Wednesday, August 31, 2011

US Open R1: David Overcomes Reynolds - and Himself

In the early stages of this match it didn't necessarily look like it would end the way it eventually did, with those last two points you can watch in the clip above and a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory for David. But after a once more gruesome start, and with a much improved serve performance, David managed to get back on track again. An important win - in every respect.
In the second round, David will now face an "old friend", 30th seed Ivan Ljubicic (match record 5-3 for the Croat).

The first set looked rather a lot like David's recent matches, especially the one against Wawrinka at Montréal. The serve wasn't the problem this time. It was much more a general lack of sharpness during the rallies. With David looking slow and often a step behind, in terms of getting to the ball but also not reading his opponent's game (and serve) the way he's capable of. Still, he tried to take the initiative in the rallies, tried to go for controlled aggression - only that the control part didn't work too well at that stage. With the wild backhand error that cost him his serve and eventually the set as the perfect example.

However, going down a set in a best-of-five match isn't as dramatic as in a best-of-three match. And it was only after the first set was lost that David slowly began to find his rhythm and his range. Not in form of a steady or linear kind of development. And he was still was making far too many errors (especially, as always, with the forehand). But between those errors there were now rallies where the sluggishness and the lack of control from the first set made way for groundstroke winners and well-constructed points. It began with a couple of flashy points in the second set (like his running forehand winner not too long before he got the first break) and ended in the fourth with David, now in charge of most of the rallies, going for a bit of showboating (e.g. the dropshot/lob combo). But that's exactly the point. David didn't just manage to work his way into the match and raise his level. It was more like he was finally finding his game again - and his confidence in it.

As mentioned before, David's serve was much improved, compared to the Murray match. Maybe even as much as could realistically be hoped for. The numbers may not really be impressive (50% first serves, 8 double faults but also 10 aces) but what matters is that this time he won enough points on both first and second serve (74% and 60%, respectively) and also that his serve didn't let him down in the important moments - and of those there were quite a few in this match. In sets two to four David faced a total of 9 break points, including 3 in a row when he went down 0-40, serving for the third set - and saved all of them. And while on the other hand he also didn't make enough of his chances to break (only 4/13; including 6 set points) I think with this match it's more important that he didn't let those wasted opportunities get to him.

Before the match, I wrote that Bobby Reynolds was pretty much the perfect first-round opponent for David. Now I'm going to add that I think this was also pretty much the perfect first-round match for David. As it provided exactly what he needs at the moment. Three hours on court, complete with those tight, important situations that neither training nor practice matches can prepare him for. But most of all he not only managed to overcome Bobby Reynolds last night. He also overcame that first set and his initial problems, proving to himself that his game is still there. And while the last couple of matches can't have been too much fun for David, last night, also with the chants and the support from the crowd, he must have enjoyed it.
Hopefully, he'll be able to build on this match and this experience.

(photos: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Edit: Here's a spectacular rally from the match (thanks, Noubar).


  1. Thanks for the report, Julia.

    I also felt that the match showed David did so much better than recently in the "dangerous" moments, and also he coped well with the frustrating ones.

    While we who watched suffered many nervous moments when David faced break points, or missed chances himself to break, there was no "falling apart" from our man at such moments.

    I don't think I was the only one dreading him being broken back after breaking serve, disappointed when he didn't manage a double break (because I was afraid he would need it) ... but he didn't get broken back and he served out the set(s) and the match.

    Stressful though watching was, I think you're quite right in that this sort of match must have been far more useful to David just now than an easy win.

    I didn't realise he served so many double faults actually. It was great to see all those aces, including on second serve, and for sure his serve was much, much more reliable than recently.

  2. I think 3 and 2 of the double faults he did in one game, I have just downloaded the match (thanks Julia) and will enjoy :)

  3. That might be one of the games I missed while I was battling through freezing streams then. (Brrrr!) ;)

  4. ok
    first of all im happy as it gets that david is through and my initial thoughts are as follows:
    davids serve was excellent in every aspect except the double faults could have been less
    the forehand was shaky but when it worked its one of the best shots on the tour
    the backhand was shaky at the start but improved as the match progressed
    my general impression is that if he continues to serve solid and find is range from the back of the court
    lets say with this serving and a washington 2010 model nalbandian he is as good as anyone on the tour and a contender no kidding
    the problem is that from my experience following david that he is consistent at being inconsistent
    which means we need a good math from him against ljubi in order to upset nadal which no reason it should not happen nalbandian is superior to nadal from the back of the court just the stamina is the question
    but what we do know that nalbandian can be brilliant in a tournament like paris 07 08 madrid although they are masters the surface is the same
    if he wins against ljubicic and i hope he will he can go as far as anyone in the us open
    i want to see him when he is on against nadal that will be heaven on earth

  5. Yesterday you wanted him to retire. Now he's among the best on the Tour and superior to Nadal... Don't you think you're overreacting - in both directions?

  6. love works in mysterious ways isnt it?
    but iv said it with anger
    the last thing i want is him to retire
    but i am so frustrated that players like murray and nadull are achieving more than him with wayyyy less talent
    the world isnt fair
    i want him to wake up take a slam
    and i will forgive him for all the disappointments

  7. by the way i bought nalbandians exact racket and i am playing tennis too
    but i have a feeling he should replace racket ever since he switched to this yonex rdis midplus 98 he his making too many unforced errors
    what do you think?

  8. First of all, I don't like name-calling on my blog. Here it's Nadal and not "nadull". Thanks.
    I think your reactions are over the top - as well as your expectations.
    By the way, it's the backhand that's David's best shot. And no, I don't think that his racquet has anything to do with him, making UEs.

