It’s clay court season again so here is a little refresher from the Monte Carlo Country Club. Below are links to several recent matches as well as the full analysis from the 2016 final Rolex Monte Carlo Final. Enjoy!
Andrey Rublev’s forehand went missing in the final. He hit 144 more forehands than his opponents to the final but ended up -6 vs. Tsitsipas in the final.
Rublev’s baseline strategy is the relentless pursuit of his opponent’s backhand. The average for the tournament hitting to the outer third of the court to the opponent’s backhand side is 51%. Rublev is running at 61%. Most opponents have a healthy interest in attacking the opponent’s backhand. Rublev is obsessed.
Dan Evans dismantled Novak Djokovic. That’s not my opinion. It’s Novaks. Here’s what Novak had to say post-match after losing 6-4, 7-5 in the Rd16 at the Monte Carlo Masters 1000.
“Today was completely the opposite of what I felt yesterday (against Sinner),” the 33-year-old said. “Just was obviously very, very windy, tough to play in these kind of conditions against a guy like Evans who makes you move. He’s very unpredictable with his shots. He dismantled my game.”
The forehand broke. Nadal made 46 of 47 groundstrokes and returns to start the match, building a 3-1 lead. And then it started cracking into the red beaten Earth. Nadal lost 10 of the next 11 games to trail 6-4, 5-0.
In Nishikori’s opening service game, he immediately went after Nadal’s backhand, making him hit 17. Nadal committed three backhand errors in that game. From 1-1 to 5-2, Nadal made 26 consecutive backhands to stamp his authority on the match.
Congratulations to Dominic Thiem who defeated Novak Djokovic 6-7(2), 6-2, 6-3 in 2:29. It was a battle royale, and then some!!! It’s important to note that Novak served at 3-3, 40-15 in the 3rd set and had a lot of momentum. That’s tough to see in the final score.
There were 45 points (48%) played in the crucial 0-4 rally length, with Nadal winning 32 of them to just 13 for Ramos Vinolas. You can look deeper into the match stats to try and figure out what happened, but these numbers leap off the score sheet more than anything else.
Nadal’s forehand was the worst-performing groundstroke on the court, hitting seven winners, but racking up 22 errors. Sixteen of the 22 forehand errors were committed standing in the Ad court, with nine of them standing out wide near the alley or past it. It’s the perfect strategy against an opponent like Nadal, who is always sneaking to his right to try and upgrade a backhand to a forehand.
In the opening set, Berdych overplayed Djokovic’s impenetrable backhand, hitting 62 per cent of his groundstrokes through the ad court at Djokovic’s more consistent wing. But when he broke Djokovic in the ninth game to level the score at 5-5, he hit 67 per cent of his shots through the deuce court in that game, attacking Djokovic’s forehand.
FULL MATCH ANALYSIS
2016 Monte Carlo Final: Rafael Nadal def. Gael Monfils 7-5, 5-7, 6-0
Rafael Nadal loves the long but thrives on the short.
Rafael Nadal defeated Gael Monfils 7-5, 5-7, 6-0 to win a ninth title at the Monte Carlo Rolex Master, dominating the shorter exchanges much more than the extended rallies.
Nadal is widely known as the King of Clay, where longer, grueling rallies dominate the European clay-court landscape. But the win over Monfils in Monte Carlo today was much more about attacking first and accepting the trophy later.
Nadal won 57% of rallies in the 0-4 shot range; 59% in the 5-9 shot rally length, and just 47% of rallies nine shots or longer. Nadal won the battle of 0-4 shots 45-34, laying the foundation for a ninth title in the principality.
The best clay-court player of the past decade did not dominate the long exchanges. He actually lost rallies of nine shots or longer 26-29. That’s just fine for the “second coming” of Nadal.
Overall, the Spaniard dominated the shot exchanges up to nine shots, where typically around 90% of points are played and was quite okay for Monfils to win the rest.
There is an illusion that Nadal plays much deeper in the court than his opponents, regularly making contact with the ball closer to the back fence than the baseline.
It’s simply not true.
In the final against Monfils, Nadal felt the magnetism of the baseline better than his French opponent, making contact 18% inside the baseline, to Monfils’ nine.
Nadal hit 53% of his shots within two meters of the baseline, compared to Monfils 45%, which enabled the Spaniard to open the court better with superior depth and direction.
A major factor in the final was balls hit very deep in the court, effectively backing the opponent up to make contact further back than two meters behind the baseline.
You would think Nadal would be the player backing up the most, but he only made contact with the ball 29% further back than two meters behind the baseline, compared to Monfils 46%. A major factor in matches like this is court position because the further you can push your opponent back, the less they can hurt you.
Forehands vs. Backhands
When Rafa was “Rafa” just a few years ago, he was hitting as many forehands as possible to push the opponent back, and then opening the court with better baseline geometry. This final was another example of the inner workings of he Spanish clay-court master.
Overall, Nadal hit 57% forehands for the match to Monfils 51%. In a game of inches, these are the metrics that separate good from great.
Nadal’s spin, on both forehands and backhands, was greater than Monfils, helping the Spaniard commit fewer unforced errors (36 to 51), and helping to push the Frenchman back, even if the depth of the shot bounced around the service line.
Nadal’s average forehand topspin rate (RPM) was a massive 3288rpm, considerably more than Monfils’ 2765 rpm. Nadal also put more work on his backhand, averaging 2583rpm to the Frenchman’s 2136rpm.
Monfils hit his forehand harder, averaging 127kph to Nadal’s 121kph, but ultimately the Spaniard made it land inside the lines a lot more.
Monfils won the battle of deep returns, hitting 33% of his returns close to the baseline than the service line, compared to Nadal’s 19%. But it was the strategy and execution that followed that proved to be the difference for the Spaniard.
Avoiding the Middle
Both players were quick to stretch the opponent out wide, avoiding going down the middle of the court against an opponent they knew who was not going to miss.
Nadal only hit 5% of his shots down the middle of the court, targeting Monfils’ backhand 66% of the time, and forehand 29%.
Monfils only hit 10% of his shots down the middle of the court, focusing 51% of his groundstrokes to Nadal’s backhand wide through the deuce court, and just 39% wide through the Ad court to Nadal’s forehand.
Nadal’s ninth title in Monte Carlo was built much more on suffocating defense than anything else. He made Wawrinka snap a racket over his leg after four games. He also dominated Andy Murray and Monfils in deciding sets.
If you simply can’t put a ball away, it makes for a very tough day at the office.
The king of clay just put his crown back on his head.