Tuesday, August 31, 2010

US Open R1 - David vs Rik De Voest

Update II
On paper, it was meant to be a fairly easy first-round match for David. But on the court, it turned into an epic battle that lasted almost 4 hours...
Still, in the end, despite going down a break in the fifth set and a total of 84 unforced errors for the match, David eventually managed to overcome qualifier Rik De Voest 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-4.

At 5-5 in the first set David twisted his ankle a little and had it taped after end of the first set. It remains to be seen whether that was just a precaution.

David's next opponent in Round 2 will now be Florent Serra.

More soon...


(Reuters Pictures)




(Getty Images, montage VD)

Update
5.17pm local. A quick exit for Pico. Now next up on Court 11: David...

4.42pm local. Pico down two sets to love now... Quick exit or epic battle? We'll see.

At 3.18pm local (EST), the third match on Court 11, Monaco vs Polansky, has just begun. After that it'll be David's turn.


Today, David plays his first match at a Slam since losing in the second round at the Australian Open 2009. But who is the player David will face in his first Slam match after 19 months?
Q: How much of an advantage is it to play your first match at the US Open against a qualifier like Rik De Voest from South Africa? Do you know anything about his game?

David: The truth is that I don't know much.
(DyN)
- And David is probably not the only one whose knowledge about Rik De Voest's game is somewhat limited. Even if it's not his first match against the South-African. Back in 2006, they met in the first round at Cincinnati and back then, David easily defeated De Voest 6-0, 6-4. But chances are that David hasn't seen anything of him ever since.

Rik De Voest, currently ranked #231, is the kind of player who occasionally manages to qualify for an ATP tournament or a Slam but who spends most of his time at Challenger or Future events. Which is why at age 30, he has played a total of only 61 matches at Tour level (David: 481), with the highest ranking in his career having been #110 (in 2006).
I believe I've seen De Voest play once, at the Queen's Club, a couple of years ago. What little I remember from that match is that he seemed to have a pretty good serve and that he played attacking tennis. In any case, De Voest's results show that he prefers playing on fast surfaces. And the fact that he's had some success in doubles, having won two ATP titles, seems to support my (vague) memory of a player who is comfortable at the net.

For David, however, this match will be about imposing his game on his opponent. He'll try to continue with the same game plan that has worked so well for him of late, playing aggressively from the baseline and, whenever possible, finishing off points at the net. The match will also be a test for David's serve and it remains to be seen how well and how consistenly he'll be able to serve in this best-of-five match. Still, what matters is that David is finally playing a Slam again. At last!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Two new Interviews with David

With David's first-round match at the US Open drawing near now but not quite here yet, here's something to pass the time - two new interviews that David has given to Clarin and La Nacion (via Cancha Llena; thanks, Ciccio) in New York.

In these interviews, David talks about his recent successes, the difficult first half of the season and, of course, the Davis Cup. But he also speaks about his expectations for the US Open...
I was lucky to be seeded, something I wouldn't have thought possible, not too long ago. I'm going to take it match by match, as always, although I see myself as having chances of making it to the second week. I want to go as far as possible and if I keep up the level of the last tournaments, there's a lot of players I can beat. My plan is to continue in this vein. (From the Clarin interview.)
The interviews are fairly long and therefore I've decided not to put them up right here. Instead, you'll find them in the post "David: I'm back".

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Training with Rafa and more about David's Draw


(Fue Buena)

Update
David's opponent in the first round will be Rik De Voest from South Africa (currently ranked 231). David won their only meeting so far, which took place at Cincy, back in 2006.

The partial order of play for Monday that's out by now indicates that play will start with the bottom half of the draw. For David, who's in the top half, this means that he'll play his first-round match either Tuesday or Wednesday.


As reported on Fue Buena (thanks, Camilia), David practiced with Rafael Nadal at the Arthur Ashe stadium for two hours yesterday, which included a training match. In his article for ESPN Deportes, Jorge Viale describes that match in a little more detail...
The world's no.1 is more solid and faster on his feet than Nalbandian and breaks serve three times (while losing his serve once) to take the first set 6-3. The two players, whose relationship goes beyond the courts, could meet in the quarterfinal as yesterday's draw revealed.

Nadal hits the ball with his typical parabola-shaped curve. Nalbandian tries to run as little as possible and closes down the court. Rafa wants his shots to bounce high, moving away from David. David flattens out his shots, allowing the perhaps fastest player on the Tour little time to react.

Without the pressure of the scoreboard (the players asked their coaches for the scores) but with the seriousness of a real test, Nalbandian's and Nadal's play deserves applause. But the practice session on Arthur Ashe takes place "behind closed doors". It's remarkable how many masterful shots the Argentine has to execute in every rally to overcome the champion of Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
In the second set, with the score at 6-3, 5-2 for Nadal, their practice session was cut short due to a microphone test for today's Kid's Day. And apart from that, Maria Sharapova also arrived to claim her practice time at the world's biggest tennis stadium...

David's Draw
With the last round of qualifying still in full sway, it's not yet possible to make any predictions about who David will face in the first round. And I have to admit that out of the players who are still in the draw, around half I've never seen before.
(The more well-known contenders include Mahut, Gicquel, Kendrick, Dancevic and Nishikori.)

But here's a bit more about David's possible opponents after the first round.
In the second round, David could meet either Florent Serra or Florian Mayer (Serra has a 2-0 match record against Mayer). It would be David's first meeting with Serra (#65), a clay-courter whose best results this season have been two semifinals at clay Challengers. On hardcourt, Serra hasn't been able to get past the third round anywhere this year and he failed to make through qualies at Toronto and Cincy.
Against Florian Mayer (#44), David has played twice, beating him easily on both occasions, apparently having no difficulties with Mayer's unorthodox way of playing. Although it has to be said that almost five years have passed since their last encounter (Basel 2005). Mayer recently had a good run at Hamburg (making semis) but hasn't really done too well since then, losing in the first round at Cincy and the third round at New Haven, earlier this week.

Should David make it to the third round, chances are that there, he'd meet Fernando Verdasco (#8). The Spaniard won their only encounter so far (the "tanked match" at Wimbledon 2006) and interestingly enough, they haven't met since. After doing well during the clay-court season, Verdasco posted mixed results, including a first-round loss at Wimbledon against Fognini - now again his opponent in the first round. At both Toronto and Cincy, Verdasco went out in the second round.

I can only say it again - a very good draw for David.
Now we'll have to see what he's able to do with it.

Note: As the old Photo Page has become somewhat huge and difficult to handle, I've added a new one, the Photo Page II to VD. From now on, you'll find the new photos there.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

US Open Draw


(nycgo.com)

Today, the draw was pulled for the US Open at New York and so now here's what awaits David at Flushing Meadows. He has been drawn into the top half, top (i.e. Rafael Nadal's) quarter, the lower half of which looks like this:

[10] David Ferrer (ESP) vs Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR)
Benjamin Becker (GER) vs Daniel Brands (GER)
Jarkko Nieminen (FIN) vs Daniel Gimeno-Traver (ESP)
Jeremy Chardy (FRA) vs [24] Ernests Gulbis (LAT)

[31] David Nalbandian (ARG) vs QUALIFIER
Florent Serra (FRA) vs Florian Mayer (GER)
Pere Riba (ESP) vs QUALIFIER
Fabio Fognini (ITA) vs [8] Fernando Verdasco (ESP)

The full draw you can view here.

