his comeback.

“I feel good now - who can say 100 per cent after an operation - but I made a good recovery.

“I knew that if the surgery worked, I’d be back in tennis. If not, well…I had no choice, the hip pain was too much.

“I couldn’t make a very good start after my surgery. But I played well during the American summer (he won the Washington title) and that gave me confidence. I had a good recovery but it’s not so simple to return to a high level.”

Nalbandian beat Cilic in the Washington semi-finals. The Croatian ranked 15th has not won back-to-back matches in three months. His long-odds chances of entering the eight-man field at the ATP seasons final in London this month are minuscule if not completely gone.

Federer will next take on Czech Radek Stepanek after the veteran quietly dispatched Colombian Santiago Giraldo 3-6, 6-2, 6-0.

Serbia’s Viktor Troicki, preparing for the Davis Cup final against France in Belgrade December 3-5, went through on a walkover when France’s Paul-Henri Mathieu was unable to start due to back pain.

Richard Gasquet is fighting for a place on the French team which will be missing knee-injury victim Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Gasquet beat German Tobias Kamke 6-4, 7-5 to next face Troicki in a Davis warm-up.

“Everything depends on if I can keep winning matches,” said the former Top 10 player. “That would really help my chances of making the team.”

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