There are those little moments that every player loves. A particularly great shot, an unlikely winner out of seemingly nowhere, a brief moment of magic - and then the crowd, erupting in a cheer. Many of David's matches have included moments like that. When he played his angles, his backhand down-the-line, or his return winners, for example. And he loved it. Yesterday's match had a couple of those moments as well - but they belonged to Alexandr Dolgopolov. It was not a terrible match from David but these days, faced with higher-ranked opponents, trying to stand his ground is hard enough work for him to leave very little room for magic. Or for enjoying himself on court.
Against an opponent from the same region in the rankings it's still enough to get a fairly easy win, as David demonstrated with his victory over Robin Haase. In a match like that, he can get away with not serving too well, and he has a much better chance to execute his own game. He gets more time to set up his shots and doesn't find himself in a defensive position during the rallies so easily.
What happens if his opponent takes that time away from him and manages to move David around the court could be observed during yesterday's match. Dolgopolov not only did a good job of keeping David on the run, there were also several rallies where he simply beat him for speed with his groundstrokes. Shots that David found no way of defending against.
Still, David was not without chances in this match. A chance to retrieve the break at 4-2 in the first set. And, most notably of course, leading 4-2 and 40-0 in the second. Getting broken after having been up 40-0 is something of a "specialty" with David these days. The same goes for messing up the important moments during a match, and both of these phenomenons speak of a problem that seems to be of the mental kind. It's almost as if David has totally forgotten how to take the initiative and believe in himself in situations like that, as well as how to remain positive when things aren't going his way.
By now, it's probably safe to say that the Queen's Club final has turned what was a decent season until then into a protracted drama. An incident that, I believe, happened for certain reasons, as I wrote in a previous post. But while perhaps David wasn't really happy with the way things were going until that fateful kick, what has happened ever since then can't have served to lighten his mood. On paper, he just got rather unlucky with the draws and lost a few matches to players, ranked far above him. But on court, what was perhaps an uphill battle in David's eyes even before the Queen's Club final has by now turned into what more and more seems like trying to make a last and increasingly grim stand. Against his opponents, against umpires, the rulebook, against everything that continues to work against him - as he appears to see it.
On Monday, the last Slam of the season, the US Open will begin. It could be the last Slam for David. Apart from singles, he'll also play doubles with Edu Schwank, in an obvious attempt to prepare for the upcoming Davis Cup semifinal. With the Davis Cup now probably even more than already before the very centre of David's attention. After that tie, it'll be time for the Asian swing. That David won't try to defend his quarterfinal points at Tokyo is already clear. But if he also decides to skip the Shanghai Masters then it could mean that from now on, he only intends to play those events that he likes. And that could be a further sign of what might happen at the end of the year.