So David's opponent in the first round has yet to be decided. And there are certainly worse players he could potentially face in the second round than Serra or Mayer. The same is true for the third round. Drawing Verdasco out of the Top 8 - it could've been a whole lot worse. And after that Ferrer or Gulbis... But that's still far away.
All in all a very good draw for David, I think.

Update
Some new quotes from David...
I'm very happy about the way I played in Washington, where I won the title, as well as in Toronto and Cincinnati. Fortuately, I was able to play a lot of matches and gain match practice, which is what I needed.

I used this week to rest and to train hard for the US Open. I'm very happy to play a Grand Slam again and I feel very good, in terms of my tennis, physically and mentally.

It's very important to be seeded at Flushing Meadows, something that was unthinkable for me a few weeks ago. I hope that I'll do well and that I can reach the decisive stages of this tournament. (Official site.)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A few Words from David...

Currently in the middle of his preparations for the US Open (and the Davis Cup semifinal), David talked to radio FM ESPN 107.9 about his recent successes and expectations for the coming weeks. Quotes from this interview have by now appeared on several Argentine news sites, like Telam...
"The long absence [from the Tour] helped me to come back and enjoy it more again."

Nalbandian said that spending so much time away from the circuit made him enjoy training much more again and "that's where the good results have come from".

"I ended up playing more matches than I thought at first but I'm fine."

"Then [after the US Open] it's time for the Davis Cup and hopefully, we'll do very well."

Finally, Nalbandian confessed that one day, he'll return to spending time on one of his favourite hobbies, like rally, and that he he's no expert when it comes to technology.

And Clarin (thanks, Ciccio)...
"I'm preparing now to be ready for the US Open and the Davis Cup (September 17-19). I'm fortunate to represent a country [in Davis Cup] and I'm lucky enough to always play well in those matches."

"I'm fine. I think that the prospects are good because the goal we set for ourselves for this part of the season was to finish inside the Top 30 and with those few tournaments I've now practically achieved that already. Now, being seeded at the US Open, one can aspire to a little more."

Asked about his return to the Tour, he said that he feels "very good" and that the good results were helping him to feel more comfortable on court. "It's difficult to say but physically, I'm fine. I'm feeling very good. I played a lot more matches than we thought at first and I'm happy, with good prospects for the US Open, where I'm one of the seeds."
In the radio interview David also mentioned that he'll fly home after the Davis Cup semifinal to have ten days of rest before playing the Masters event in Shanghai. Still, his name is on the entry list for Tokyo (the week before Shanghai). And he could have ten days off between Lyon and Tokyo... We'll see.

Monday, August 23, 2010

US Open Seeding


(Getty Images)

Update II (24/08)
I thought that David would pause for three weeks after the Davis Cup semifinal but now it turns out that it's only going to be two: David has added the 500 event in Tokyo to his schedule for this season. The Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships will take place from October 4 to 10.


Today is the day that determines the seeding at the US Open. Based on the rankings as they are today, the seeds will be appointed. And as David is now ranked #33, he'll be the 31st seed, due to the withdrawals of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and last year's champion Juan Martin Del Potro.

Update
It's official now, David is seeded 31st. (Full list of seeds.)

As has already been discussed in the comments for the previous post, the seeds 25-32 are bound to face a Top 8 player in the third round of the tournament. But which player out of the Top 8 it will be and whether David will get far enough to meet him - we'll see.

The US Open 2010 will be David's first Slam since losing in the second round at the Australian Open 2009. Since then, David has missed six Slams in a row. The three remaining ones in 2009 because of his hip surgery, the Australian Open early this year because of the abdominal strain he picked up at Auckland, and then both Roland Garros and Wimbledon because of the hamstring injury from Monte Carlo.
But now, after 19 months, the time for David to finally play a Slam again is drawing near.

It will be David's ninth appearance at Flushing Meadows, with his biggest success so far the infamous semifinal against Andy Roddick, back in 2003.
How far David will be able to get this year, who knows. But for my part, I can't wait for a Slam with David's name in the draw.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Cincy R3 - Downed by Djokovic... Again


(Thanks to Andvari for the highlights and the recording; download via David on Screen.)

"I didn't play well in the first set but after that, I raised the level of my game."
- Enough at least to turn the second set into a competitive affair. After a catastrophic first set and a total of 5 set points wasted in the second, David has now lost his third match in a row against Novak Djokovic, who prevailed 6-1, 7-6(7).
With David's Cincy campaign over, he now has a bit more time to rest and prepare for the US Open, which will start in ten days.

The match began just like their last one at Monte Carlo, with David immediately going down a double break and 4-0. Afterwards winning his only game in the first set - by breaking Djokovic. With David's serve way too harmless to put Djokovic under any kind of pressure, the Serb was in control of almost all of the rallies, whether on serve or on return. Outplaying David, exposing his sluggish movement by going down the lines or by suddenly changing directions with his shots. In short, using the same weapons David likes to use. Apart from that, and even if he got to the ball in time, David made far too many unforced errors, mostly off the forehand wing (14 in the first set, 31 for the match). Serving for the set at 5-1, at 15-0 a return from David was called out. David argued about the call with umpire Lars Graff until Djokovic "overruled" and conceded the point. A nice and fair gesture. But it's easy to be nice and fair if you're in complete control of the match and of your opponent... Only moments later, Djokovic took the first set 6-1.

At the beginning of the second set, David managed to surprise everyone (or least he surprised me) by holding serve for the first time in this match and then going up a break and 2-0. But what seemed like a possible new start turned out to be merely the first one in a series of four breaks that now followed and that eventually at 3-2 saw them back on serve again. In this second set, David managed to consolidate his game and especially his serve, now finally holding serve (and comfortably at that) and also making less unforced errors. He was still far from playing really well or controlling the rallies but it was good enough to hang in there and stay with Djokovic. At 5-4, with Djokovic serving to stay in the set, David had two set points. The first fell victim to a bad return, the second to a rally that I'd call typical for this match. With David in a good position at first but not managing to pull off the decisive shot, whether a winner or forcing an error. Instead seeing each and every ball coming back at him until Djokovic was able to turn defense into attack so that in the end, it was once more David who made the error.
After those two wasted set points, the set eventually went to a tiebreak, David's specialty this season (his record, going into this match: 9-1). After having traded mini-breaks early on, David held two further set points at 6-4. Both of which he squandered with forehand errors. At 7-6, on Djokovic's serve, an error from the Serb granted David his fifth set point. This time, Djokovic saved it, playing a good rally and finishing it with a forehand winner. Then, moments later, it was Djokovic's turn, his first match point. And David hit the double fault...

"Unfortunately, I couldn't take those chances that I had." That he had chances at all after that disastrous first set is at least something. And it shows that he tried to fight his way back into the match. But at the same time, he failed to take any of those chances. The old problem with closing out sets and matches - it's here again.

"He played the important points a lot better than I did and that's what got him the victory." - I'd say that it wasn't only the important points that Djokovic played better. He was by far the better and much more consistent player in this match. As far as I'm concerned, this was one of the really bad matches David plays from time to time. And I've seen a number of those, over the years. But his serve was not only poor in this match and it definitely needs improving.
(Quotes: Telam)

The positive aspect that remains is that David did just enough at Cincy (and was fortunate enough - all of his fellow contenders lost early enough as well) to be ranked #33 next week. High enough to be seeded at the US Open.


