Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Cincy R1 - David Raises His Level, Defeats Nishikori

(Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

There hasn't been much to cheer about lately. It's hard to know exactly what kind of tennis David is capable of playing these days, and difficult to know how to judge his matches. He went into this match as the underdog against Nishikori, the kind of odds that would have been unthinkable in the past, even after surgery.

Given his form in the past few tournaments, the goal wasn't really to come out of the blocks playing great tennis, but to hopefully build up some form, and for David to start feeling better about his game. And that's exactly what David achieved today, defeating Kei Nishikori 6-4 6-4 in what could be described as a relatively scrappy match (14 winners, 33 unforced errors for David, 7 winners 24 unforced errors for Nishikori).

In the first service game of the match, Nishikori started the match confidently hitting impressive forehands from the back of the court. Then when it was David’s turn to serve, it was a complete contrast. He opened the match with two double faults, appeared to be irritable and it could have been easy to write off his chances. He went down a break point, then he saved it with an ace. The rest of the points, he battled through them, and he continued this outlook the rest of the set. Keeping the rallies going, trying to get into a rhythm. It clearly showed that David's movement was well enough today to keep up to a certain level, rather than being completely left behind.

His groundstrokes were smooth and effortless, controlling the centre of the court. But they were also not as accurate as he would be in better form. Nishikori's level dropped after the first game, and he seemed lost tactically as well, relying too heavily on his shotmaking abilities even though they were deserting him.

Most of the time, I ended up with mixed feelings, as it was the sort of match, where David didn’t appear to be doing anything terribly wrong, apart from that very horrible smash at 2-1 in the first set (completely ruining a nice approach shot) and too many double faults. He was reasonably solid on both sides, and the depth of his groundstrokes did the damage more so than the side-to-side groundstrokes that we're used to seeing.

I guess because of that approach, the match was often lacking from an entertainment perspective. Though I’d say that was more Nishikori's fault, than David's. They may have ended up with similar numbers of errors in that first set, but I really got the impression that David played a far more mature match, whereas Nishikori appeared to be hitting the ball hard for no reason down the middle of the court, which isn't really worth the risk. Especially since David had so much more trouble chasing anything wide, and recovering from it.

There were many long games in the first set, and plenty of tension because of it. I thought David was the better player for much of the first set, so it was great to see him finally break through and get that break on Nishikori's serve at 3-3. But David really struggled with his confidence, and immediately lost his serve in the worst manner possible, hitting two double faults and making two errors that were nowhere near going in. He managed to recover quickly mentally though and regained the break, then served it out from a 0-30 position.

The second set was a very different story. This time, it was Nishikori who was the one that was clearly out of confidence, and David probably benefitted from seeing that on the other end of the court. Nishikori began spraying errors everywhere, then after a while, he showed a slight improvement but still looked like a beaten man. David used this more comfortable position, and mental advantage to show some more creativity, and play some more daring shots. So there'd be one or two great rallies per game, maybe one.

I’m not really sure whether he actually played any better, but he was definitely more relaxed, and perhaps that could have cost him considering that he really should have gone up 5-0 in the second set with all the break points he had. I guess he played it like it wasn’t really a contest anymore, and all the time, it felt like it wouldn’t be one, then Nishikori would manage to hang in there. I particularly liked that fast-paced forehand angled crosscourt winner on the run that David hit. And also that nice touch shot that he hit running up to a dropshot. Fortunately it ended up being a straightforward win anyway.

The highlights from the match are now available on YouTube, thanks to Andvari.


  1. Thanks for the report, Krystle! Even though I was lucky enough to see most of the second set, I learned a lot more from you.

    I was amused that you wrote, "David played a far more mature match..." Well, he ought to have done - he's definitely a far more mature man! 8-)

    In fact, they don't come much maturer on the circuit. Looking at those craggy feeatures, it's hard to believe he isn't older.

  2. Thanks for the kind comments. :)
    Haha yeah, it did seem appropriate given the age difference, but still it's not necessarily a given (for a tennis player, I mean)!

  3. Good analyses,I just dont think there should be any if he played better than against Wawrinka and Blake,in my opinion he was a LOT better.Yesterday was maybe some top 40 tennis,against them two,it wasnt even top 100.

  4. I only saw the last 4 or 5 games, but David was playing with confidence and accuracy - although with the occasional miss. Thanks to the favourable match situation, those didn't seem to worry him unduly. But he played some delightful combinations. Even Federer doesn't play with more elegance and artistry than David at his best.

  5. It was a huge improvement compared to the previous matches. I agree with you, Adrian. I mean, after the loss to Wawrinka I was seriously worried about David. So it was great to see him being much closer to his "old self" again. Of course, the match wasn't perfect. But it was incredibly important for him to win - and to play much better again.

  6. Let's hope he's seriously "off and running" again now. :)

    Thanks for the report, Krystle.

  7. Nalbandian usually plays so in first rounds then he plays from round to round much better normally

  8. He said it himself, he needs matches, he needs confidence. And he took the first step to get more of both yesterday.

  9. I think the match does require an analysis!

  10. 2 match of the day,grandstand.