(Highlights by Noubar, thanks.)
The contrast could've hardly been any bigger: Last year, David's first-round match against Lleyton Hewitt took almost five hours. This time, it took little more than just one. David was leading 6-4 and 4-2 in the second set when Jarkko Nieminen had to retire with an abdominal strain. So after a total of only 16 games played, David advanced to the second round where he'll face 16th seed John Isner on Wednesday. It's going to be their third meeting with David having won the previous two.
Often enough, or rather - far too often, going into a match there's a question mark concerning David's fitness. In this case, however, the question was how fit Nieminen would be after having played a lot of tennis last week (from qualies to winning the title at Sydney only yesterday plus also reaching the doubles final). At the beginning of the match he seemed to be handling the situation well and it looked like this would be an interesting match. And it was - but only for one set.
|(Greg Wood/AFP/Getty Images)|
with Nieminen's defense forcing David to set up and execute his attacks well - otherwise they might get countered or he might end up getting passed at the net. This happened a couple of times during the first set, with David looking a bit rusty initially and lacking match practice in what was his first match of the season. But he soon found his rhythm and was able to play aggressively and with more depth and great angles, and without making too many unforced errors. At 3-3 David had his first break point and managed to convert it promptly before eventually serving out the first set to love.
At the start of the second set David broke serve
again and now looked to be in control of proceedings. But it turned out to be only the first in a series of altogether five breaks in a row. And while Nieminen was now visibly struggling on serve, due to his injury (he called the trainer after the third game), David also managed to lose his serve twice, after not facing a single break point in the first set. Up 3-2, after saving another break point and with a bit of luck, David finally held serve again. Before at break point for David in the following game, Jarkko Nieminen walked up to the net to shake hands and retire from the match.
All in all a good start, despite those two bad service games in the second set. David seemed to be moving well (I've learned to be careful with writing things like that...) and he played a pretty clean match, with 18 winners, 19 unforced errors and no double faults. What's also important is of course that he didn't have to spend too much energy during those one and a half sets. Still, on Wednesday losing his serve like that will be much more costly...
P.S. Krystle was there at the match. Her report you'll find here.
Edit: And what I almost forgot - the post-Auckland rankings came out today. David has dropped down 23 positions and is now ranked #87.
|(John Donegan/AP Photo)|