Tuesday, January 18, 2011

AO R1: The Battle Epic - David Overcomes Hewitt

(Jeremy Ng/Getty Images)
"Tremendous. Like a Spielberg movie!"
That is, in five words, David's summary of his 3-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(1), 9-7 victory over Lleyton Hewitt. After four hours and 48 minutes. After having served for the match (and getting broken) in the fifth set. After having saved two match points in truly spectacular fashion. - And even that is still just a part of the drama and all the twists and turns that this match had. The exact kind of five-set Grand Slam battle epic that David used to famous for. A match from the good old days, so to speak. It's been a while since David has played and won one of those. And to win it against Lleyton Hewitt, playing in front of his home crowd... well, that makes it even better.

In the beginning though, it didn't necessarily look like this match was an epic in the making. David caught a shaky and strangely subdued start, and he made far too many unforced errors (mostly with his forehand) to really find his range or rhythm. That would change later on. But what would become a sort of leitmotif in this match was already noticeable: David saving most of the break points he faced (and he faced a lot of them). Stepping up his game in those moments - something that would turn out to be crucial. At 2-2, however, David did get broken. He still hadn't really found his way into the match, still made errors left and right and appeared to have no real plan of how to trouble Hewitt, his groundstrokes lacking depth and penetration. Serving to save the set David got broken again, allowing Hewitt to take the first 6-3.

At the start of the second, I wrote in my notes, 'things can only get better now'. - And they did. With a bit more fire and no longer as subdued as in the first set, David now began to fight his way into this match. He still made a lot of errors but among those errors there were now more and more good points, with his groundstrokes (especially the backhand) growing more stable and dangerous for Hewitt. At 1-1, David had his very first break point and converted it promptly. And that one break turned out to be enough. David served out the set to love, to take it 6-4. The momentum seemed to have switched.

And even more so, when David began the third set with another break and a 2-0 lead. What followed then... I'm not sure David could explain it, himself. From one moment to the next, the David from the first set was back. Tentative somehow and unable to put Hewitt under any real pressure. Or to keep his forehand inside the court. David went on to lose five games in a row. He saved 2 set points, serving to stay in it at 5-2. But eventually, he couldn't keep Hewitt from taking the third set 6-3.

Now the momentum seemed to be firmly on Hewitt's side. David lost his serve in the first game of the fourth set. And when he found himself trailing 1-3, and down 0-40 on his serve, the match was on a knife's edge. David saved all three break points with courageous play. A "key moment" as he called it afterwards. And the turning point in this set. For now it was David who went on a tear and won the following four games, playing with the same controlled aggression like in the second set. At 5-3, David served for the set - but couldn't close it out. Eventually, the fourth set went to a tiebreak. I remember noticing how calm and focused David seemed in that moment. Relying perhaps on what's still a fairly new strength of his - tiebreaks. And what followed was a near perfect tiebreak from David, who was completely dominant throughout (the only point Hewitt got came from a forehand error by David) and took it 7-6(1).

Then came the fifth set. Both were visibly tired now and David was also struggling with cramps...
"I was cramping the whole set. It was much more difficult for me to serve than to return, cramping and all. I was a little bit better than him and he was cramping too."
Which didn't keep him from securing an early break (for 2-1), even more important because Hewitt served first in the decider. I have to say that I was really impressed by how David, tired, exhausted and cramping as he was, still tried to construct points, still tried to wait for the right moment to attack, whether by coming to the net or going down the lines. David carried his break through the set, the only set, by the way, where he didn't face break points all the time, until at 5-4, he served for the match. And then the nerves came and the unforced errors and the break points. - And the re-break. 5-5. That was the moment I thought David would 'implode', that this was a blow he might not recover from. But David played on, fought on and had 2 break points in the next game. Hewitt held and David now had to serve to stay in the match. After David had initially been up 40-15, Hewitt had 2 match points. David saved both. With some incredibly gutsy play at the net.
"The first match point I saved with some ridiculous touch and the second was also decided at the net."
Eventually, at 7-7 - it was Lleyton Hewitt, who imploded and lost his serve to love, granting David a second chance to serve for the match. And this time, he took it. Converting his first match point in style - with a clean lob winner.

A couple of numbers. David made 83 unforced errors.
He saved 23 of the 30 (!) break points that he faced.
While converting 6 out of 12, himself.

A look at David's post-match press conference here.
Match highlights here (watch them, while you can, AO clips usually get taken down again soon.)

Krystle was there at the Rod Laver Arena for the match. Her report you can find here.

So - what did David have to say about Hewitt after this match?
"He is a true fighter. It was very tough for both of us."
And does David know anything about his next opponent, the promising youngster Richard (formerly Ricardas) Berankis?
"No idea. But I'm not an old man. I'm worn out right now but that's not the same."
And now?
"Now I want to rest."
Let's hope he can get some good rest. After all, he really earned it.

David's quotes: Telam, La Razon & official site Twitter
(photos to the right: EFE, Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)


  1. Well, I got to see the match after all. :)

    Wow. David.

    It must have taken you ages to write up that epic, Julia!

    And Krystle - actually being there must have been amazing. Although I wonder if you have any nails left - I don't think I would have.

  2. Wow. David. - That pretty much sums it up. :)

    This time, it was mostly the recording that took absolute ages to get ready. Won't bore you with the details.

    And Krystle is alive and well, talked to her about an hour ago. ;)

  3. Good report. I really enjoyed it. :)

    Order of play is out for tomorrow now and David is on court 6. That's not a televised court, right?