(Reuters)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cincy R3 - David vs Novak Djokovic

Update
David's losing streak against Novak Djokovic continues as the Serb prevailed today 6-1, 7-6(7).

More tomorrow...


(AP Photo/Reuters; montage VD)

Four months have passed since David last faced Novak Djokovic (currently ranked #3). And more than half of that time David spent sidelined with the hamstring injury he contracted during that very match (the quarterfinal at Monte Carlo). Of course, none of that was Djokovic's fault.
What "Nole" can be held responsible for however, is having given David a really hard time in all but one of their encounters so far.

David's only victory over Djokovic took place at the Madrid Masters 2007. Where beating the Serb (also ranked #3 then) was part of the special feat David managed to pull off that week, namely to beat the world's #3, #2 and #1. Back then, David defeated Djokovic 6-4, 7-6(4). But apart from that particular match, David has never looked too good against the Serb.

Djokovic won the other three of their four encounters so far. And he did so, never dropping more than five games in the process, whether on hardcourt, grass or clay. - Although it has to be said that David had physical problems in two of those matches, the hamstring injury at Monte Carlo and his hip injury that was troubling him when he lost to Djokovic at the Queen's Club in 2008. The very first time they met however, on hardcourt at the Rogers Cup 2007, Djokovic simply outplayed David.

One thing is clear, even if Djokovic has been inconsistent of late, against him David won't get away with playing sloppy service games. And he will have to take it up at least another notch or two if he wants to stand any chance of winning. With the match scheduled for the early afternoon, the heat might also be a factor. Neither David nor Djokovic like playing in the heat so it remains to be seen who will be able to handle it better. In any case, it will be a tough match for David...

(Note: Photos, highlights, recording, report - all of that tomorrow, as I won't be here after the match.)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cincy R2 - Isner's retirement


(Video available for download now, on the David on Screen page)

It was a somehow hollow and sudden way to finish the match, with John Isner hurting his ankle 5-3 up in the first set, that later led to his retirement at 0-30 5-4 serving for the first set.  Normally match reports are a good way of describing how a match led to its conclusion, but there never really was a conclusion here.

David won the toss and elected to serve first, repeating the same mistake as he did in his match against Ljubicic, broken immediately with bad errors.  A poor approach shot, bad forehand error and double fault cost him the loss of serve.  It seems like after all this time, from his comeback, David still hasn't really found a solution to these sluggish starts.  This poor game, seemed to be a deciding factor in the first set, as David never got close to Isner's serve.

In the first three service games, Isner barely missed any first serves.  But even when Isner started throwing in more second serves, David was still having a lot of trouble with it bouncing up so high.  No one really knows what would have happened had the match gone on any longer, and had it gone to another set, where David wouldn't have had to play from a break down the whole way.

After the initial break of serve, both players held comfortably, to the point where it became obvious that David must have really played a terrible service game to lose his serve first up.  Because he didn't have to do much to get Isner moving in all the other service games.

After Isner came back from the injury time-out, he was visibly struggling, not making any attempt to hit the majority of points.  Perhaps he was hoping he could serve out the set anyway, but once he went down 0-30, he called it a day.  Unlike last week, I guess David will be quite fresh heading into tomorrow's match against Djokovic.

Cincy R2 - David vs John Isner


(Getty Images/Reuters; montage VD)

In the last year or so, John Isner has made big improvements in his game, most notably to his forehand and movement.  He's currently at the peak of his career, sitting in the top 20 right now.  His progression coincided with the same period where David was forced to sit in the sidelines.  Therefore it isn't surprising at all, that David has never met Isner on the match court before.

This should be a very interesting contrast of strengths and weaknesses.  The battle between Isner's serve and David's return of serve.  It will also be a test of David's consistency on service games, since he has been known to leak some bad service games here and there throughout his comeback, but has amazingly been able to make up for it on return of serve.

I guess how this match pans out will pretty much be determined by how well Isner serves, and what his first serve percentage ends up being, and also how both players play in the clutch situations. Isner has a flashy, occasionally dangerous game, but I think David should be able to keep him out of position more often than not.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cincy R1 - A new Start against Ljubicic


(Highlights and recording by Andvari - thank you. Download via David on Screen.)

In the past, David had his difficulties with Ivan Ljubicic's serve. But this time, the difficulties were over after the first set. David beat Ljubicic 7-5, 6-0 in 61 minutes, with the Croat winning only six points in the second set.
In the second round, David now faces John Isner. Krystle will cover this match.

Having won the toss, David elected to serve, an unusual decision for him to make. And initially, it didn't really seem like a wise one, as David immediately lost his serve, with Ljubicic hitting clean return winners off both second and first serves from David. But Ljubicic as well caught a bit of a shaky start and lost his first service game. So after trading breaks, they were back on serve, with both now holding serve comfortably - but in very different fashion. While Ljubicic relied almost entirely on his first serve to keep him out of trouble, David was in control during almost all of the rallies. Exposing Ljubicic's poor movement with deep groundstrokes and using his short replies to finish off points with angled shots or at the net. The only problem remained to be Ljubicic's first serve. While winning an amazing 92% of points returning second serve, David only managed 5% when returning first serves. David was in control of the match but he couldn't find a way to get the break and that led to some visible frustration. When Ljubicic held to love, serving to stay in the set at 5-4, it seemed like the set was bound to end with a tiebreak. But the second time around, at 6-5, David finally got what he had been waiting for - second serves and the chance to get into rallies. Again he managed to outplay Ljubicic completely until an unforced error from the Croat allowed David to convert his first set point, 7-5.

After that, the second set basically was one-way traffic. With Ljubicic showing less and less resistance and David dominating proceedings even more than in the first set. And posting incredible numbers on return, winning 100% of points, returning second serve but now also winning 50% of points when Ljubicic got his first serve in. In short, David took Ljubicic's serve apart completely. And without it, there was nothing left the Croat could have caused David any trouble with. Instead, David cruised through the set in what seemed like ten minutes before a last double fault from Ljubicic at match point sealed David's victory - and the bagel for Ljubicic.

A very good match from David (and a very clean one, only 8 unforced errors in total) and what's certainly an important victory against a former "nemesis". Although Ivan Ljubicic is no longer the player he was back in the days when they met more often. David looked great out there today. But Ljubicic's poor movement and short replies helped with that. Still, a great start into this week.

Cincy R1 - David vs Ivan Ljubicic


(Tom Uhlman/AP Photo)

Update

First Wawrinka at Washington, now Ljubicic at Cincy - after losing the last four matches against the Croat in a row, tonight David turned the tables on Ivan Ljubicic and defeated him 7-5, 6-0 in 61 minutes.
In the secound round, David now face the next serve monster - John Isner. It will be their first meeting.

More soon...



(Getty Images/Reuters; montage VD)

A new week, a new tournament - but an opponent from the old days for David.
In his first-round match at Cincy today, he'll face Ivan Ljubicic. The Croat, 31 years old by now, who used to mean all sorts of trouble for David, back in the days when their paths crossed fairly regularly on the Tour. And David fairly regularly came out second best.

