G’day from Paris,
What a treat the tennis world is in for Friday afternoon in Paris! Novak Djokovic against Carlos Alcaraz. This match is going to stop all of us in our tracks. The new generation is ready to take a big step forward against the old generation. I look forward to writing an analysis of this Friday evening.
I also wrote another preview yesterday, outlining 10 themes to look for. Let’s call that Preview 1. You can click the following link to read it too.
The following match metrics focus on these specific areas.
- Rally length played
- Rally length won
- Total Winners
- Total Errors
- Forehand Winners
- Forehand Errors
To understand what we will see in the match, we can look back at the five matches each has played to reach this far and see where they are performing well and potential areas to attack. Let’s dig in and educate our tennis eye.
1: Rally Length Played
Alcaraz is playing slightly more points (61% to 58%) in the o-4 shot rally length than Novak is. This is to be expected, as Carlos likes to play aggressively right from the start of the point. Drop heat. Ask questions later.
2: Rally Length Won
We now find a substantial difference in performance in 0-4 shots. Djokovic has played 589 points in 0-4 shots, while Alcaraz has played 515. With these totals, you would expect Djokovic to have the most significant lead over his opponents in 0-4 shots, but it’s simply not the case.
- Djokovic 0-4 Won = 55.8%
- Alcaraz 0-4 Won = 62.3%
Alcaraz is definitely outperforming Djokovic in the all-important 0-4 shot category. These match metrics give us a glimpse into what strategy each player feels good about coming into this heavy-weight match.
Alcaraz enjoyed playing “first strike” tennis to the semi-final and will keep points short whenever possible against Djokovic. He is not going to all of a sudden change that winning strategy.
Djokovic outperforms Alcaraz in longer rallies of 5-8 shots and marginally more in 9+ shots. Djokovic will be looking to extend the rally against Alcaraz. That’s always in the Djokovic wheelhouse, and it will also be true for the semi-final.
This is fascinating information leading into the semi-final. Djokovic has slightly more winners but has A LOT more winners hit against him. Djokovic has hit 51 more winners than his opponents, but Alcaraz has hit 91. Djokovic only has 10 more forehand winners, while Alcaraz has 42. Djokovic only has five more backhand winners, while Alcaraz has 19.
This data is both a plus and a minus for Djokovic. Here’s how this can play out in the semi-final.
- Scenario 1 – Alcaraz keeps blasting winners in the semi as he has during the rest of the tournament. Djokovic will find himself playing on defense more than he wants to. That can be tough physically, mentally, and emotionally.
- Scenario 2 – Djokovic does a great job of playing defense and plays a lot more offense than Alcaraz is used to seeing on the other side of the court. This can hurt Alcaraz mentally and frustrate him.
- Scenario 3 – Djokovic is like Spiderman, but then again, so is Alcaraz. Djokovic has the potential to frustrate Alcaraz by getting to so many balls defensively and making it very challenging for the Spaniard to hit winners.
Lastly, look at how opponents have hit winners against Alcaraz. Mainly with the forehand (37) and at the net (22). That’s a blueprint for Djokovic as well. Here’s a potential problem for the Serb. He has enjoyed hitting 41 backhand winners, but opponents have only hit 12 against Alcaraz. If Djokovic thinks he can use his backhand to hit a lot of winners, that would be a strategic mistake. It’s tough to do that vs. Alcaraz. Maybe a couple of backhands down the line or well-placed backhand drop shots. But that’s not going to be enough to drive him to victory.
It’s all about the forehand and finishing at net.
Interesting to see Djokovic has more forehand return errors and Alcaraz has more from his backhand. Both are about the same with forehand errors, but Alcaraz has significantly less from the backhand wing. One strategy I will be looking for is where the forehand errors occur. Look at the four baseline locations below – A, B, C, and D.
5: Forehands – Baseline Locations ABCD
This is a great way to understand where players are stronger and weaker at the back of the court. Let’s have a look at forehand winners for both players.
Firstly, I should apologize for A LOT of information here. But take it slowly, and you will understand the baseline like never before.
Let’s take Position A, for example. Novak has 26 winners from Position A, which is the most of any location. The way to find this is the top left table. Look at the top row. You have “From A” and a Total on the right side = 26.
So Position A is where both players are hitting the most winners, but it’s also where they are making the most errors. Djokovic has 26 winners and 51 errors from A, while Alcaraz has 33 winners and 50 errors from A.
Position A is where this semi-final may very well be decided. If either player goes neutral to Position A, they potentially will get hurt a lot. But if you can attack Position A, there are a lot of errors that can come from there. For both players, around half of all forehand errors come from Position A. It’s absolutely, positively the place to attack.
5: Backhands – Baseline Locations ABCD
The first thing to notice in the top two tables is the totals From C and D. Djokovic and Alcaraz only have 16 backhand winners from C but have 56 from D. That’s very typical. There is not enough angle out of C to do damage.
But in the same breath, Position D is where the overwhelming amount of backhand errors occur. There are 133 from C and only 35 from D, representing almost 80% from D. This is where Djokovic and Alcaraz are going to test the other. They both have ridiculously good defensive backhands, and it will be a source of pride for each player to yield as few backhand errors as possible out of Position D.
One thing to look for is each player hunting run-around forehands to attack backhands. That’s the primary way to extract backhand errors. We know Alcaraz will be looking to do this all the time. Djokovic must turn as many backhands into run-around forehands as possible to win this Ad court battle.
Analyzing Djokovic’s and Alcaraz’s matches to the semi-finals gives us a fantastic look into what they are doing well and potential areas to exploit. But it’s important to remember that these stats are against other players. They encounter different primary and secondary strategies against each other when they go head-to-head. They will be trying to match up their strengths against potential weaknesses that they spot during the match.
This is one of the biggest matches in our sport in a while. I kind of like that it is a semi and not a final. It’s much more about them going head-to-head than winning a title. Whoever wins this match still has to play one more match and may not even win Roland Garros.
I am greatly looking forward to this battle. I hope this analysis educates your tennis eye and gives you something to look for in the match.
As you may have seen from my blog yesterday, I picked Djokovic to win in 5 sets. Once again, here’s a link to Preview 1. PREVIEW 1: CLICK HERE.