Duel Match Stats/Report - Nadal vs Federer, Australian Open finals 2009 & 2017

#1
Two finals on the hardcourts of the Australian Open, eight years apart

In 2009, Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-3

The 2009 result marked the 3rd time in the last 4 Slams that Nadal had bested Federer in the final and denied Federer a then record equalling 13th Grand Slam title. As events transpired, Federer would go onto to tie and then break the record at the next two Slam events

Nadal won 173 points, Federer 174

Serve Stats
Nadal...
- 1st serve percentage ((114/175) 65%
- 1st serve points won (75/114) 66%
- 2nd serve points won (29/61) 48%
- Aces 4, Service Winners 2
- Double Faults 4
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (33/175) 19%

Federer...
- 1st serve percentage (93/172) 54%
- 1st serve points won (67/93) 72%
- 2nd serve points won (36/79) 46%
- Aces 9, Service Winners 8
- Double Faults 6
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (39/172) 23%

Serve Patterns
Nadal served...
- to FH 11%
- to BH 84%
- to Body 5%

Federer served...
- to FH 29%
- to BH 71%

Return Stats
Nadal made...
- 121 (45 FH, 76 BH), including 13 runaround FHs
- 3 Winners (2 FH, 1 BH)
- 22 Errors, comprising...
- 9 Unforced (2 FH, 7 BH)
- 13 Forced (3 FH, 10 BH)
- Return Rate (121/166) 73%

Federer made...
- 138 (18 FH, 120 BH), including 5 runaround FHs and 1 return-approach
- 4 Winners (2 FH, 2 BH), both FHs being runarounds
- 27 Errors, comprising...
- 6 Unforced (1 FH, 5 BH)
- 21 Forced (2 FH, 19 BH)
- Return Rate (138/171) 81%

Break Points
Nadal 7/16 (10 games)
Federer 6/19 (9 games)

Winners (excluding serves, including returns)
Nadal 41 (26 FH, 14 BH, 1 BHV)
Federer 54 (28 FH, 13 BH, 5 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 4 BHV, 1 BH1/2V, 2 OH)

Nadal's FHs comprise 7 cc, 6 inside-out, 2 dtl, 1 longline into the middle of the court and 1 drop shot

- In addition, he had 7 FH passes (2 cc, 5 dtl) and 1 BH pass (1 dtl)

- 2 further FH returns (1 dtl, 1 inside-out) and 1 BH return (1 cc)

- non return BHs are 8 cc, 3 dtl and 1 drop shot

Federer's FHs comprise 9 cc, 9 inside-out, 5 dtl, 1 inside-in and 1 longline.
- 2 FH returns (1 inside-in, 1 inside-out) to go with 2 BH returns (2 cc), one of which was a net chord dribbler

- 4 passes (1 FH, 3 BH). The FH was a non-clean cc. The 3 BHs (2 cc, 1 dtl)

- Of non-pass BHs, 4 cc (1 not clean), 3 dtl (1 slightly inside-out) and 1 drop shot

- He had 6 S/V point winners (3 FHV, 2 BHV, 1 BH1/2V). 4 were first 'volleys' (2 FHV {1 swinging}, 1 BHV, 1 BH1/2V), 2 were second volleys (1 FHV, 1 BHV)

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Nadal 79
- 31 Unforced (16 FH, 14 BH, 1 BHV)
- 48 Forced (20 FH, 25 BH, 1 FHV, 2 BHV)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 43.2

Federer 89
- 55 Unforced (26 FH, 25 BH, 3 FHV, 1 BHV)
- 34 Forced (16 FH, 16 BH, 1 FHV, 1 BHV)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 45.3

(Note 1: All 1/2 volleys refer to such shots played at net. 1/2 volleys played from other parts of the court are included within relevant groundstroke numbers)
(Note 2: the Unforced Error Forcefulness Index is an indicator of how aggressive the average UE was. The numbers presented for these two matches are keyed on 4 categories - 20 defensive, 40 neutral, 50 attacking and 60 winner attempt)

Net Points & Serve-Volley
Nadal was 10/22 (45%) at net and had no S/V

Federer was 33/49 (67%), including 12/15 (80%) S/V'ng - off first serves 9/12 (75%) + 2/2 'delayed' serve-volleying, off second serves 1/1
He was 1/1 return-approaching and 1/2 when forced back or retreated

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In 2017, Federer beat Nadal 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3

The win gave Federer his first Slam title in 5 years and was his first tournament back from a six month injury layoff, while Nadal was playing his first Slam final in 3 years and had also missed the last part of the previous season with injury