Between 2004 and 2007, they met seven times, with Ljubicic the winner on five occasions. Including the Davis Cup quarterfinal in Zagreb 2006, where he beat David in straights. The last time David managed to defeat Ljubicic (having also won their very first encounter back in 2004) was at the round robin stage of the Masters Cup in Shanghai 2005, on the way to eventually winning the title.

In the past, the main problems David had with Ljubicic were his backhand, with which the Croat was able to outrally him. And most of all Ljubicic's serve that had David posting numbers on return, almost as minimalistic as with some of his worst defeats against Wawrinka.
But by now, almost three and a half years have passed since their last encounter and the last victory for Ljubicic. And maybe it's time for a new start against an opponent from the old days.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Cincy Draw


(Getty Images)
UpdateIII (16/08)
As of this week, David has gone up another 8 positions and is now ranked #37.

UpdateII
A few more quotes from David...
When I approached the US [hardcourt] swing, I did so with the objective of gaining more hours on the court and to see how my body would respond to the demands of the circuit and now I'm more than satisfied with the outcome.
I played very well these two weeks, I beat some great players and the response from my body was perfect. Against Murray, I felt a little tired but that's logical after having played all those matches.
If I play well and win, the ranking will take care of itself. The important thing is to feel confident on court. (Telam)
And from the official site:
I'm very happy and satisfied with my performance during those last two weeks, both in Washington and in Toronto. I think that I was able to play at a very high level.
In the end, I felt very tired, having played 11 consecutive matches [well, 10 actually] but the balance is a very positive one.
Murray played very well.
Finally, I want to thank all the fans for their support during these days and my whole team for being with me and helping me at all times.
Update
The transcript of David's press conference after the Murray match you'll find here.


The Western & Southern Financial Group Masters in Cincinnati, better known perhaps as Cincy, isn't really the kind of tournament David has a long or successful history with. Having played it only five times in his career and not since 2007, David's best result at this tournament was a lone quarterfinal appearance back in 2003 (where lost to Mardy Fish). On all other occasions, David went out in either the first or the second round. - But perhaps, now is the time for David to do something about his bad record at Cincy.

And here's what he's up against, this year. David finds himself in the bottom half and in Novak Djokovic's quarter, which looks like this...

[5] Robin Söderling (SWE) vs BYE
Lleyton Hewitt (AUS) vs Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE)
Juan Monaco (ARG) vs Thiemo De Bakker (NED)
Sergiy Stakhovsky (UKR) vs [9] Andy Roddick (USA)

[15] Ivan Ljubicic (CRO) vs David Nalbandian (ARG)
John Isner (USA) vs Lukasz Kubot (POL)
Radek Stepanek (CZE) vs Viktor Troicki (SRB)
BYE vs [2] Novak Djokovic
(SRB)

The full draw you can find here (thanks, joyce63 and Tim).

So it will be Ivan Ljubicic in the first round for David. Not really someone he has done well against in the past. Ljubicic has a 5-2 lead in terms of their match record and he won their last four matches in a row. But it's been a while since these two played against each other (their last encounter took place at Indian Wells 2007) and although Ljubicic managed to pull off a surprise victory at Indian Wells this year, he hasn't won too many matches since then. And I think he maybe no longer is the Ivan Ljubicic David had such trouble with in the past.
In the second round, David could meet either Lukasz Kubot (who David beat in straights at Miami) or John Isner in what would be his first match against the American. And certainly a test for David's returning skills. Before in the third round another match against Novak Djokovic might wait...
A tough draw for David. What he'll be able to do with it - we'll see. Next week at Cincy.

The End of the Streak - David loses to Murray


(Highlights by Andvari, recording by Krystle - hats off to the video department and thanks for all the work, these last two weeks! The match is available on the David on Screen page.)

In their previous meeting, it was David who exploited Murray's weak serve with great returns and who dictated most of the rallies. This time, Andy Murray managed to turn the tables on a tired and lacklustre David, defeating him comfortably 6-2, 6-2.
It's David's first loss since his making his return after having been out for three months with the hamstring injury he contracted at Monte Carlo. And as sad as it is to see his great run end - to come back on the Tour with a title and a Masters quarterfinal back to back, that's so much more than anyone could possibly, realistically expect from David after the difficult season he had so far. Not to mention that concerns about his expiring protected ranking are no longer an issue, now that David has risen from around #160 to what will probably be #37 in the rankings next week. David didn't do badly in the four tournaments he played earlier in the year. But right now it feels like "El Rey" David is really, finally back. At last.

The story of today's defeat is quickly told - Murray played a very good and solid match and everything that worked so well in David's game these last two weeks, whether his returns or his groundstrokes didn't do so today. Especially off the backhand side, usually David's much more stable wing, he produced error after error (30 unforced errors in total for the match), never finding his timing on that particular shot. His groundstrokes in general didn't have the accuracy and depth that allowed him to dictate play in the previous matches. Instead, his shots often landed short, allowing Murray to play aggressively and gain the upper hand in the rallies. Later on in the match, David tried to change his game plan and come to the net more often as he wasn't winning too many points from the baseline. But not even that would work today. Finally, Murray managed to expose the weakness in David's game, his serve. David made 63% first serves but only won 60% of first and 28% of second serves, finding himself under a lot of pressure in almost all of his service games. At the same time, he never found a way of really attacking Murray in his service games, not even on second serve (Murray won 59% of those).
In short, a rather poor match from David. But understandably so, because sooner or later, the many matches and the exhaustion simply had to catch up with him.
Still, what remains is David's amazing winning streak. And knowing now that he's back.


(Reuters)

Toronto QF - David vs Andy Murray


(Frank Gunn/AP Photo/The Canadian Press)

Update

After winning 2 Davis Cup and 9 ATP matches in a row, David's winning streak has ended today with a defeat at the hands of Andy Murray who prevailed 6-2, 6-2 after 69 minutes. Maybe David sooner or later simply had to pay the price for all the tennis he played in the course of the last two weeks - and it seems that this is what happened today.
However, having reached the quarterfinal, David will now move up in the rankings to around #37. He'll now have a couple of well-deserved days off before playing the Masters event in Cincinnati, next week. The draw will be available later today.


Again it took a while to appear but here's the transcript of David's press conference after yesterday's match against Söderling.



(AP Photo/Getty Images; montage VD)

Today, it's quarterfinals day at the Rexall Tennis Centre in Toronto. And honestly, who would've thought at the beginning of this week that David would still be in the tournament by now, that he would be able to just keep on winning after his Washington title.

So now it's time for the quarterfinal and David's second match against a Top 5 player in a row, this time against Andy Murray (#4). It'll be their third meeting on the Tour with David having won both of their previous encounters. Still, those two matches were very different from each other, as was the way David won them. Their first encounter, in the third round at Wimbledon back in 2005, saw David going down two sets to love before he managed to turn things around, eventually prevailing in five.
Their last match, however, in the quarterfinal at the Paris Masters in 2008, was an entirely different matter. To this day, it's often highlights clips from this very entertaining match that are used for example on forums to show David at his returning and point-constructing best. Back then, David profited from some weak serving by Murray. But despite struggling with his hip injury at that time, David was able to take control of the rallies, outsmarting Murray in the majority of their chess-like rallies and eventually winning in straight sets (report).

