Can serving save Novak?

GabeT

G.O.A.T.
Made a quick calculation of the % of service games broken for the last 4 players. And I got the following:

Zev: 18%
Nadal:15%
Tsitai: 12%
Novak: 4%


Novak has only been broken 3 times in the first five matches. In contrast Zev was broken 14 times and Nadal 11 times (as a point of reference in 2020FO Nadal was broken 4 times and Novak 7 times in the first 5 matches).

so it seems Novak’s serve can be a weapon. Will it make a difference in the SF?
 

topher

Hall of Fame
Considering Zed’s cupcake draw that’s pretty bad that he’s last in that stat.

But yes Novak’s serve is much better than last year, although that’s not saying much.

Nadal will have to step up his serve on Friday, let’s hope!
 

Djokovic_is_the_best#1

Talk Tennis Guru
It absolute key for Novak. He needs a big serving day against Rafa. He needs them free points when he can get them.

I hope he can find the first serve as much as he did against Berra. Of course Rafa is a much better returner than Berra but if Novak can get that 1st in consistency it gives him a better chance.

Plus Novak also needs his ROS on fire too. Try to get into as many Rafa service games as possible and try punish any Rafa 2nd serves as much as he can.
 

Backspin1183

Talk Tennis Guru
He will get his serve broken quite a few times. This I can promise you ;)

But he's also gonna break back too.

He has a very good first serve. The second serve hasn't been very impressive to me.
 

MichaelNadal

Bionic Poster
If Nadal can get Opelkas serve he can get Novak's. The difference will be 2 things. Break point conversion, and what works better between Djokovics return, and Rafa's plus 1.
 

TennisFan3

G.O.A.T.
Made a quick calculation of the % of service games broken for the last 4 players. And I got the following:

Zev: 18%
Nadal:15%
Tsitai: 12%
Novak: 4%


Novak has only been broken 3 times in the first five matches. In contrast Zev was broken 14 times and Nadal 11 times (as a point of reference in 2020FO Nadal was broken 4 times and Novak 7 times in the first 5 matches).

so it seems Novak’s serve can be a weapon. Will it make a difference in the SF?
Yes it is likely to mean the difference between victory and defeat.
2021 has been a REVELATION for Novak in terms of serving and the extremely drastic improvements to that specific shot. Serving won him AO 2021 and could win him F.O 2021 as well.

The stats just confirm what we have seen from Novak. A serve that is legitimately among the best in the business.
This is the best serving that he has EVER DONE. It is vastly better than last year.
It will serve him well (no pun intended), not just on clay, but especially on Wimbledon and hardcourt, where he might be unbeatable now.
 

TripleATeam

G.O.A.T.
Djokovic didn't go up against particularly good returners. We'll see, but his serve needs to be there on Friday to have any hope.
 

GabeT

G.O.A.T.
WTF are you talking about? Djokovic played guys who don't break a lot, period. Not just against him. Clown.
The only one that Nadal played that stands out is Schwartzman, who has won about 35% of his return games. The rest are pretty similar. The average return games won (in clay in 2021) of the players Nadal faced is about 27%. For Novak it’s about 23%. Not a huge difference. Given the number of service games played that would translate roughly to an expected 3 more service games lost for Nadal vs Novak. The actual number was 8 more.
 

Lleytonstation

Talk Tennis Guru
Made a quick calculation of the % of service games broken for the last 4 players. And I got the following:

Zev: 18%
Nadal:15%
Tsitai: 12%
Novak: 4%


Novak has only been broken 3 times in the first five matches. In contrast Zev was broken 14 times and Nadal 11 times (as a point of reference in 2020FO Nadal was broken 4 times and Novak 7 times in the first 5 matches).

so it seems Novak’s serve can be a weapon. Will it make a difference in the SF?
Servebot to the champion eh?
 

nov

Professional
If Nadal can get Opelkas serve he can get Novak's. The difference will be 2 things. Break point conversion, and what works better between Djokovics return, and Rafa's plus 1.
The thing in tennis, that Djokovic have much better serve variety and placement and point construction after serve, that compare Opelka with Djokovic is ridiculous!
 

