I feel like I'm improving but it's still a long way to go. I served very badly today and at this level you have to pay for that. (Source.)The price that David ended up paying in yesterday's match was losing his serve six times in a row (from 3-1 in the first set on until the bitter end). Out of the altogether five games that David managed to get, three came from breaking Murray's serve, only two from holding his own. In short, David's serve was nothing short of a catastrophe. And in the end, that overshadowed the more positive aspects of this match, most of all David's much improved play during the rallies.
Now, David has never been a great or even just solid server. Something that won't change at this stage of his career. And I guess that every David fan knows that kind of sinking feeling whenever it's time for a particularly important service game that he cannot afford to lose, whether it's to close out a set, the match, or serving to stay in it. Because with David, there's always a chance that he will lose it.
Yesterday, however, the problems went far beyond David's usual serve blips and inconsistencies. Especially in the second set, his serve was shockingly harmless. During that set David achieved the rare "feat" of only winning 25% of his points on serve - on first serve as well as on second.
A weakness exemplified by a certain pattern we got to see a number of times in the second set: Murray returning David's serve easily and with enough depth - and David either shanking his next shot (usually the forehand) or making an error.
In his previous matches, David also didn't serve particularly well. But the pattern that could be observed was a different one. He started poorly and then got better as the match went on, both in terms of his serve and his game in general. Which, I think, was a sign of his lack of match practice. Yesterday, however, and after not serving but at least playing well in the first set, David basically fell apart in the second. No longer able to keep up with Murray during the rallies and with his serve disintegrating completely. Whether it was the heat, maybe also frustration or something else - I'd love to be able to tell you. But I as well can only speculate since except for the quote above, David is once more keeping a complete silence.
The match seems to have left its mark. David's confident "I'm improving every day" (from his last interview) has turned into the more vague "I feel like I'm improving". And while a few days ago he talked about "hoping to find his level quickly" and said that he still has time to improve until the Davis Cup semifinal against Serbia there's now only one tournament left until Belgrade - the US Open. A lottery for David, as he won't be seeded this time. In other words, this is a very difficult moment to try and work on what yesterday looked like a basic problem. And even more so since David no longer has a coach.
What the next weeks and most of all the US Open will bring, well, I think it's impossible to even try and predict right now. Too much will depend on David's luck with the draw. And what the rest of David's season will look like, whether he's going to make adjustments to his schedule (also because of his ranking) - we'll have to wait and see.
(Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)