Today, much will depend on whether David can manage to take control once again, whether he can find a way of pushing Murray deep behind his own baseline. And whether David can once more play with same kind of belief in himself and in his own game.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Toronto R3 - David dispatches Söderling


(The match is available on the David on Screen page, thanks Krystle for the recording - and Andvari for the highlights.)

He had a very positive match record against him to start with but the question was whether David could beat the new and improved Robin Söderling - he could. After two hours and eight minutes, David prevailed 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.
In tomorrow's quarterfinal, he'll now face Andy Murray.

Söderling began the match with a shaky service game, gifting David his first break point of the match with a double fault and then at break point failing to get one of David's many great returns back into play. David held easily to consolidate the break and go up 2-0. But only to then play a sloppy service game at 2-1, in the course of which he squandered two game points before handing the break back to Söderling with a series of unforced errors, 2-2. David had another chance to break at 3-3 but at that moment, he produced another one of the 19 unforced errors he made in this set (40 in the match). Afterwards, at 4-3, David managed to fend off two break points with good serves and scrape through to 4-4. But at the moment he needed his serve the most, serving to say in the set down 5-4, it deserted him. David made two double faults in a row, before a badly timed attack and a volley into the net allowed Söderling to convert his second set point and take the first set 6-4.

The second set began just like the first one - with a break against Söderling, at love this time. But David went on to lose his own serve immediately afterwards, first saving two break points with good serves again before a couple of backhand errors ending up costing him the game, 1-1. But David managed to break Söderling's serve yet again, with the pressure he put the Swede under with consistent, deep returns now starting to pay off. Up a break again and 2-1, David now began to serve better and to hold serve much more easily. And he also now really began to take control of the rallies, moving Söderling around the court, using angles and constantly changing the spin on his shots. David safely carried the break through the set without facing any further break points. Serving for the set, however, he wasted 4 set points before finally converting his fifth as Söderling failed to return another good serve, 6-4.

The third set began once more with Söderling serving and getting broken by David, this time after first saving 3 breakpoints. The following game saw David easily consolidating his break for a 2-0 lead, as well as the first obvious signs of frustration from Söderling. That the Swede afterwards managed to win what would be his only game in this set was more the result of some errors from David than his own doing. Because David was now in complete control of the match. Hitting amazing returns off both first and second serves from Söderling, dictating the rallies and completely unnerving the Swede. David broke again for 4-1, after first saving a game point and setting up his break point with a great lob (a shot he hits very well at the moment). And then for the last time when Söderling served to stay in the match at 5-1, converting his first match point with the last great return of the day that drew the error from the Swede, 6-1.

I guess it's safe to say that this was the best and most impressive match David has played since his return. Although a bit patchy initially, he never lost his focus, never got down on himself but once more played with the same confidence and belief in his game that, I think, has played a crucial role in his latest streak of victories. And also once again showing no signs of fatigue but instead growing better and more solid as the match went on.
He didn't serve quite as well as he did against Robredo (and made 8 double faults in the match). But he managed to consolidate his serve during the match and once again he was able to come up with good serves in some of the important moments. David's excellent return of serve today deserves a special mention here, especially considering that he was facing a strong server in Söderling. Allowing him to win merely 24% of second serves in the match (8% in the third set). But it was also the way David took control during the rallies, outsmarting Söderling on numerous occasions and successfully keeping him from unleashing his powerful groundstrokes.
Or to say it with David's own words:
Söderling is a great player. But I played at a high level and that's why I won. (ESPN)

You can watch David's post-match interview for TennisTV following this link.

David now faces the next Top 5 player he has a positive record against - Andy Murray. A very different match. And yet hopefully more of the same. From David.


(EPA)

Toronto R3 - David vs Robin Söderling


(Frank Gunn/AP Photo/The Canadian Press)
Update

Taking his biggest scalp since making his return on the ATP Tour, David has defeated Robin Söderling 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 for a place in tomorrow's quarterfinal.
There, he will face Andy Murray who beat Gael Monfils 6-2, 0-6, 6-3. David has a 2-0 match record against Murray.

Photos from the match now on the photo page.

More soon...




(Reuters/AP Photo; montage VD)

For the first time since the start of his winning streak, David today finds himself up against a Top 10 player - Robin Söderling, this year's runner-up at Roland Garros (ranked #5).
It will be their seventh meeting, with David having won five of their six matches so far and Söderling's only victory dating back to 2005 (at Hamburg, on clay). However, all of these six matches took place prior to Söderling's breakthrough and before he became a Top 10 player.

The last encounter between these two took place in October 2008. Back then, David defeated Söderling in three sets in the final of Stockholm (report), to keep his perfect record against the Swede in matches on hardcourt (two for two).
But their most memorable, as well as momentous encounter took place earlier that year in the Davis Cup quarterfinal - the decisive five-set victory that turned David's hip problem into a full-fledged injury and about which he later said that he never suffered on a tennis court like he did that day.

Just like Ferrer and Robredo, Robin Söderling is playing his first hardcourt event since spring, having played on clay after Wimbledon. And apparently, he had his difficulties in his first match at Toronto against Ernests Gulbis. Still, David expects him to be a difficult opponent:
Söderling is going to be a very tough opponent. From what I can say about this encounter, I'm going to try and play just like I did in those last few matches. If I can attack then that's what I'm going to do. (Source: Telam)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Toronto R3 - David makes short Work of Robredo


(Highlights by Andvari, recording by Krystle - thank you both; download via the David on Screen page)

Last week at Washington, David breezed through the early rounds - and there was no coverage, only impressive numbers on the scoreboard. But I guess today's match against Tommy Robredo has shown what those matches must have looked like, as he easily beat the Spaniard 6-3, 6-0 in 56 minutes. Not allowing Robredo a single game after 3-3 in the first set.
David's next opponent is now Robin Söderling (currently ranked #5).

David caught a bit of a shaky start, going down 15-40 in his first service game but then served himself out of trouble, a first indication of how well and how consistently he served in this match. On return, he needed exactly three games to find his rhythm. Those three games he allowed Robredo in this match. And then converting his first set point after less than half an hour when Robredo failed to get one of David's many great returns today back into play, 6-3.

In the second set, as the scoreline suggests, David dictated play completely. Having an answer for whatever Robredo tried, whether it was rallying from the baseline or a more attacking play, coming to the net. Breaking Robredo's serve at will, David continued to be stable in his own service games, apart from a sloppy game at 4-0, during which he fended off a break point with another good first serve before eventually holding. With Robredo then serving to stay in the match at 5-0, David converted his second match point with a last great return today that drew the error from Robredo, 6-0.

- A great match from David. And perhaps, he simply didn't spend enough time on court to feel tired or exhausted. As usual, he took a moment to get started but this time without losing his serve. And once he found his rhythm, he was in complete control of the match.
But what's really stunning about David's performance today, is the way he managed to clean up his game and stabilise his serve, compared to yesterday's match against Ferrer. Posting some impressive numbers on serve (71% first serves for the match, in the first set that percentage reached 81%; winning 86% first and 42% second serves). But also serving very well in the important moments. And with his groundstrokes much more solid as well, though David didn't take quite as much risk with his shots as he did against Ferrer. And there really was no need to...
What's also good is that David didn't have to spend too much energy on court today. He will need it tomorrow. Against Söderling.