RF-18

Talk Tennis Guru
He cannot serve serve like he did in Rome, very inconsistent with first serve%. He needs that 1st serve to be consistent.
 

Crazy Finn

Hall of Fame
Made a quick calculation of the % of service games broken for the last 4 players. And I got the following:

Zev: 18%
Nadal:15%
Tsitai: 12%
Novak: 4%


Novak has only been broken 3 times in the first five matches. In contrast Zev was broken 14 times and Nadal 11 times (as a point of reference in 2020FO Nadal was broken 4 times and Novak 7 times in the first 5 matches).

so it seems Novak’s serve can be a weapon. Will it make a difference in the SF?
So, the others have played some better returners. However, Novak's serve has been very good and it's all on clay, so he's doing well.

Can it make a difference? Did it make a difference against Berrettini? Yes, and yes.

I'm sure it will play a factor - whether it's as good as it's been or if it drops a level. Rafa's a better returner on clay than anyone Novak's played, but still, could be a factor. I expect it'll be tougher for him than 4%, but that doesn't mean it can't be significant.

We'll see...
 

RoS

Rookie
Nadal won't certainly serve 88% first serve like he did against Schwarztman in the third set (he would maybe have lost the set as Diego was making inroads). Very difficult to replicate.

And we are talking about Djokovic but it was the serve who saved Nadal in the first set of the Rome final (83% first serve). He dropped a little bit and Djokovic was all over him in the second.

The serve will be determinant for Nadal as well.
 

T007

Hall of Fame
Made a quick calculation of the % of service games broken for the last 4 players. And I got the following:

Zev: 18%
Nadal:15%
Tsitai: 12%
Novak: 4%


Novak has only been broken 3 times in the first five matches. In contrast Zev was broken 14 times and Nadal 11 times (as a point of reference in 2020FO Nadal was broken 4 times and Novak 7 times in the first 5 matches).

so it seems Novak’s serve can be a weapon. Will it make a difference in the SF?
He played nobodies till R4. Mussetti actually broke him twice before fading away with injury. We know how good of a returner berrettini is .

Nadal is a different package than all these players. Djokovic isn't a servebot who can fire 2 aces per game to keep Nadal at bay. He may try go outwide considering how deep Nadal stands to recieve. But that serve won't make a big difference unless Nadal will have the most awful return game of his career
 
I think his opponents were typically not that great at returning bar Musetti who did better than was expected of him. Berrettini was giving some fight early on, but later went to rely on his serve + FH combo to sneak a set. Novak was mostly unbothered on serve

Anyways, you are right that Novak needs a very good service game to have a chance. But lot of breaks will be exchanged tomorrow
 
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Amritia

Hall of Fame
Made a quick calculation of the % of service games broken for the last 4 players. And I got the following:

Zev: 18%
Nadal:15%
Tsitai: 12%
Novak: 4%


Novak has only been broken 3 times in the first five matches. In contrast Zev was broken 14 times and Nadal 11 times (as a point of reference in 2020FO Nadal was broken 4 times and Novak 7 times in the first 5 matches).

so it seems Novak’s serve can be a weapon. Will it make a difference in the SF?
Djokovic will break Nadal at will. Nadal will struggle to break Djokovic who is serve botting.
Djokovic goes in as favourite imo
 
He cannot serve serve like he did in Rome, very inconsistent with first serve%. He needs that 1st serve to be consistent.
The problem is Nadal is standing "10 meters" behind the baseline and gets everything back. Just putting the ball in play is the Spaniards tactics. So Djokovic has to go for more risk on the first serve thus the usual lower first serve percentage against Nadal The key for Djokovic is the shot after the return. If he can do some damage with that shot he will have some chances.
 