  9. Good report, Julia. I missed the last half of the match due to problems with streams, so your summary is much appreciated. I agree that David needed this match. He did what he had to do when he needed to do it. The serving stats are impressive with the exception of the DFs. It was a good win. I was watching the Scoreboard and the Nadal match for the last 2 sets of David's match. Golubev could have had Nadal down 2 sets to one if he wasn't such a head case.

  10. I have no idea how Ljubicic passed by Kavcic,on experience most likely.I think David will take it in strait sets because Ljubicic doesnt play the same tennis he used to when he was in the top 10.The big serve is still of course there but now instead of setting himself for big forehands and going for his shots he chooses to kind of just keep the ball in play,almost what Roddick does now.David could fall into that trap and again start trying to hit winners of the middle of the court on the 3 shot of the rally,but if he plays his game he has good chances.Also Ljubicic even in his prime was a notorious GS choker,made me mad so many times during the years haha.

  11. i ve done an 8 minute highlights of the match, electricity shut down erased my entire work, i wasnt in a mood to do it again, just uploaded my fav point of the match.
    and thanks 4 the post

  12. Bad timing... I've added your clip to the post. :)

    David's name is on the entry list for Shanghai - as an alternate. I'm hearing that he'll get a WC but that's not official yet.

  13. Thanks for the report, Julia. It all sounds good from David last night, despite the slow start. Hopefully he'll get an earlier slot tomorrow and I'll be able to watch the match.

  14. I think it's going to be Friday. It was the same last year, he played Tuesday, then Friday.

  15. @Julia, i just saw the OOP of tomorrow, his name is not there yet, but a note is written at the buttom says some match ups to be added at 10:30 am? didnt get that

  16. That's good Julia, though if it is Friday I hope he's on late as I've got a late night out in Edinburgh so don't think I'll be home till well past midnight lol :-)

  17. Aahh - Edinburgh... I envy you. :)
    Well, David will also be hoping he gets to play late...

    Noubar, that's only the show courts so far, they'll add the rest later (matches getting called at 10.50am means players have to show up then for the 11am matches).
    But it's all matches from the top half of the draw, not David's. ;)

  18. hahah, then thats a rly stupid note to add, they already right 11 am next to the court name lol
    but you think there is a chance he plays outside the show courts? If no then he plays friday

  19. write* i cant type today, i even wrote reynolds name wrong on the clip

  20. It's the other half of the draw tomorrow. And last year he played Tuesday and then Friday - so I think it's going to be Friday.

  21. uff, 1 more day to wait then.
    so if hopefully he wins, hell play the next day with rafa?

  22. Third round is Saturday and Sunday.

  23. then him playing on friday would be just perfect for me, in that case he will play his possible 3rd round on Sunday (the day i do my exam)saturday was impossible for me to watch

  24. julia do you think nalbandian still practicing with rafa between matches?

  25. Isis, do u think Julia is a soothsayer lol

  26. Hope he plays on friday, since I've got an exam friday morning, aceing an exam and watching David win would be a perfect Friday ;)

  27. He's moving pretty well. And the drop shot was just gorgeous. Keep it up, Nalbandian.

  28. Found this quote on twitter "Top highlight today - seeing Verdasco w/Nalbandian...he would be a good buddy if he passes Ljubicic,preparing for Nadal.

  29. i think david should play patiently and not trying to search for winners at the start because he is making a lot unforced errors
    that way he will find his game and not fall to break points at the start because ljubicic serves very well

  30. julia im sorry if i upset you

  31. The statistic of David's last match shows this
    first set: 3 aces, 0 double faults, 50% first serve
    second set: 3 aces, 0 double faults, 58% first serve
    third set: 45% first serve, 1 ace, 3 double faults
    last set I can't see, but it makes me worried that he did all double faults in last 2 sets

  32. Thanks for the report, Julia :) seems like we all had the same feelings about the last 3 sets after David lost the 1st one.
    I still think he wants to compete, that's why we've been granted for some pretty beautiful rallies at some point of the match.

    I can't wait to see the order of play for friday.

  33. Match of the tournament so far. WOW! Juan Carlos in five over Monfils. A match not unlike David and Hewitt at the Aussie. Bravo, Juan Carlos. Wasn't sure about Court 13, but now see LSH has it covered.

  34. John i watched JCF match from set 2 to the very end, was cheering for him so loudly,he showed some nerves there and the reason why he was the best player in the world oncd David's golf partner lol.
    what still i wouldnt compare it to the hewitt match, that was a real nerve killer, he saved a mp with drop volley for God sakes.

  35. Nalbandian vs Hewitt was a better match imo,because off all the history,them two hating each other and all the altercations Hewitt had with the Argies of Davids generation(Coria,Chela) and the Wimbledon final.I think it was also a little bit more quality.I really enjoyed it too.Best match probably of the tournament so far.JCF has a solid chance to make the QF.

  36. So plesaed for Juanqui. He's a real favourite of mine - not too far behind David. :)

    I hope he decides not to retire this year after all. He's doing pretty well now, and it's nearly a year since he started that long break, so nothing to defend, everything to gain.

    I just hope he doesn't feel like an old, old man tomorrow morning after that effort. :0

  37. I picked it up in the 3rd, Noubar. Couldn't leave it after that. Yeah, the similarity was mostly in length and exhaustion. There was probably more spectacular shotmaking in David and Hewitt's match. Still, this wasn't bad.

  38. exactly.
    now am already thinking of tomorrow Croat match, i think if Ivan is playing good tennis, it might really be a long 1 considering his massive serve when he is on. if hes gna just put balls back in play like sometimes does, we might see bagels in the match.

  39. Considering Ljubicic's serve, it will be a good test for David's return game.
    I think it can be a long match but with short rallies. I hope David will win over Ivan during long rallies from the baseline!

    again, nervous already, this Friday is gonna be long... lol