Federer won 150 points, Nadal 139

Serve Stats
Federer...
- 1st serve percentage (85/138) 62%
- 1st serve points won (65/85) 76%
- 2nd serve points won (26/53) 49%
- Aces 20 (1 2nd serve), 1 Service Winner
- Double Faults 3
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (45/138) 33%

Nadal....
- 1st serve percentage (110/151) 73%
- 1st serve points won (69/110) 63%
- 2nd serve points won (23/41) 56%
- Aces 4 (2 2nd serves), 3 Service Winners
- Double Faults 3
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (39/151) 26%

Serve Patterns
Federer served...
- to FH 36%
- to BH 64%

Nadal served....
- to FH 31%
- to BH 57%
- to Body 12%

Return Stats
Federer made...
- 114 (40 FH, 74 BH), including 5 runaround FHs
- 2 Winners (2 BH)
- 27 Errors, comprising...
- 5 Unforced (2 FH, 3 BH), including 1 runaround FH attempt
- 22 Forced (9 FH, 13 BH)
- Return Rate (114/148) 77%

Nadal made...
- 90 (44 FH, 46 BH), including 13 runaround FHs
- 4 Winners (1 FH, 3 BH)
- 24 Errors, comprising...
- 5 Unforced (2 FH, 3 BH), including 1 runaround FH attempt
- 19 Forced (6 FH, 13 BH)
- Return Rate (90/135) 67%

Break Points
Federer 6/20 (10 games)
Nadal 4/17 (8 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Federer 51 (28 FH, 12 BH, 6 FHV, 3 BHV, 2 OH)
Nadal 30 (20 FH, 8 BH, 2 BHV)

Federer's FHs are 9 inside-out, 9 cc, 6 dtl, 1 longline, 1 inside-in and 2 net chord dribblers

- On the BH, 6 cc, 4 dtl, 1 inside-out. He has a further 2 BH returns (1 cc, 1 dtl)

- 2 Serve-volley point shots, both first volleys (1 FHV, 1 OH).

- 2 other FHVs are swinging shots

Nadal's non-pass FHs are 7 dtl, 4 cc, 3 inside-out, 2 inside-in, 1 at net and 1 net chord dribbler. He has 1 further return dtl

- 4 passes (1 FH, 3 BH). The FH is dtl. 2 BHs are returns (1 cc, 1 dtl) and the non-return is cc

- non-pass BHs are 3 cc (1 return), 1 dtl and 1 running down a drop shot

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Federer 73
- 48 Unforced (25 FH, 20 BH, 2 BHV, 1 OH)
- 25 Forced (17 FH, 5 BH, 1 FHV, 2 BHV)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 47.7

Nadal 50
- 18 Unforced (12 FH, 6 BH)
- 32 Forced (24 FH, 8 BH)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 47.2

Net Points & Serve-Volley
Federer was 27/37 (73%) at net, including 9/12 (75%) S/V'ng - off 1st serve 7/8 (88%), off 2nd serve 2/4 (50%)

Nadal was 6/7 (86%) at net, with no S/V
 
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#3
Match Reports
I wanted to have a look at these two matches to get a sense of just how much had changed in the play of these two players. While common sense says at the ages they were at in 2017 that they had declined significantly, I still want to re-check the action for myself. A very common experience of mine is looking at told matches I'd watched years ago.... and the action much different from what I remembered

The most obvious difference is in the speed of both players. They're both haring about the court in 2009 and downright slow in comparison by 2017

Match Report 2009
The 2009 affair is played on a relatively slow hard court and their are plenty of lengthy rallies in it. You can see the unreturned serve percentage is low (Federer 23%, Nadal 19%), but in addition to the pace of the court, that's attributable to Federer's poor service numbers. For most of the match, he's serving under 50%.

Its a strange match. The commentators make much of Nadal having had a days less rest - and having played the longest match in Australian Open history in the semi (a 5+ hours affair with Verdasco). Nadal seems to overcompensatingly make a show of being raring to go - running out his chair and in a rush to get on with the action (which he rarely does when normal). Though error strewn, the first set features great tennis - Nadal being quite aggressive for such a consistent player, Federer being quite consistent for such an aggressive player. There are 5 breaks - the highlight is Nadal breaking with back-to-back miraculous get type winners - a FH dtl pass and an equally ridiculous BH cc. And Federer double faults on that particular break point.