StrongRule

G.O.A.T.
Against Nadal he is going to servebot even more. I expect 3-4 aces from Djokovic in every service game for the whole match, just like in Wimbledon 2018. Nadal's bad return (he made Schwartzman look like a servebot for almost 2 sets) will also help him in that.
 

NonP

Hall of Fame
This is why I tell you kids to look at the whole season, not just one tourney. Here, from last Friday in a group convo:

As for Novak... man I thought his gimme W in Belgrade would boost his serve #s but his SGW% still stood at a stingy 76.3% going into RG. FYI we haven't seen an under-80% on serve from any FO finalist since Gaudio and Coria in '04 who won a dismal 72.4% and a barely acceptable 78.5%... and at least the Argies had the excuse of being a f*cking midget! No wonder my boy lost serve FOUR times vs. 255th-ranked Molcan in the Belgrade final. There's something clearly out of whack with his service game atm, and while he's been making up for it with an admittedly excellent 44.7% in RGW you only need a quick look at the draws to know his overall 60.8% vs. this sorry field isn't that reassuring, or at least not quite what you hope to see from anyone looking to dethrone even a subpar Nadal at RG.
Now it's possible Novak is peaking at the right time, but Matteo's career RGW% stands at a paltry 18% and only slightly higher at 21% on clay... and Novak needed 4 tough sets to dispatch him. That's not exactly an encouraging sign ahead of the SF showdown vs. Nadal.

I'm still going with Rafa in 4, but apart from the lost years of 2015-16 this is his weakest CC campaign since '04 and if Novak manages to protect his serve he'll definitely have a shot this time. But I strongly suspect Djoko's "botting" is a mirage and that pre-RG 76.3% on serve will catch up with him. Novak's groundies which were never among the heaviest to begin with have lost a lot of sting, and if you can't make up for that with your serve a la late(r) Pete or Fed you probably need a lucky break to go al the way at your worst Slam.
 

Kralingen

G.O.A.T.
Berrettini had BPs on every single service game of Djokovic's in the first set last night. He didn't convert and in fact never got another BP chance but there is no way Djokovic can open with a serving performance like that against Nadal and not be punished swiftly.

Either way past performance doesn't mean much to me in a Djokovic-Nadal contest. They will play each other completely differently to any of the previous 5 matches this tournament. The Rome final is the only one worth analyzing.
 

GabeT

G.O.A.T.
Return ranking on tour on clay over the past 52 weeks,

Berrettini #71
Musetti #30
Berankis Outside of the top 110
Cuevas #38
Sandgren #98


Schwartzman #3
Sinner #7
Norrie #42
Gasquet #63
Popyrin #103
I would focus on the actual return game won % and not on rankings. The only one that stands out is Schwart.

for example the ranking difference between Sinner and Berretini looks very large. But look at the underlying relevant numbers. Return games won in clay in 2021 was 28% for Sinner and 24% for Berretini.

Nadal played about 15 service games against Sinner. If he lost 28% of his service games that means he would be expected to be broken 4.2 times. He was broken 4 times.

Novak played about 20 service games against Berretini. If he lost 24% of his service games that means he would be expected to be broken 4.8 times. He was broken 0 times.

the data is clear that even adjusting for the quality of the returners faced Novak has served well. obviously Novak hasn’t faced anyone of Nadal’s caliber yet (and vice versa) and Nadal remains the clear favorite for the SF
 

Biotic

Hall of Fame
This is why I tell you kids to look at the whole season, not just one tourney. Here, from last Friday in a group convo:



Now it's possible Novak is peaking at the right time, but Matteo's career RGW% stands at a paltry 18% and only slightly higher at 21% on clay... and Novak needed 4 tough sets to dispatch him. That's not exactly an encouraging sign ahead of the SF showdown vs. Nadal.

