Wednesday, May 16, 2012

An Unfortunate Defeat - David Loses to Murray

Update (18/05)
Lots of photos that Denise (thank you so much!) took at Rome and also at Madrid you can now view on the Photo Page. Roland Garros preview post coming tomorrow.

Around forty minutes into this match, it looked like it was a catastrophe in the making.
David had just lost his serve for a third consecutive time after a fifteen-minute deuce battle. And when Andy Murray afterwards easily closed out the first set it looked like the match was a one-way street, leading to a quick and rather ugly defeat for David.
Around two hours later, Murray served out the match, eventually taking it 6-1, 4-6, 7-5.
But after what had happened during those two hours, it was by no means an ugly defeat for David - it simply was a rather unfortunate one...

At the beginning of the first set, David immediately went down a double break before breaking Murray to win his only game of this set, for 4-1. Returning well from the start, David basically had more chances during his return games than on serve (including further break points). Also because Murray kept punishing David's second serve, allowing him merely two points on it in this set. Apart from that, David was making far too many unforced errors at this stage, often enough when going for the decisive shot at the end of what had been a nicely set-up point. After losing his serve again at the end of the above-mentioned epic deuce battle, David started arguing with umpire Lahyani about what seemed to be the visibility on court. His frustration was obvious and Murray easily taking the first set didn't make it any better.

(Filippo Monteforte/AFP/GettyImages)
The second set, however, began with a premiere - David held serve for the first time in the match. Merely a flicker of hope at that point but it was from that moment on that the tide began to turn. Basically from out of nowhere, David now cruised through his service games, dropping merely five points on serve in this set, while cutting down on the unforced errors and playing better and better tennis. The only thing missing was a break. But as David had served first in this set, at 5-4 Murray had to serve to stay in it and now it was his turn to face a deuce battle. David saved two game points before eventually converting his third set point to take the second set 6-4.

Going into the decider, the momentum now seemed to be firmly on David's side but at 1-1, he was the first to come under pressure on serve, for the first time since the first set. But David saved two break points and held for 2-1. And returning especially Murray's first serves amazingly well at this stage, he went on to break Murray in the following game, with Murray double-faulting on break point. But as is too often the case, David's break turned out to be short-lived as he followed it up with his worst service game of the entire match, losing his serve to love. After this exchange of breaks they remained on serve and after Murray had easily held to stay in the match, at 5-5 David went down 0-40 on serve again. And after he had saved two break points, a backhand from Murray clipped the net and dropped down on David's side of the net, granting Murray the break and the chance to serve out the match. David did have his chances in that final game, in the form of two break points. But Murray saved both (with his winning shot only just catching the line on the second) and then converted his first match point.

In the end, and though it didn't look like it after the first set, it was a very close (and highly entertaining) match and an unfortunate defeat for David. With a couple of points and also the luck that Murray had (on his birthday) tipping the scales. Directly after the match that makes it only more difficult to accept a defeat like that - because it was close and "higher powers" seemed to be at work. But that it was so close also means that despite the terrible start David was able to make it close, he was more than able to hang with Andy Murray for over two and a half hours. Playing his best tennis in sets two and three since Indian Wells - perhaps even of the whole season, given the surface and the quality of his opponent.
It's no secret that David enjoys playing on the big stage and against the top guys. And that it's matches like this one where you're bound to see David playing his best tennis. With this match, even though he lost it in the end, David proved once again that he's still able to keep up with the top guys. And I think it might be important for David to know that this is the case when at the end of this year he'll decide whether he's going to retire or play another season.

From Rome, David will now be heading on to Paris for the final stage of his comeback tour around the European clay-court events - Roland Garros. Ahead of it, he's scheduled to take part in the Masters Guinot Mary Cohr exhibition next week.

(Julian Finney/Getty Images)


  1. He just started to play full-time again, so he needs more matches to improve further, physically + mentally, before he could finally challenge the top players. But it is so great that at his current form (about 60-70% of his peak in 2003-2006), he already had very close matches against Nadal + Murray (I would say he might really have low chance to beat Djokovic + Federer again, unless they have a horrible day).

    Now I am extremely worried he will play the top10-20 players in the first round of Roland Garros!!!!!