But Federer wins set 2, despite making just 10/27 first serves. Meanwhile, Nadal is really taking targeting the BH return to an extreme. By the end of the first set, he's served once to the FH and something like 40 times to the BH. And of course, he routinely targets the BH in play with his big FH cc. In set 2, Federer begins to get more comfortable in these exchanges and his BH holds up relatively well

Set 3 is where Federer loses the match. Nadal is clearly tired and even has the trainer tend to him at a couple of changeovers. He's no longer running around like the energy bunny and Federer has 6 break chances to Nadal's 1. To Nadal's credit, he does step it up when under pressure, but Federer is clearly the better player at this stage. Against the run of play, Nadal comfortably takes the tiebreak.

Federer breaks early in the fourth with a sensationally aggressive return game and later, holds off 5 break points in a 20 point game to force a decider. In that decider however, he goes on the bender of all benders, spraying errors right, left and center. Sometimes, a player has a lot of errors but in longer rallies and we don't think they necessarily played badly but not in the 5th set of this match. Federer just makes over-aggressive errors early in a rally and practically hands Nadal the match.

As noted earlier, Federer serves relatively poorly and is fortunate to get away with it. But where he really shows a lack of imagination and/or excess stubbornness is in sticking to the same old strategy on return.

Look at the numbers, keeping in mind that Federer has a significantly more potent second serve than Nadal. Nadal runs around 13 BH returns to strike a FH to Federer's 5. Of the 5, Federer hits 2 winners and does not make an error of any kind. And Nadal serves relentlessly to the BH - its not as if Federer doesn't know its coming

But he keeps on pushing and slicing BH returns. I think this reflects stubbornness more than anything else because as I recall, this is generally how Federer played against everyone. Its his comfort zone. The difference is that no one else could abuse the (relatively) weak 3rd ball the way Nadal can and does. Even so, the match is close

Its almost as if by matches like this and the Wimbledon 2008 final being so close, Nadal has tricked Federer into not trying something different. I believe he was capable, but not willing.... and maybe its slightly harsh, in the light of hindsight, to criticize him for it

A further point of interest is how well Nadal hits his BH all match. He hits some extremely powerful shots from that wing and maybe even scares Federer away from trying to go FH cc. Federer largely keeps his FH attacks inside-out as he likes to do but of course, that's a riskier shot... likely a calculated (and ultimately successful) ploy by the Spaniard

Match Report 2017
This match is played on a significantly faster surface and the big change is in Federer beefing up his BH - returns and otherwise. And Nadal knows it. His serve pattern is for once, fairly balanced (31% to FH, 57% to BH, 12% to Body). The other key factor is how much Nadal has slowed down. Federer has too, but speed was always a bigger part of Nadal's game then Federer's.

There are relatively more forced errors than unforced compared to 2009. This reflects the court speed but also the slowing down of the two players. A number of balls both players were apt to run down and strike from a stable position they can only reach on the stretch (or even fail to reach and let go by for a winner.... this is particularly true for Nadal)

In a strange way, I'm more impressed with Nadal than I am with Federer in the match. Federer has his big serve, he returns with great consistency and is belting BHs every which way. In other words, he's largely compensated for being slower of foot than in 2009. Nadal by contrast, hasn't.

The serve is the same, the FH has lost bite and he can't run down balls like he used to. So what exactly does that leave him with? Consistency of groundstrokes (that is, not making many errors) but that of course, was present even in years gone by. And mental strength. Nadal keeps this match competitive virtually on the strength of that alone because Federer is far and away the better player.

Federer hits the BH cleanly - off the return and otherwise, crosscourt or down the line - all match. And he can still hit sharp, court opening angles with it. Nadal (wisely) refrains from the old trick of persistently banging down FH crosscourts… with the decline in his own FH and the incline in the Swiss' BH.... those rallies go against Nadal as often as not.

Still, Nadal pushes the match to a 5th set by remaining consistent and tough. This would be expected if Federer was playing wildly aggressive tennis, but he isn't. Federer, as always, is aggressive, but not unduly so. He rallies neutrally and picks his moments to go for the throat. He even holds up ok rallying neutrally... more so than in years past (certainly the other final at this venue). Federer is constructing points, not going for broke

The BH, which had been strong all match, goes up two notches further in the decider. Fed knocks down 8 BH winners (also 8 from the FH and 5 aces). So that's 8 in the set to 4 in the rest of the match.

After a career of having his BH broken down by those huge Nadal FHs, this must have been particularly satisfying for the Swiss. And with the go-to play that had worked so well for years thrown for a loop and sans the ability to run down impossible balls (I imagine if Nadal still had his youthful speed/astonishing ability to retrieve, he would probably have come up on top.... he thwarted a number of equivalent to what turned out to be winners in 2017 in the 2009 final), its no surprise the H2H turned so drastically this year

Summary brilliant from Fed, very gutsy from Nadal
 
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