I'm still going with Rafa in 4, but apart from the lost years of 2015-16 this is his weakest CC campaign since '04 and if Novak manages to protect his serve he'll definitely have a shot this time. But I strongly suspect Djoko's "botting" is a mirage and that pre-RG 76.3% on serve will catch up with him. Novak's groundies which were never among the heaviest to begin with have lost a lot of sting, and if you can't make up for that with your serve a la late(r) Pete or Fed you probably need a lucky break to go al the way at your worst Slam.
Agree. It's quite clear Nadal's form is a far cry from his prime (maybe even from his worst prime year 2014). Unfortunately, so is Djokovic's.

2011 - 2016 Djoko would be at least 50-50 vs this Nadal, 2021 would need something special to get over the finish line.
 

Beckerserve

Legend
Made a quick calculation of the % of service games broken for the last 4 players. And I got the following:

Zev: 18%
Nadal:15%
Tsitai: 12%
Novak: 4%


Novak has only been broken 3 times in the first five matches. In contrast Zev was broken 14 times and Nadal 11 times (as a point of reference in 2020FO Nadal was broken 4 times and Novak 7 times in the first 5 matches).

so it seems Novak’s serve can be a weapon. Will it make a difference in the SF?
Here is where i think daytime would suit Djokovic. Serve will get way more help
 

xFedal

Legend
Made a quick calculation of the % of service games broken for the last 4 players. And I got the following:

Zev: 18%
Nadal:15%
Tsitai: 12%
Novak: 4%


Novak has only been broken 3 times in the first five matches. In contrast Zev was broken 14 times and Nadal 11 times (as a point of reference in 2020FO Nadal was broken 4 times and Novak 7 times in the first 5 matches).

so it seems Novak’s serve can be a weapon. Will it make a difference in the SF?
Nadal is by the best returner on clay. Noles serve will be neutralized quickly.
 

weakera

Talk Tennis Guru
I would focus on the actual return game won % and not on rankings. The only one that stands out is Schwart.

for example the ranking difference between Sinner and Berretini looks very large. But look at the underlying relevant numbers. Return games won in clay in 2021 was 28% for Sinner and 24% for Berretini.

Nadal played about 15 service games against Sinner. If he lost 28% of his service games that means he would be expected to be broken 4.2 times. He was broken 4 times.

Novak played about 20 service games against Berretini. If he lost 24% of his service games that means he would be expected to be broken 4.8 times. He was broken 0 times.

the data is clear that even adjusting for the quality of the returners faced Novak has served well. obviously Novak hasn’t faced anyone of Nadal’s caliber yet (and vice versa) and Nadal remains the clear favorite for the SF

True if you narrow the gap to 2021, as opposed to 52 weeks, it makes a difference, but if you adjust to return points won % which is a more meaningful metric, the gap grows substantially again and the discrepancies you note change.

No one would ever mistake Berritini for being good on return. In fact he is poor on return. He broke Kwon Soon-Woo just twice, did not break Tsitsipas in Rome. The competition he faced in rounds 1-3 was absolutely dreadful, so there isn't a real baseline by which to measure what kind of competition Djokovic struggled greatly to defeat.

Schwartzman was an absolute break machine in this tournament heading into the Nadal match.
 

GabeT

G.O.A.T.
True if you narrow the gap to 2021, as opposed to 52 weeks, it makes a difference, but if you adjust to return points won % which is a more meaningful metric, the gap grows substantially again and the discrepancies you note change.

No one would ever mistake Berritini for being good on return. In fact he is poor on return. He broke Kwon Soon-Woo just twice, did not break Tsitsipas in Rome. The competition he faced in rounds 1-3 was absolutely dreadful, so there isn't a real baseline by which to measure what kind of competition Djokovic struggled greatly to defeat.

Schwartzman was an absolute break machine in this tournament heading into the Nadal match.
why would return points won % be more meaningful than return games won? What matters is breaking the other guy, doing it more or less efficiently may be nice but makes no difference in terms of winning a match.