Update
A little late, I know, but transcripts usually take a while to appear - here's the one of David's press conference after yesterday's match against Ferrer.

A word about the lack of photos
For some bizarre reason, there seem to be hardly any (if at all) photos, whenever David plays against Robredo. It's almost like some kind of strange curse...
Edit: Still no pics from today's match but a couple of great photos now of David at the tournament site, courtesy of VD reader Yolkinà - thank you.

Toronto R2 - David vs Tommy Robredo

Update
David has taken only 56 minutes to comfortably defeat Tommy Robredo 6-3, 6-0. Showing no signs of fatigue but instead putting in a very dominant performance and, in a stark contrast to yesterday's match, serving extremely well. David now faces Robin Söderling (the fifth seed) in the third round, tomorrow.

More soon...




(Getty Images/Reuters, montage VD)

In today's match, David faces the second Spanish player in a row - Tommy Robredo (currently ranked #38). Who, just like David Ferrer, is playing his first tournament on hardcourt in a while, having gone back to playing on clay after Wimbledon.
David and Robredo, of roughly the same age, go way back and played their first ever match on Tour already in 2001. Since then, David has won five of their altogether seven encounters, including those two of them that took place on a hardcourt.

Today's match will be the second time this year that David faces Tommy Robredo, after meeting him in the third round at Monte Carlo in April. Back then, David came straight from having played a very tough match against Mikhail Youzhny in the previous round. Still, he beat Robredo fairly comfortably 6-3, 6-4 (report).
Going into today's match, David will probably feel even more tired than he did, playing his last match against Robredo. But he'll also be going into it with a lot more confidence...

Here's David's ATP interview after yesterday's match.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Toronto R1 - The Battle of the Davids


(Highlights by Andvari, recording by Krystle - thank you; the match is available via the David on Screen page.)

Like most matches between the two Davids, it went the distance and it was a rather topsy-turvy affair (especially in the third set) but in the end, the "right" David prevailed 7-5, 3-6, 6-3. The match saw a total of eleven breaks of serve and lots of unforced errors on both sides (57 from David). And all in all, it wasn't pretty - but it was enough from David to get the win and move on to the second round. There, he'll face Tommy Robredo (match record: 5-2 David).

The match began with both players looking to find their rhythm. After failing to convert his first break points of the day at 1-1, David lost his own serve to love. But only to then immediately break back again. The first of several break/rebreaks in this match. Afterwards, they stayed on serve. Serving to stay in the set at 5-4, David saved a set point and got through to 5-5 before breaking for a 6-5 lead. Serving for the set, David first saved a break point and then converted his first set point.

Early on in the second set, David lost his serve again and once more broke back right away. But David's shaky hold for 2-2 turned out to be the last one he'd manage in this set. During which his first serve pretty much deserted him. Apart from that he kept making lots of unforced errors, allowing Ferrer to take more and more control of proceedings. David got broken again for 4-2 but at 5-2 at least managed to hold, forcing Ferrer to serve it out, which he did.

The third set saw first Ferrer getting a break (2-0) and losing it again directly afterwards. Before the same thing happened to David, going up 4-2, but then losing his serve. After that, however, David went on to break Ferrer yet again, gaining a 5-3 lead that now allowed him to serve for the match. After quickly going up 40-0, David eventually converted his third match point with an easy forehand winner off a short return from Ferrer.

David obviously went into this match with a clear game plan, to play as aggressively as possible and to take risks. Going for his shots, going for the lines. Anything to prevent getting drawn into those long and gruelling rallies against Ferrer. But trying to take control from the baseline, not coming to the net as often as he did in his previous matches. With Ferrer's great passing shots probably playing a role in this decision. But while the strategy was clear (and understandable, I think), it also had its dangers - 57 unforced errors speak for themselves. And aggressive play such as this usually needs a strong or at least consistent serve as a foundation. David's serve was neither strong, nor consistent today and the fact that in spite of this and the many errors he made he was still able to pull off the victory in the end had two reasons, I believe. On the one hand, Ferrer clearly wasn't in the very best of forms either. But on the other, David played with the same confidence he already showed in Washington. Apparently never losing faith in himself and his game, not even in those moments of the match when not much seemed to work and he was making errors left and right. He didn't stay as calm as he did last week but he also didn't get down on himself. He just fought on.
(Photo: Matthew Stockmann/Getty Images)

Only David himself knows how tired he felt during this match. And how much it affected his game. I thought he looked very tired in the second set and basically resigned myself to seeing him fall apart in the third. But that's not what happened in the end. Still, this match will take its toll on David and his fitness.
It's clear that he will have to serve better, much better. And perhaps to find a better balance between taking risks and what might be just a little too much risk with his shots. But hopefully, he can continue to be as impressive as he once again was on return today. And just maintain this new confidence. For my part, I think it suits him extremely well.

Update
The latest quotes from David. From Olé...
The Davis Cup tie in March and the last week in Washington helped me to keep believing in myself.

There are no secrets to a a successful comeback. It was tough.

I played more aggressively, trying to finish the points more quickly. But it's difficult to play against him from the baseline, he didn't make many errors.

And from ESPN...
It makes me happy that I keep winning. Ferrer is a very tough player but fortunately, I managed to win.

I had a great day, it was very warm but my body responded well and that's another thing that makes me very happy.

When I went to Washington, my goal was to get more hours on the court and then I went on to win matches and make my way through the rounds and then win the title. I hope the same thing will now happen again.

The most important thing is to keep gaining confidence in my game because next week I'm going to play another Masters event and then the US Open.

[about Tommy Robredo]
He's a great fighter and we know each other well. It will be another tough match.

Toronto R1 - David vs David Ferrer


(Frank Gunn/AP Photo/The Canadian Press)

Update

David's winning streak continues - he has defeated David Ferrer 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 in two hours and fifteen minutes for a place in the second round at the Masters in Toronto. There, his next opponent will also be a Spaniard, Tommy Robredo.

Photos from the match now on the photo page.

More soon...



(Getty Images/Reuters; montage VD)

Going on to play the next tournament directly after winning a title is always difficult. And in a scenario like this, David Ferrer isn't really the name you want to see next to yours in the draw... As the best eight players receive a bye for the first round, David's luck, drawing Ferrer (the tenth seed) could've hardly been any worse. And not just in terms of the sheer numbers. Because playing against Ferrer usually means - a lot of work.

This will be the eleventh "Battle of the Davids", with the overall match record standing at 6-4 for Ferrer. But if you leave out their matches on clay and only take into account the ones on hardcourt, it's David who leads 4-2 and he has won their last two matches (Davis Cup final 2008 and Paris quarterfinal 2007). It's been a while now since David and "Ferru" have met on court. But they know each other well (both on court and off of it). And David will know exactly what's awaiting him - in all probability a tough match with many long rallies and a lot of ground that he might have to cover during them. And if their past matches are anything to go by, chances are that this one might go the distance.
What might work in David's favour is that Ferrer hasn't played any hardcourt events prior to this tournament. So he might still need to adjust a little. At the same time, it will be the perfect opportunity for David to put the aggressive play that worked so well for him in Washington to a new test. Perhaps a much sterner one, given Ferrer's defensive abilities.

