|(Mirko Jovanovic/tournament website)|
Even if during the first set, it looked like this match was headed in a very different direction. With the majority of rallies being conducted from the baseline, David's groundstrokes had enough accuracy and depth to put Seppi under constant pressure. And on return, especially his aggressive second-serve returns allowed David immediate control of the rallies.
He broke Seppi to love to go up 3-1 and profiting from the Italian's many unforced errors at this stage (which were also the result of David's dominance) he maintained his lead without difficulties until at 5-2, Seppi served to stay in the set. At that moment, again David's second-serve returns made the difference and with another of those, drawing the error, he broke once more to take the first set 6-2.
The second set, that would eventually see a complete reversal of roles, began just like the first one, with Seppi making too many unforced errors. Up 1-0, David had an early break point (set up by a lucky net cord) but failed to convert it. And perhaps, this was the very moment that changed the course of this match. As it was from that moment on that David's dominance began to fade. With his groundstrokes now lacking more and more in depth, David found himself getting pushed behind the baseline and trying to defend, rather than dictating play. Seppi broke David for a 3-2 lead and it was then that David's unforced errors count seriously began to rise. At 4-2, Seppi broke again to go up a double break and 5-2 and serving much better in this set, he closed it out to take the second set 6-2.
At the start of the third set, David seemed to be able to make a new start. After holding serve to love (for the only time in the entire match), the above-mentioned net cord granted him a break point, which he converted for a 2-0 lead. While David was now visibly trying to hit his groundstrokes with more depth again, which worked better than it had in the previous set, he still came under pressure in his service games, having to fend off various break points. David managed to scrape through to get to 3-0 and then 4-1. But then, with more and more unforced errors creeping back into David's game, Seppi finally broke back to get to 4-3. At this stage of the match, David was visibly running on empty, physically but he still managed to hold serve until Seppi got the decisive break for 6-5 and then closed out the match.
A major factor was once again David's serve, which already wasn't exactly impressive in the two previous matches. But while back then it merely made things a bit more difficult for him than they would've needed to be, this time his serve, or rather his inability to hold serve, ended up costing him the match. The serve is of course a classic with David. And 7 double faults for a three-set match is far from unusual, while making 62% first serves overall is actually pretty good by his standards. But his serve was simply too harmless, both the first and the second, as evidenced by the only 53% of first serves David won in the second set.
Another obvious problem in this match was that David ran out of gas in the third set. Now, ahead of the European clay-court swing and after the Davis Cup quarterfinal, David paused for three weeks. During those weeks, nothing was to be heard of him. So we don't know how he prepared for these events. In the two previous matches, David wasn't really tested. But watching this match, I couldn't help but think that those ten hours on court within two days in Davis Cup probably took enough out of David to require a longer pause - and less training than perhaps originally planned for those weeks.
Belgrade was supposed to be David's golden opportunity. To win another title but also to gain what could've been up to 250 ranking points. And those would've been extremely helpful for making it to the London Olympics. Now, it's only 90 points that he has gained. Much better than nothing, of course. But still, I guess it's that missed opportunity that will bother David the most about this loss.
|(Mirko Jovanovic/tournament website)|