G’day from Paris,
The road to Roland Garros glory has always gone straight through the baseline. Players must be dominant from the back of the court if they want to take home fresh French silverware.
Through the first two days at Roland Garros this year, there is a strong sense of Déjà vu resonating through the draw. Rafael Nadal and Iga Swiatek are the tournament leaders with Baseline Points Won.
Baseline Points Won Leaders After Two Days
Men: Rafael Nadal = 65% (65/100)
Women: Iga Świątek = 77% (41/53)
The men have completed 27 matches and 39 for the women through the first two days – which equates to around 30 percent of total matches.
Forehands and backhands are the weapons of choice in baseline exchanges, and it has been forehands that have outperformed backhands so far in the tournament.
Men: Groundstroke Winners
- Forehand Winners = 70% (1202)
- Backhand Winners = 30% (519)
Women: Groundstroke Winners
- Forehand Winners = 62% (846)
- Backhand Winners = 38% (524)
Nadal defeated Jordan Thompson 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 in his opening round match, with his forehand being the star of Court Philippe Chatrier.
- Forehand = 17 winners / 19 errors
- Backhand = 4 winners / 19 errors
Swiatek defeated Lesia Tsurenko 6-2, 6-0, and it was also the forehand that did the damage.
- Forehand = 13 winners / 10 errors
- Backhand = 2 winners / 8 errors
So what hope do future opponents of Nadal and Swiatek have in defeating these two Parisian juggernauts?
Here are five patterns of play that would definitely help disrupt the baseline exchanges and provide a glimmer of hope for an upset victory.
1: Approach & Volley – You already know Nadal and Swiatek are extremely comfortable and proficient trading groundstrokes from the baseline. Getting to the net is a very viable option. The average for points won for the men so far is 67%. It’s 63% for the women. Take the battle forward, because your chances from the back of the court against these two are historically not good.
2: Serve & Volley – This tactic is the great disrupter, especially against opponents who stand a long way back to return serve – such as Nadal. It’s almost impossible to beat Nadal and Swiatek in groundstroke baseline exchanges, so bring the battle immediately to the front of the court.
3: Return Approach vs. 2nd Serves – This is an outstanding counter-move versus a strong baseliner. It ramps up the pressure in the match, keeps the points short, and also extracts double faults. Make the opponent have to hit passing shots for a living.
4: Drop Shots – Carlos Alcaraz hit 50 drop shots to win the Miami Masters 1000 tournament just over a month ago. He won a staggering 70 percent (35/50) of them. Done well, the drop shot is a key component against anyone who is better than you from the back of the court.
5: Heavy Slice – Both Nadal and Swiatek thrive off power. They take your hard shot and hit it back at you even harder. So why not play slower and lower? Heavy slice, especially from a backhand, completely changes the power dynamic from the back of the court. It gives the opponent nothing to work with and everything to have to create on their own.
Nadal and Świątek started fast at Roland Garros this year. Stopping them is going to mean disrupting their mojo, which all starts with baseline exchanges – or the lack thereof.