The match is scheduled fairly early on this second day of first-round matches. But the weather in Toronto is very different from Washington, with temperatures of currently only around 25°C (77°F). So conditions should be fine, also for a tough match. But the question is of course - will David be fine, ready and fit enough for a possibly tough match?

Monday, August 9, 2010

David wins Washington


(Highlights by Andvari, recording by Krystle, thanks! - the match has now been added on the David on Screen page)

Update
More quotes from David about his victory you can find here.

Playing only his fifth tournament of this season and the first one since April, David defeated Marcos Baghdatis 6-2, 7-6(4) in just under two hours to win the title at Washington. It's David's eleventh career title, the second on hardcourt and his first ever tournament victory in the US. It's also the first title David has managed to win since having hip surgery. And the 500 ranking points he gained for it have now indeed taken him up 72 places to #45.

In a match that saw two very different sets, David was off to the best of starts as he broke Baghdatis in the very first game and then consolidated his break to go up 2-0. After taking this early lead, David was able to mostly dominate from the baseline, once more hitting the ball very well, both on the forehand and the backhand side. And although in the first set, his first serve percentage only reached 42%, David was stable enough on serve to not allow Baghdatis any break points. At 4-2, David broke Baghdatis again and then easily served out the set to take it 6-2.

The second set however unfolded very differently from the first - and turned into an extremely tight and dramatic affair. This time, it was David who found himself down a break at the start, after gifting Baghdatis the break with two double faults in a row. Still, he managed to break back immediately. David's following service game at 2-1 saw a total of three double double faults, an epic deuce battle and a total of 6 break points he all managed to save until finally scraping through to 2-2. And as is so often the case, after failing to convert those chances, Baghdatis now lost his serve, giving David a 3-2 lead. But it was short-lived as David now lost his serve, this time without an epic battle. So at 3-3, they were now on serve again and remained to be from then on. At 6-5 Baghdatis, David saved a set point and eventually managed to reach the tiebreak. There, David quickly went up 5-0 before losing 3 points in a row (2 on his serve). An unforced error from Baghdatis gave David 3 match points at 6-3, the first of which he wasted with his last double fault (the seventh) of the day. But David converted the second one as a forehand from Baghdatis landed wide. 7-6(4)

David wanted to make a new start in this second half of the season. But that it would look like this, probably no one could've foreseen. Even if David has said that he was optimistic, having trained well in the last months.
Now Washington, the more or less surprise addition to his schedule, has shown that all the hard work after surgery was not in vain, that his game is still there and that David can still win titles. And what a boost for his confidence, for his morale this must be.
The matches last week showed some weaknesses, mostly his serve, which was far too inconsistent, especially yesterday. But I think what's more important is that last week also showed that he can not only win matches but also win them against players he struggled against in the past. For my part, I didn't really expect he'd make it past Wawrinka. Now, David has not only defeated him but also Baghdatis.
But what most important, though easy to forget when things are going as well as this - David had no physical problems all week, despite playing every day. So maybe, that long pause after Monte Carlo really was the right decision.
(Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)


For those who missed the trophy ceremony (including that comment by Marcos Baghdatis and David's reaction), here's a clip.




And here's Juan's (La Raqueta) video of David's post-match press conference.



David now heads over to Toronto where, according to the tournament schedule, he'll play his first-round match against David Ferrer as early as tomorrow. Whether that might be too much of a challenge for David after this week and the title - we'll see.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Washington Final - David vs Marcos Baghdatis




Update

David has defeated Marcos Baghdatis 6-2, 7-6(4) to win his first title since Sydney 2009!
He'll be ranked around #45 next week, moving up what could be a record-breaking 72 places in the rankings.

More soon...


Photos from the match now on the photo page.






(Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)






(Getty Images, montage by VD)

For yesterday's semifinal, there was a video of Cilic talking about how David is on top of his list of toughtest opponents. The last time Marcos Baghdatis talked about David in front of an audience, of a few thousand people I might add, he had the following to say. "David, when he plays good, he can be a real pain in the ass." Which was of course meant as a compliment and taken as such.
This little speech took place after the last time David and Marcos Baghdatis faced each other on a tennis court, in the final of the Copa Argentina exhibition in Buenos Aires, last December. Back then, David beat Baghdatis 6-4, 6-4.

On the Tour however, David has a losing match record against the Cypriot (1-3), with the most memorable defeat of course in the Australian Open semifinal 2006, where David led by two sets before eventually losing the match in five. But more than three years have gone by since David's last loss to Baghdatis (at Wimbledon 2007). Three years during which both of them have struggled with injury problems and getting back to their best level of playing. For my part, I would say that Baghdatis is not an easy match-up for David but that he's also not in the kind of form that he had when he beat David in their three last encounters.

David, who has described their styles of playing from the baseline as very similar, is expecting a tough match.
It's going to be a tough one. He's playing good.
While Baghdatis probably watched David's semifinal match last night and knows what's awaiting him:
David is quick on his feet, likes to open the court a lot. He likes to move you around the court.
But how well Baghdatis will be able to move on court remains to be seen. During his semifinal match against Xavier Malisse, he took a fall on court, slightly injuring his left ankle. Here's what happened, in his own words.
I just twisted my ankle a little bit. I felt it a bit. Now it feels okay. But I was a bit scared. That's why I fell down. But I got it taped. I was moving around and I was fine. I hope it will feel okay tomorrow.
David on the other hand told the press again that he's fine, physically and also said that just like in his previous matches, he plans to focus on and believe in his own game.
I'm feeling good. I had too many weeks without matches. (Quotes: Yahoo Sports)
Now he had a week with five matches - and five victories so far. And while his wins at the Davis Cup tie in Moscow already seemed like the first signs of the new start David was hoping to make in this second half of the season, I guess nobody could've really foreseen that he would be able to follow it up by reaching this final. And no matter what happens in today's match, if David stays fit from now on - who knows what else the next weeks may bring...

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Washington SF - David downs Cilic

(Thanks to Andvari for the highlights and Krystle for the recording; you can download the match via the David on Screen page.)

Note: Video of David's press conference added below.

Asked about his most difficult opponents outside the Top5, the first name that came to Marin Cilic's mind was David's. With one of the reasons being David's ability to neutralise the Croat's biggest weapon, namely his serve - and that's precisely what David did in their semifinal match. Breaking Cilic's serve five times in the course of the match, David secured an easy 6-2, 6-2 win to reach his first ATP final since Sydney, back in January 2009. There, he will face Marcos Baghdatis.

Just like against Simon, David didn't exactly catch the brightest of starts in this match and immediately got broken in the very first game. Hardly making any first serves at all and committing unforced errors, especially off the forehand wing. But this time, David managed to get back on track again and he managed to do so, quickly. Already in Cilic's first service game, David hit some good returns, putting Cilic under pressure. And then getting the rebreak as Cilic double-faulted at break point. Following it up by holding his own serve to love, David now looked to be finding his rhythm. His first serve percentage was low and would remain to be low in this set (45% in the first, 60% in the second set) but he won enough points on second serve to stay out of trouble. For the most part. But the key to this match was the pressure David managed to put Cilic under when returning. Cilic held serve to level the score at 2-2 - for the last time in the first set. After that, David went down 15-40 on his own serve but saved both break points and made it 3-2. With Cilic's turn now to serve again, his first serve percentage started to decline while David kept attacking his second serve and with success. Cilic managed to save two break points with first serves before one of David's many great returns off a second one drew the error and granted him another break, 4-2. Serving to stay in the set, Cilic set up a set point for David with another double fault before another good return from David allowed him to dictate the rally until Cilic committed an unforced error, 6-2.

