Nole gave Rafa the good news.
It was a very focused, tactical match.
Well, after six losses to Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros, Novak Djokovic finally got him. Novak’s straight sets win was dominant, and at no stage did Rafa really get his nose in front. I hope you read my pre-match post – 25 Keys to Nadal v Djokovic. What I want to do is go back and identify the keys that had the most impact on the match, and a couple of other interesting facts as well.
Firstly, here’s a couple of links to get caught up.
1 Blog Post: This is the preview I wrote for the match.
2 ATP Website Analysis: My breakdown of the match for the ATP World Tour website.
So let’s go through the important elements of the preview and see what we got right, and what mattered the most.
1. Nadal’s Forehand Winners
Well, he had 3. In three sets. He had 71 in 4 matches coming into the quarter-final, for an average of 18 per match. And the news gets worse when you consider Nadal had 3, and Djokovic had 23. That’s not a misprint. Djokovic had 63 in 4 matches to begin the tournament, for an average of 16 forehand winners per match. So it’s quite clear Novak’s forehand over-performed, and Nadal’s simply didn’t turn up – or more accurately, wasn’t allowed to be a factor. I have never seen a match where Nadal only hit three forehand winners in three sets. I have seen him hit 22 in two sets, but never the other extreme.
The main reason this happened is that Nole was constantly the aggressor – right from the very first point. Nadal’s forehand has been off for months, and under this type of pressure, just could not stand up and perform like he needed it to. Novak constantly had Rafa on the back foot defending, making it almost impossible for Rafa to hit any type of winner. And then factor in Djokovic’s ridiculous defense, and nothing was getting by. This is the stat of the year so far on the pro tour – Nadal hits three forehand winners in three sets on Court Philippe Chatrier. Unheard of.
2. Get On a Roll
In boxing terms, Novak came out in round one landing haymakers, and Rafa never really recovered. Novak won 16 of the first 20 points and completely set the tone of the match. Yes, he tightened up a little, and Rafa relaxed because of the score and got it back to 4-4, but that run by Rafa, winning 19 of 26 points, was very short lived. The match was unofficially over just a few minutes after it started.
3. Djokovic’s Flatter, Harder Forehand
Well, that definitely happened. His 23 forehand winners were testament to his fantastic court position around the baseline and how well he was running patterns of play to maneuver Rafa out of position to finish with winners. Nadal was also credited with 10 forced forehand errors, and 16 forced backhand errors, and a lot of those came from Novak’s punishing forehand side.
4. Djokovic Drop Shot
You know it’s going to quickly become a focus when Novak is busting it out on the second point of the match. In the all-important first set, Djokovic hit a staggering 10 drop shots, winning seven. The tactic was to push Nadal back with powerful groundstrokes, and then pull him up to the net with the drop shots. He wanted to yank him back and forward to take away his rhythm. It’s the perfect plan against Rafa, as it absolutely takes him out of his comfort zone, which is grinding with heavy spin from the back of the court. Nadal also hit four drop shots in the opening set, two of which saved set points. That’s gutsy to bust one out set point down – twice!
5. Second Serves
I highlighted in the preview that one player would end up above 50% and the other below in this area – with the winner obviously being the one above 50%. Well, Novak won 60% (18/30) and Rafa won 38% (14/37). In such a critical area of the match, that’s a massive difference, and heavily contributed to the lop-sided final score.
6. Patterns of Play 5-9 Shots
This is exactly where Novak’s baseline dominance reigned supreme. He won 36 points that lasted in this critical range, and Rafa only won 15. Rallies of 5-9 shots are where points are developed early, and then finished with clever patterns, such as a 2-1, or backhands down the line.
Here’s the breakdown of all three rally lengths.
- First Strike 0-4 Shots: Djokovic +8 (Nole 49 / Rafa 41)
- Patterns of Play 5-8 Shots: Djokovic +21 (Nole 36/ Rafa 15 )
- Extended Rallies 9+ Shots: Djokovic +2 (Nole 17 / Rafa 15)
Rafa & Roger v Stan & Nole
Roger Federer also had a bad day at the office, going to Stan Wawrinka 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(4). When you combine the numbers of the two match losers against the two match winners – well – they tell a pretty vivid story.
2nd Serve Points Won
Rafa & Roger = 47% (37/78)
Nole & Stan = 61% (44/72)
Baseline Points Won
Rafa & Roger = 39% (89/226)
Stan & Nole = 56% (122/218)
Rafa & Roger = 12
Stan & Nole = 47
Those are very, very lop-sided numbers in some critical areas. The main components of tennis that heavily decide winning and losing really didn’t turn up for two of the greatest players our sport has ever seen.
Let’s hope for a couple of wonderful semi-finals. Novak v Andy Murray promises to be a cracker, with Andy in excellent clay court form. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga v Stan Wawrinka is another fantastic battle. Very much looking forward to both!!!
All the best,