    It sucks for everyone here, and I don't really like it either because he's also scheduled on last which might mean I have to watch that bloody women's match on before it. Michael Llodra is scheduled on Showcourt 3 which is a little silly, but they've been poor with their scheduling choices the whole tournament. They're just not matching at all what people want to see, and it ends up with people missing out.

    A little bit about court 6. I really hate that court. I was watching on it today, tried to find myself the best spot and walked around to three different ends. There are blind spots in about 70% of the seats. I'm most definitely going to rant about that on my blog, lol.

    Istabraq, I am fine, but incredibly tired today. Took me ages to do my write-ups too...

  4. But in other good news, I will be like two metres away from David. :) I'm going to find that same spot I sat on to watch Florian Mayer today!

  5. Court 6 is televised Krystle ;) Pico was playing there yesterday and I watched a part of his match.
    Have fun in the match tomorrow :) Hope David wins comfortably!

  6. Ah okay. The court is so bloody small, you might see me on there...

  7. @Noubar, how was your exam? I hope you did well.

    Ok guys the OOP sucks. He plays while I'm still at work! and court 6, seriously!

  8. @Krystle,

    What you say about organizers not "listening" to the people is exactly what happens at the USO. What they are thinking about sometimes is something we'll never know. Perhaps when people start talking more with their money than their mouths, they will actually listen and act accordingly? We shall see...
    The scheduling of David's match is compatible with my local time for a change...his last match scheduling occurred just before I went to work, and I missed the best parts. I was sure that he was a goner in the fourth set, the way he was playing.

  9. Julia, they will block blogger in my country tomorrow, i won't be able to view VD anymore, this really sucks, this blog is my cup of tea.
    I'll miss u guyz

  10. @ camilia, thnx 4 asking, it went pretty great, not an Ace , but well enough

  11. Oh no, Noubar...
    That's terrible news. For you - but also for me and VD. Is that a permanent decision?
    You will really be missed... I hope we'll stay in touch.

  12. looks like it is. ill tell joop to post instead of me. I will find every which way to crack the system, a special software or a proxy traffic or something, am not gna give up lol

  13. Noubar I'm so sorry to hear that! We'll miss you and I hope your efforts to find a way back will be rewarded and we'll see you soon.

  14. Does anyone know anything about this next opponent - Berankis (not sure I can spell it)? I always worry about "crazy David" syndrome when they put him on an outer court and it's against someone who isn't too well-known. Really hoping the Hewitt match is going to be the start of a good run.

  15. Noubar you will truly be missed. I hope you will find a way to cheat the system because your comments have always been appreciated. As for someone asking about Berankis, he is an up and coming star from Lithuania that was a very talented junior winning grandslams and becoming number 1. He's only really just began to play ATP world tour matched more regularly as last year he was playing qualies to get into the main draws of events. He's played well against opponents in the past, but usually comes up short in them. I think at this point in time Berankis doesn't have the game to compete against David if he plays like he did against Hewitt. Hopefully this one goes quick so he has a good match in round 3.

  16. Noubar, thats really bad news about that blogger thing :( And yes I will help you with posting. You can email me and Ill post asap your comments.

    Btw the flight was good, no problems this time lol

  17. Noubar - noooooo! You can't leave us. I hope you can find a way to crack the system. :(

    I've only seen Berankis play once, a DC match a couple of years ago. He must have improved a lot since then and he's zooming up the rankings. But surely not enough experience to trouble David...

    Well, I've just looked up some stuff about him, and although he's mostly played Challengers, I see he qualified for both Wimbledon and the US Open last year, and got through to the round of 64 in both. Lost in 4 sets to Lopez and 5(!!!!) to Melzer.

    I'm starting to think he shouldn't be dismissed too lightly. Only 20, just cracked the top 100, and seems to give it his everything in Slams.

    I bet he's going to count on David being tired from yesterday. David will need to assert himself from the start.

  18. Oh no Noubar, that is really stupid that you can't view VD anymore! I hope you find a way!

    Hopefully David rested very well and can start good into the match. Perhaps with much confidence and the positive vibe from that marathon he can compensate that long match from yesterday. If he doesn't make too many UEs he has his chance, I think!
    I think positive :-)

  19. Quite right, Mina. :)

    I didn't mean to sound negative - just cautious.

  20. guyz, you are making this much harder on me lol, the VD family is awesome,i met joop last week, and am sure i will meet another 1 one day as well, (probably krystle is next lol). whenever am not in the mood i open this blog and view some comments, and i feel a bit better, in the class as well,i have this software on my mobile, i long press on number 2, vd website opens, then boom, another lovely discussions from lovely people.
    @joop, am so glad your back home m8, we had an amazing time, that hewitt match we watched together, was a once in a lifetime experience, i can still remember ur face during hewitt's 1st match point, i wonder if u remember what was i doing at that time, hah

  21. You're the one who has so often brought a smile to the faces of everyone here. Also when things weren't going too well with David.
    I'm still hoping that this isn't really going to happen, that somehow you'll find a way of coming here... I mean, right now I can't really imagine the comments without you.

  22. and i still cant imagine that "Access denied" will come out when i enter vamosdavid.com

  23. Noubar, surely you jest. You're part of the fabric of VD. I always enjoy your good nature and your humorous comments. Hope you find a way to beat the system.

  24. That really sucks Noubar. It's not fair, is it? Being blocked out of Blogger even though you're reading and posting on something that is perfectly harmless. Perhaps you could try subscribing to posts and comments?

    Though of course it would be best to just crack the system somehow.

  25. Noubar,
    That sucks for you. I'm gonna miss you and your contributions.