The second set David began with an another break and a 2-0 lead. At this point in the match, David had committed a total of only 5 unforced errors (with most of them having come at the very start of the match), in a stark contrast to the quarterfinal match against Simon. David easily consolidated his break to go up 3-0 and remained to be in control of most of the rallies. And while his forehand had been erratic against Simon, it won him many points in this match, either with clean winners or drawing errors from Cilic. David didn't come to the net as often as he did before but he was able to dominate proceedings from the baseline. At 4-2, David was up 40-15 before finding himself back at deuce again and then facing the first break point of the second set. But he saved it with a slow topspin serve that caught Cilic off guard and eventually held to make it 5-2. Serving to stay in the match, Cilic quickly went down 15-30 and then gifted David two match points with a double fault. And then, for the last time in the match, it was David's return off a second serve that drew the error from Cilic, 6-2.

Overall, it was a very solid match from David, with only very few unforced errors. He didn't show any signs of fatigue but seemed to move very well and quickly found his rhythm with his groundstrokes, with his forehand working particularly well. And his returns were great and basically won him this match, putting Cilic under constant pressure in almost all of his service games. In other words - a good performace and an easy win that, no matter what happens in the final, will propel David to #65 in the rankings on Monday. What the final against Baghdatis will bring - we'll see.

Update

It's not the ESPN post-match interview (not available so far) but it a clip of David's press conference by Juan from La Raqueta.

If you're interested in what Marin Cilic had to say about David and his performance after the match, you can watch the vidoe of his press conference here.


(Reuters Pictures)

Washington SF - David vs Marin Cilic


(Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo)

Update
After struggling against Simon, David put in another dominant performance tonight and easily defeated Marin Cilic 6-2, 6-2 in 73 minutes. He will now face Marcos Baghdatis in tomorrow's final.

Photos from the match now on the photo page.

More soon.



(Getty Images, montage by VD)

Once more, the prime time slot at Washington belongs to David - tonight at 7pm local time, he will play his semifinal match against Marin Cilic, currently ranked #13.
David and Cilic have met before but their only match so far took place more than four years ago, at the Davis Cup quarterfinal tie in Croatia 2006. Back then, David crushed Cilic (merely 17 years old at the time) 6-1, 6-1, 6-2. And although years have passed since that match, it apparently left a deep impression with Marin Cilic (see clip below).

As far as David is concerned, tonight's match will show how much he still has left in the tank after yesterday's battle against Simon. The other big question mark going into this match will be David's serve. It seemed not completely off last night (or not all of the time) but the fact remains that he will have to serve better and more consistently. As well as play more consistently, with less unforced errors. But all that will of course also depend on how fit David is.

I already posted this clip before (in January) but I'll use it again here, simply because it doesn't happen too often that there is a video of David's next opponent, where he talks about playing against David. And least of all in this kind of manner...



Should David win tonight, he'll face Marcos Baghdatis in the final tomorrow, who beat Xavier Malisse 6-2, 7-6(4) in the first semifinal match of the day.

Apart from that, and as has already been mentioned in the comments (thanks joyce63 and Ciccio) the draw for next week's Masters event in Toronto was pulled yesterday. David, in Nadal's half and Murray's quarter of the draw, faces David Ferrer in the first round.
The full draw you can find here.

Washington QF - The Review


(Highlights by Andvari, thanks; the match is available on the David on Screen page, thanks Krystle for the recording.)

It was David's first tough battle since his three-set battle victory over Youzhny at Monte Carlo but just like back then, he prevailed in the end. In a somewhat chaotic match that saw a total of 12 breaks and plenty of errors as well as patches of good play, David overcame Gilles Simon 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 in one hour an 57 minutes.
In today's semifinal, David will now face Marin Cilic, who defeated Janko Tipsarevic 7-6(4), 6-4. It will be David's second encounter with the young Croatian after beating him very easily in Davis Cup four years ago.

Already at the very beginning of last night's quarterfinal it became clear that this match would turn out very differently from David's previous matches at Washington. That this time, he wouldn't be able to get the early break a quickly build a comfortable lead. Instead, David began the match without any rhythm on his groundstrokes, spraying errors left and right, and also hardly making any first serves. The consequence was an immediate break for Simon and a 3-0 lead. But David remained unimpressed. Consolidating his groundstrokes, now starting to construct points and finish them off at the net. A strategy that would prove very successful in the match. After holding for 3-1, David now broke Simon's serve for the first time and afterwards drew level at 3-3. At 4-3, however, another patch of poor play from David got Simon another break, the one that cost him the set in the end. Even though serving for the set, Simon struggled mightily, serving two double faults in a row and then allowing David a break point - but at that moment, David failed to get his return into play and eventually Simon scraped through to take the first set 6-3.

The second set began with another poor service game from David and another break. After gifting it to Simon with series of unforced errors, David smashed his racquet. But releasing the tension (and venting his frustration) seemed to help. In the following game, with Simon now up a break and 1-0, David started to play aggressively again, going back to his strategy of setting up attacks with deep groundstrokes, mostly on the backhand side, and then finishing points at the net. And after first wasting three break points, he converted the fourth in that game to get the rebreak. Afterwards, the second set became David's most solid and best set of the match. With his first serve percentage now on the rise (68% for the set after only 38% in the first) and more chances to break Simon's serve. David did so again to go up 3-1 and now played with a lot more confidence, going for his shots while keeping down the unforced errors count. For the moment at least. At 5-2, Simon served to stay in the set and went up 40-15 before a double fault and a forehand winner from David took him back to deuce. The first set point for David that followed Simon saved with a service winner but on the second, David's return drew the error. 6-2

At the start of the third set, it was now David who immediately broke Simon's serve for a 2-0 lead. But only to go down 0-40 in his following service game that turned into what was probably the most dramatic game of the match. David saved three break points in a row to get to deuce and another one after that with a great lob winner before eventually losing the game after all, making the volley where he did the 360° turn but missing the easy one afterwards. Back on serve now, both David and Simon began to look more and more tired, committing more errors again and both struggling on serve. At 3-2, Simon's service game saw a deuce battle in the course of which David wasted another break point before on the second one, a lucky net cord gave him another break and the 4-2 lead. But once again David gave the break straight back with a double fault and a series of unforced errors. But only to then immediately break Simon's serve again, using what was another successful strategy last night, deep backhand slices that drew errors from Simon time and time again. Up 5-3 now, it was David's turn to serve for the match. And it was this very moment he chose to play his most convincing service game, all night. Two forehand winners to go up 30-0. An ace to set up 3 match points. And then another ace to finish it, 6-3.

Prior to last night's match, David talked about how he wasn't happy with his serve. But the serve, as well as everything else basically, did work in this match - in patches. The question now is whether David can manage to find a way of playing more consistently again (48 unforced errors last night). And how much this match has taken out of him.

Here's David's TennisTV interview from last night.




And Juan from La Raqueta No Se Mancha has made this clip of David's press conference.