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.
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)|