Ahead of this match, there was hope that this might be a new start for David, a chance to stop the trend of the past weeks. But in the end, after two hours and 22 minutes, it was Tommy Haas, who prevailed 6-2, 6-7(11), 6-3. It's the third time in a row now that David has lost in the first round, and the sixth time it has happened this season. But although David didn't go down without a fight yesterday, there's now only one tournament left for him to try and get a couple of matches, ahead of the US Open and the Davis Cup semifinal. And that this event is another Masters and above all, that it's Cincy won't make it any easier for him.
In the second set, David tried a slightly different approach, now coming to the net more often and also using the drop-shot to good effect. He was still making lots of errors from the baseline but he was obviously determined to put up a fight and in-between the errors there were now more and more good points from David. He couldn't find a way of breaking Haas (who served much better now) but he held his own serve and he held twice to love when he served to stay in the match. The long and hard-fought tiebreak that followed was the highlight of the match and saw some gutsy play from David (and a couple of great drop-shots), as he saved altogether 4 match points before eventually taking the second set 7-6(11).
The general "dramaturgy" of this match contained some familiar elements. David played a rather terrible first set, then tried to play more aggressively in the second, finding (as well as fighting) his way into the match but also spending most of his energy in the process, with not too much of it left for the third. Not a good pattern to have but at the same time indicative of David's lack of rhythm and match practice, basically needing one set to get going. And then paying the price for losing that first set in the end.
Another sign of it were the problems David had with the timing on his groundstrokes, especially on the forehand, and far too often when he had enough time to set up his shots. It's not often that you get to see David shank and mishit as many balls as he did yesterday. He also didn't serve particularly well (except in second set) but most of all, it was those 42 unforced errors (compared to 23 winners) that ended up costing him dearly.
The only cure for these problems is playing and winning matches. To regain confidence, something that David seems to be lacking more than anything else at this point. I would've liked to include a couple of quotes from him with this post but apparently, David didn't talk to the media after the match - a statement in itself.
So now, all that's left ahead of the US Open and the Davis Cup semifinal is Cincy, next week. And the hope for a makeable first round. Hope dies last, as they say.