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Thursday, November 1, 2007
Updated: November 5, 9:54 AM ET
David is goliath


Argentina's David Nalbandian beat Rafael Nadal in the Paris Masters final Sunday, adding another chapter to a saga to which you can't do justice with simple adjectives like "improbable," "unlikely," "coincidental" or "outlandish."

This is crazy! In the final two Masters Series events of the year, Madrid and Paris, played with just a week break in between, the Plump Prince of the Pampas put up five wins over the top three players in the world: No. 1 Roger Federer (twice), No. 2 Nadal (twice) and No. 3 Novak Djokovic. Just to put this in perspective, Andy Roddick had a grand total of two wins against that ruling men's triumvirate, and we're not talking 2007, buck-o. That's career. Multiple Grand Slam winner Marat Safin is vying for some kind of lifetime achievement award with his measly three Ws over that elite bunch.

OK, so crazy is an understatement -- this is ridiculous! The back-to-back titles popped Nalbandian back into the top 10, where he is now first alternate for the Shanghai Masters Cup. Hey, wasn't it just three or four months ago that Nalbandian had us in stitches as we watched him try to maneuver that two-handed backhand around his jiggling tummy? Isn't this the same guy who mailed in an early-round match at Wimbledon last year, because he didn't want to miss the telecast of an Argentina World Cup game?

All right, ridiculous doesn't quite do it -- this is mind-blowing! In 2005, Nalbandian replaced Roddick in the Masters Cup draw and went on to win the entire shooting match -- beating Federer in the final. With Andy Roddick iffy for the Masters Cup (he has qualified, but already has declared that his first and overarching priority for the remainder of the year is the late November Davis Cup final vs. Russia), we may be looking at an identical scenario. I ask you: What were/are the odds?

All right, mind-blowing is a little mild -- this is infrigginsane! In fact, this out-of-control narrative is anchored to one small but sturdy fact: Nalbandian is a surpassingly talented player. He is a mercurial if not chronic underachiever, blessed with a zest for life that some of the more grim spear carriers of the ATP Tour might call "unprofessional." Nalbandian may be tennis' most wily player and unpredictable character. He is certainly the game's most noteworthy anomaly. He grew up in Argentina on clay courts, prefers hard courts, achieved his best Grand Slam result on grass, and has been most effective indoors. But that's just another set of weird factoids from the 256 I've compiled for a book with the working title: "David Nalbandian: Go Figure!"

I can't think of an adequate comparison, when it comes to a season-ending surge. Maybe the Colorado Rockies, if you stop the reel at the end of the regular season?

This isn't just infrigginsane, it's kind of fun.