Done with his "job" on the Pro tennis circuit, David Nalbandian is now testing his skills as a rally racer by competing in Argentina's national rally championship.
Coming from the Argentine city of Cordoba, where rally race is a tradition, it was not surprising that Nalbandian was struck by the diverse challenges that rally racing throws at the drivers.
After bidding adieu to the Pro tennis circuit in 2013, the 34-year-old Argentine is now testing his own skills at rally races.
"Racing in Argentina is great, it's different than tennis. It's a novel kind of experience. I am enjoying, having fun. I always liked rallying. I always say I am a rally fan. I race in Argentina nationals," Nalbandian, who reached the final of the Wimbledon in 2003 and is the only Argentine player to reach semifinals or better at all Grand Slams, said.
Nalbandian was here at the Service Park for the Finland round of the World rally Championship, where his close friend Marcos Ligot is competing in the WRC 2. It was in partnership with Ligot that he established a rally team - Tango Rally Team and also competed in the Coppa Maxi Rally in 2014. The Argentine though made it clear that he does not aspire to be a professional rally driver.
"Tennis was my job and racing is hobby. It's very different. I don't have pressure here. I am learning and trying to do as best but not as a professional," he said.
"I watched the rally in mountains for four-five years, really liked it. Motorsport is different, it's on a gravel, snow and tarmac. It is different from the first to second stage. Anything can happen. There are stones in middle of stage. Everything change all the time that's why it is very difficult," he said explaining what he likes most about the rallying.
Ask him about his preparations and training for rally races, he said, "When you do some sport professional, you give your 100 perfect, I don't give my 100 percent in rally." Asked about his favourite rally driver in WRC, the Argentine said, "Everyone is close to each other. Good for Kris (Meeke) to win this week. (Sebastien) Ogier is in a great shape. It's difficult to pick the best driver with the (rule) changes but level is high. They are all professionals."
As the talks veered towards tennis, Nalbandian said the era of big four was changing rapidly with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal troubled by injuries but he does not see anyone threatening these legends of the game. "There are not many players on top as before and make difference to the order. I don't see many players coming from behind. Djokovic and Murray are going to be in top-5 consistently. It will take a few years to see a change," he said.
Nalbandian also said that Federer, whom he had beaten in junior US Open final in 1998, is fast running out of time to add one more Grand Slam title to his bulging tally. "It is difficult, he is getting older, physically every month is worse, because you are getting older. In tennis physique is lot (important). He has suffered many injuries in his career and is suffering now. It's part of age. He has some chance, just few months. He still has it in it. Every month going on is tough for him," he said.