Sure, there are many ways to slice and dice this. For example, for players like Schwartzman playing more low level clay tourneys can "artificially" boost his return scores because he has more opportunities to meet, and beat, lower ranked players. And obviously facing Nadal is like nothing else in clay. My only point is that Novak has been serving well and generally better than the other SFs, something that wasn't true last year. Will it make any difference in the end, when facing Nadal? Probably not :cry::cry:
 

mehdimike

Professional
Against Nadal he is going to servebot even more. I expect 3-4 aces from Djokovic in every service game for the whole match, just like in Wimbledon 2018. Nadal's bad return (he made Schwartzman look like a servebot for almost 2 sets) will also help him in that.
3 aces in each service game means at least 27 aces even if Rafa lose 6-0 6-0 6-0.
When was the last time Novak did that?! Where is the logic in your words?!
 

GabeT

G.O.A.T.
Now it's possible Novak is peaking at the right time, but Matteo's career RGW% stands at a paltry 18% and only slightly higher at 21% on clay... and Novak needed 4 tough sets to dispatch him. That's not exactly an encouraging sign ahead of the SF showdown vs. Nadal.
Sure, anything can happen and Nadal is the clear favorite. But my point was on serve. And even in his difficult match against Berretini Novak wasn't broken even once, in about 20 service games.
 

Djokovic2011

Bionic Poster
It'll definitely help but still won't be enough in the end, not least because Nadal stands so far back and thus makes you work hard for practically every point.

I may be wrong but in last year's final I don't think it was until the beginning of the 3rd set that Nadal failed to get one of Djokovic's serves back into play which completely astounded me and was something I've never seen before, not just from Nadal but any player. Novak will really have an uphill climb tomorrow .
 

NonP

Hall of Fame
Sure, anything can happen and Nadal is the clear favorite. But my point was on serve. And even in his difficult match against Berretini Novak wasn't broken even once, in about 20 service games.
Don't get me wrong, I'm still with Novak and will be rooting hard for him tomorrow. But as this forum's resident GW% authority I can tell you this unequivocally: it's unwise to extrapolate too much from early rounds of a Slam. Given the small sample size and lackluster competition it's natural that these stats are inflated - if you're still shaking your head check out this 65+% roster which includes at least 14 guys out of 53 who failed to win the whole shebang - hence my suggestion to review the whole season which normally includes several scraps vs. top contenders.

I agree with @Biotic that this is the one version of Rafa (again except for 2015-16) prime Novak would have a legit shot against, but Nole himself is in decline and I'm just not sold on his form atm. And apart from Rafa and Novak (though his 40.4% last year is somewhat dubious for obvious reasons) Diego is the only guy in recent years who broke the bellweather 40% mark in RGW* ('17 and '20), so VBers are for once making a valid point when they say the Argie is a clearly more dangerous dirtballer than Matteo. You say Novak didn't lose serve once even in yesterday's close 4-setter but the thing is, he should be breezing past non-contenders like Berrettini right now. I still expect tomorrow's rematch to be more competitive than last year's, but the outcome to remain the same.

In fact it's not Novak or Rafa but Tsits who was this season's statistical leader (yes, really) leading up to RG. Don't be surprised to see the Instagram Socrates giving Nadal all he can handle and possibly even more in Sunday's final.

*At least 100 games, so '14 Krajinovic and last year's RBA don't count. If you go back slightly more than a decade Murray and Ferrer also won 42.9% and 39.7% respectively in '11. Ferru also came close with 39.5% in '13.
 

StrongRule

G.O.A.T.
3 aces in each service game means at least 27 aces even if Rafa lose 6-0 6-0 6-0.
When was the last time Novak did that?! Where is the logic in your words?!
In Wimbledon 2018 he was saved by his servebotting. Nadal would have won that match if not for this annoying serve.
 

Djokinho

Rookie
I hate this whole conversation. Tomorrow Nadal breaks in the first service game and everything changes.

The most important thing in tomorrow's game will be to take advantage of the small opportunities that will certainly appear.

In Rome, in the deciding set, Djokovic had the first break point, if he breaks, he would probably win the game. He failed, was broken in the next game and lost.
 
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