    I know it is quite a demanding task to his body to play best-of-5-set matches on clay, but I dont want to see him going out in R1. I only want to see Nalby reaching R3 and I will be very happy (and he will then gain enough points to get a seed for Wimbledon if he wins +-2 matches in Roland Garros).

    Hopefully luck will be on his side when the draw comes out.

    I really think he should play +-2 more years, after all his hard work in the last few years to get back to the tour full-time (so many years were wasted - 2007 till 2011, sigh...).

    I always wonder if Nalby finally wins Davis Cup, will he decide to stop playing for the country for 1 year and next year he focuses more on his own potential individual success?

  2. As has been mentioned before, David will decide at the end of this year whether he'll retire or whether he'll play one more season. He has said before that this decision won't have have anything to do with DC. Whether that's really going to be the case - we'll see.

    I'd say he did challenge Murray yesterday. The match could've gone either way. But as I've written in my post, in matches like this one it's always going to be a different David on court than in R2 against a Top100 player at Belgrade, for example.

    There were times when I wasn't sure I'd ever get to see him at RG again. So for me, it's great that he'll play. But at the same time, RG is not the tournament my hopes for this season rest on. And if he gets out of it healthy and in one piece then that'll be good enough for me.

    I prefer to look at what's ahead. And matches like this one give me hope it's going to more than just a few more months.

  3. I agree with Julia, imo David did challenge Murray and it could have gone either way. My only regret was the fact that Murray took a first set stranglehold forcing David to come from behind, but fight back he did. By the same token, Murray had to be the fresher of the two having not played in Madrid.

    1. David had only played one match in Madrid :)
      But I am more proud of him than disappointed like yesterday how he played yesterday. And to be honest, I didn't believe that he could win yesterday till the end because I have lost the believe he can beat the top 4 after what I saw in last years and in IW against Nadal. Every time when he plays against one of the top 4 I watch the match always with weak nerves on the one hand enjoying his talent on the other hand thinking how pity it is that he will lose in the end.

  4. I was proud to see David fight against Murray especially after the first set, Its my opinion that he can beat Nadal or even Murray as the top four. At Indian Wells it was yet another three set tough battle with Nadal.

    Nalby is close although I still think he needs some more matches to get his feet wet for to the top tier guys. I also hope Nalby decides to play next year call me crazy but he can be a top 10 player again if he is motivated. I just dont beleive his best days are behind him.

    1. I'm with you, John B. It will be a very sad day for tennis when he decides to hang up his racquet. I certainly believe David can beat Murray. Some decent draws and some good old fashioned luck wouldn't go amiss either. Not sure whether David can beat Nadal on traditional clay, let's face it, there aren't too many who can and it's usually a one-off.

  5. I think everyone knows Nalbandian has the ability to mix with the best.
    His understanding of the court, his ability to use the angles, to open it
    up is exquisite, second to none.
    It is just a matter of motivation, confidence, and his body holding up.
    Has always been.

  6. That makes it sound very simple but I don't think it is, really.

    1. None of what is stated is simply accomplished, for there
      are physical and psychological factors at work at any one time,
      to say nothing about the opposition.

  7. And it doesn't get any easier as time goes on.

  8. Yes, yes, absolutely ... but he's been making slow but sustained progress over the
    past few/several months (injuries held at bay!). Hopefully with a few more
    close matches against the top four, he re-discovers the confidence he needs
    to make a real push. I do believe that his shot-making abilities are still all there.
    If the body is willing and the mind is resolute and sharp, who is to say David won't/can't end
    his career with a real flourish, matching - even exceeding - the way he started it?
    Wishful thinking, perhaps? (You know what they say: "hope is the salve of the hopeless!)

  9. Hope springs eternal. :) But I'm a realist. It's not that I think David hasn't got it in him to beat Murray or Rafa (though I'd be less optimistic about Federer and especially Nole). But playing several matches like that in a row, at a Slam, for example...

    Still, the big flourish and David fulfilling his biggest dream - it could still happen this season. :)

  10. Noubar says hi to all of you guys, he cant access VD and the situation in Syria is still out of control.

  11. Thank you for saying hi, Noubar. (And you Adrian, for being the messenger.) You're being missed here on VD. And I can only hope you and your family and friends are okay.