My heart is crying over this loss.
This is not how it was supposed to be. Ernie was every bit the better player. Even though they are both big servers, Ernie's serve was better: speedier, sharper angles, more variety. And in the rallies, Ernie outdid Johnson. The longer the rallies went, the more Johnson was prone to commit errors and so he had to come up with winners and finish them quickly. That was his strategy as far as I could see. Serve well and finish the point quickly. Ernie held forth and held him at bay until that 2nd set tie break when it was 3-3. Frankly, I think that Ernie was a bit "loosey goosey" in playing that tie break. The unforced errors he made after 3-3 ultimately cost him the match. Once he let Johnson in the match, i.e., win that 2nd set, the crowd started to rally around Johnson and the guy started to play like he had nothing to lose. He swung more freely, his serves connected, he played with more conviction, and hit more winners. The guy was pumped up. From that point on, Ernie was on the defensive and it didn't help that the crowd at times cheered when he lost a point because it meant a point to Johnson. And the louder the crowd cheered for Johnson, the tighter Ernie became, I think. During the 4th set, I noticed that Ernie was hitting the ball harder, out of desperation perhaps (you could hear the great exertion in his breathing) but sadly his balls went out. He was too tight and perhaps nervous as well. (Sigh) If he could only have had the same group of loud supporters as he had the other day, I think that that would have boosted his morale a bit. That sort of thing really does help. I think Ernie did put up a good fight- for some of you maybe not hard enough- but Johnson is one scrappy, gutsy American player who played with a big heart today. If there is one thing I can fault Ernie with, it is that he did not seem to be "hungry" enough. Much less talented players like Johnson can eke a win out of him because they are hungrier for it. I also think that Ernie plays better or is more pumped up when his opponent is an equally talented player, like Haas, for example. Of course, I base my opinions on the last two matches, so there is very little for them to stand on.
The last time I saw Ernie play was Cincy 2011 and I have seen a marked improvement in his overall game. 1. He is more emotionally self-contained, even when he is losing, and this is by far the biggest improvement. 2. He plays a cleaner game; fewer UE's. 3. He is more patient during rallies and his shot selection is much better. 4. His shots on both sides are as good if not better than ever. 5. His serve is, as ever, out of this world. From what I have seen, he is playing more like a top ten player now. I think that he just needs to work on the intangibles of the game. Today was a derailment. Hopefully he will learn much from it. I can't wait for next year's USO.
Not much else to report that you haven't seen on tv, except for three things: 1. Late in the 3rd set, Ernie muttered loudly enough for us to hear: "line, line, line, line, line, line..." Did he mean aim for the lines? or the line calls were shitty? I have no idea. 2. When the match was over, Ernie left the court and walked among the crowd all alone all the way to Ashe stadium. He had the saddest face and people paid him no attention. I felt really bad for him. In two days, he went from a big win to a bad loss (yes, this IS a bad loss). I followed him until he entered the stadium and was wondering where was team Gulbis? 3. Lastly, he had 4 shirt changes, 3 sock changes, and 2 shoe changes. lol: