At those 12 tournaments, he's had some good results, reaching the final at the Queen's Club, the semifinal at the Copa Claro and Belgrade and the quarterfinal at São Paulo and Indian Wells. And yet, it doesn't really seem like David is happy or content with how things have been going for him.
Here's an attempt at explaining why
I think that's the case.
After the last two seasons with their constant cycle of injury, recovery, playing, injury etc this time, from the start, it looked like everything was going to be different. For the first time in years, David was able to do a proper pre-season, and the former limitations to his fitness training no longer applied. Allowing him to think that he was entering this new season well-prepared and with a chance of finally doing what he had been wanting to do these last couple of years: going back to being the player he was before hip surgery.
That he was physically in much better shape already became obvious at the Australian Open, during his unfortunate second-round defeat against John Isner. At the same time, the "water-throwing incident" that followed perhaps not only showed how angry and frustrated David was after that match but also just how urgently he wanted to be successful again, especially on the big stage.
After that, David won two points for Argentina during the Davis Cup first-round tie against Germany in Bamberg and then went straight on to play what would become the second best Golden Swing he's had in his career (second only to 2008). The last two years, this part of the season ended with injuries, this time it ended with a quarterfinal and a semifinal - and what must've been the continued hope that great things were ahead.
David's run ended in the quarterfinal with his three-set loss to Rafa Nadal, after having once more come fairly close to beating him. Proving that he can still keep up with the top players. But with hindsight, I believe that David was after proving more than just that. After all, he always had his chances against Nadal, during the last two seasons, as well as when he was playing with his hip injury. This time, he was healthy, going into the match. And I believe that David was determined to prove that he can still beat a top player, the way he used to in the past. But although this time, his fitness didn't let him down and he fought until the very end, it was not enough to beat Nadal.
The European clay-court swing began with Belgrade, the tournament that David must've seen as his big chance to win his first title since Washington 2010. In his semifinal match against Andreas Seppi, however, the first real test he faced during that week, he ran out of gas towards the end of the match and consequently ended up losing it.
Another three-set match David lost, though in very different fashion, was his loss to Andy Murray in the second round at Rome. After a horrible start, David played perhaps his best tennis of the season so far in sets two and three and just like against Nadal he came fairly close to winning. But also like against Nadal, in the end it was not enough to beat Murray.
Then there was the chaotic week Queen's Club, with the rain delays, the schedule changes, the point penalty David received in his third-round match - and the grand finale. Over the whole fuss that was being made about the incident with the linesman it gets easy to overlook what's probably the more important question - why did David lose it at that moment when he had just lost his serve but still had a good chance to win the match?
|(Andrew Yates/AFP/Getty Images)|
At this point, halfway through the current season, it's safe to say that the continuity is finally there. But if David's hope indeed was that this year, he could finally go back to being the player he was, winning titles, going deeper at the big events and able to beat anyone - then it hasn't really come true so far.
Since Indian Wells, which with hindsight seems to have been the turning point, David has reportedly been "very angry, talking back again, upset and nervous" (source). I believe that's because he's fighting what to him apparently seems like an increasingly uphill battle. Not just against his opponents but also against umpires and their decisions, tricky weather conditions and schedule changes, physical problems of the unforeseen kind (Roland Garros), and bad luck with the draws.
In the end, though, I think all of this shows that David had different expectations for this season. And that he has grown more and more frustrated with the way things have been going. Frustrated enough to blow his top during the Queen's Club final, where there was a lot at stake for him, also at 7-6 and 3-4, namely the hard work he put in that week and proving that he's still able to win a title - all of which he ended up ruining for himself.
It's not that, objectively speaking, his results have been all that bad. And it's also not like in the past, also before hip surgery, David never had even longer periods where he was less successful. Still, I think that most of all David is struggling to come to terms with the realisation that he cannot turn back time and be the David of old again.
With the Olympics, the US hardcourt events, the Davis Cup semifinal and the indoor swing still to come, I don't think he has given up his hopes for this season just yet. But unless he wins a title, goes deeper at the big events, or manages to beat one of the top players, I think that retirement at the end of the season will become an increasingly likely possibility.