Print and Go Back ESPN.com: ESPNTennis [Print without images]

Monday, August 16, 2010
Updated: August 17, 9:36 AM ET
Will Nalbandian shine in New York?


Editor's note: Beginning Aug. 16, Ravi Ubha unveils the top 10 U.S. Open questions. Check back each weekday until Aug. 27 as we count down to No. 1.

9. Is Nalbandian a legitimate threat?

David Nalbandian gave us another example of how talented he is.

In his first ATP tournament since returning from a lengthy hamstring injury, the Argentine waxed the field at the Legg Mason Classic in Washington, D.C.

His path of destruction went like this: four games dropped in the first round, four in the second, and one in the third. Surrendering a set in the quarterfinals, the 28-year-old subsequently crushed a fading Marin Cilic in the semis and downed Marcos Baghdatis in straight sets in the final.

At the more competitive Rogers Cup in Toronto, Nalbandian battled past 10th-seeded bulldog David Ferrer -- despite making almost 60 unforced errors -- routed the workmanlike Tommy Robredo and rallied against world No. 5 Robin Soderling. His 11-match winning streak was ended only by the eventual champion, Andy Murray. Murray, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have all been his victims, on multiple occasions, in the past.

Nalbandian, crucially, claims he's motivated. His desire has long been questioned.

"I spent a long time outside the courts," Nalbandian, sidelined most of last year after undergoing hip surgery, told reporters. "I'm enjoying every time I play."

Nalbandian, a sterling returner still armed with one of the game's best backhands, probably receives a seeding at the U.S. Open with a decent showing at this week's Masters stop in Cincinnati. He's currently ranked 37th, five spots away.

The likes of Federer, Nadal and Murray want Nalbandian, who has missed the past six majors, to get there. No sentiment involved. Imagine one of them drawing the Cordoba native in the first round.

Nalbandian fans should proceed with caution -- and probably are. He was similarly pumped in the fall of 2007, winning the Madrid and Paris Masters in impressive fashion. Pundits thus speculated 2008 would be the year he ended his Grand Slam drought.

It didn't happen. Nalbandian began with an ugly 103-minute, third-round loss to Juan Carlos Ferrero at the Australian Open. His last appearance in a Grand Slam quarterfinal came four years ago in Paris.

Further, even with days off, playing five sets, rather than three, brings extended challenges. Will the body hold up? Time will tell.

However, no one should be too surprised if an Argentine shines in New York for a second straight year.