Duel Match Stats/Reports - Nadal vs Djokovic, French Open semi-finals, 2007 & 2008

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Rafael Nadal beat Novak Djokovic 7-5, 6-4, 6-2 in the French Open semi-final, 2007 on clay

Nadal was the defending champion and would go onto beat Roger Federer in the final to win his third title at the event. He had beaten Djokovic the previous year in the quarters and would do so again the following year in the semis. Djokovic was playing his first Slam semi and would go onto reach the same stage at his next 4 in succession, including winning the next Australian Open

Nadal won 106 points, Djokovic 75

Serve Stats
Nadal...
- 1st serve percentage (61/86) 71%
- 1st serve points won (45/61) 74%
- 2nd serve points won (15/25) 60%
- Aces 3
- Double Faults 1
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (21/86) 24%

Djokovic...
- 1st serve percentage (68/95) 72%
- 1st serve points won (39/68) 57%
- 2nd serve points won (10/27) 37%
- Aces 3
- Double Faults 1
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (14/95) 15%

Serve Pattern
Nadal served...
- to FH 12%
- to BH 85%
- to Body 4%

Djokovic served...
- to FH 28%
- to BH 72%

Return Stats
Nadal made...
- 80 (29 FH, 51 BH), including 8 runaround FHs
- 11 Errors, comprising...
- 4 Unforced (2 FH, 2 BH), including 1 runaround FH
- 7 Forced (2 FH, 5 BH)
- Return Rate (80/94) 85%

Djokovic made...
- 64 (8 FH, 56 BH), including 4 runaround FHs
- 18 Errors, comprising...
- 9 Unforced (2 FH, 7 BH)
- 9 Forced (3 FH, 6 BH)
- Return Rate (64/85) 75%

Break Points
Nadal 6/9 (8 games)
Djokovic 2/6 (4 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding aces)
Nadal 31 (23 FH, 6 BH, 2 OH)
Djokovic 23 (11 FH, 5 BH, 3 FHV, 2 BHV, 2 OH)

Nadal's FHs - 5 cc, 2 cc/inside-in, 2 dtl, 8 inside-out, 1 inside-out/dtl, 3 inside-in, 1 longline pass and 1 drop shot
- BHs - 5 cc (2 passes) and 1 dtl pass

- 1 OH was on the bounce and 1 other can reasonably be called a FHV but was a smash

Djokovic's FHs - 2 cc, 1 dtl, 5 inside-out, 2 inside-in and 1 longline
- BHs - 3 cc (1 pass) and 2 drop shots

- 1 FHV was played net-to-net

Errors (excluding returns and serves)
Nadal 37
- 15 Unforced (10 FH, 5 BH)… with 1 FH at net
- 22 Forced (12 FH, 9 BH, 1 BHV)… with 1 FH at net
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 46.7

Djokovic 53
- 41 Unforced (16 FH, 25 BH)
- 12 Forced (4 FH, 6 BH, 1 FHV, 1 BHV)… with 1 FH at net
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 46.1

(Note 1: all half-volleys refer to such shots played at net. Half -volleys played from other parts of the court are included within relevant groundstroke counts)

(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...
- 5/12 (42%) at net, with...
- 0/1 forced/back retreated

Djokovic was...
- 14/21 (67%) at net, including...
- 0/1 serve-volleying, a 1st serve

Match Report
Two tough sets of gruelling baseline rallies, while the last is Djokovic capitulating. Tough as the first two sets are, Nadal remains significantly the better player in them. It being 'tough' is more a reflection of the surface and the two men's playing styles than of the contest itself. Djokovic though plays well, despite the stats

The overall stats look deceptive even to the one who took them - and requires some explanation

The standout stat is Djokovic with 41 unforced errors in play (Nadal has 15). Djoko's unforced errors (including return errors and double faults) amount to 51 points... nearly half of the 106 points Nadal won. That looks like a terrible showing

First, rallies are typically long, with heavy regulation shots and good defence from both players. Clay being what it is, points turn into who-blinks-first dynamic... whoever wins, the point is likely to end with an unforced error

- heaviness of regulation shots that both players 'unforced errors' tend to be on the hard side of being unforced
- long rallies means for every error made, many shots were successfully made preceding it. normal clay stuff in short
- good defence means forced errors are kept down because balls that would force an error, don't. making it more likely points will ultimately end with unforced ones. Credit to the defence of the players here, not discredit to the attack. this is also normal for good clay court tennis

Serve & Return
Djokovic serves significantly better but Nadal's advantage on the return is greater than Djoko's on the serve. On whole, Nadal comes out ahead on serve-return complex due to Djoko's comparative not-good returning
('not-good' relative to Nadal and by the standard of what he needed to do to have chances to win. By a normal standard, its fine)

There are no demons to Nadal's serve. Average power, safe placement, very predictably to BH (he serves 85% there). The one weapon he has is the high concentration to Djoko's BH means that odd serves to the FH tend to catch the Serb out. Note Djoko with 3 FH FEs, to 6 BHs... given the BH was copping 7 times the number of serves, that looks disproportionately high for FH. Its actually not due to any FH return weakness, just being caught out by odd serves there.

Djoko makes just 8 FH returns and makes 5 errors (he's also aced on break there once). Just a minority play and not too significant issue. But trailing in play as he does, every little bit is significant for him - and he'd need to not give away points by being surprised by change up serves in this way

Not good returning from Djoko. 24% unreturned serves is flattering to quality of Nadal's serve. A good returner like Djoko was quite capable of cutting that figure by half. Its as high as it is partially because Djoko enters match-is-gone-who-cares mode in third set... but a bit too many unnecessary missed returns. I've probably been generous in marking 18 of the return errors as forced. Most are against first serves, but regulation Nadal ones... on clay in particular, they don't necessarily warrant being marked forced (most of the 9 unforced ones are also first serves)

You could say Djoko's returning is like his ground game in play... misses a few on a natural error rate, but its higher than he can afford. Some good deep returns, but Nadal's too solid to be troubled. Even whacks away a winner of a sharply angled return that would likely have won the point against most players

By contrast, Djoko serves particularly well. For one things, his serve is a lot bigger than Rafa's. He doesn't go big on all first serves, but quite regularly - and even the ones he holds back on are decent. To serve at 72% in that style is very impressive

Nadal's too good returning though. Strong serves or otherwise are put back in play . Just 15% unreturned rate for Djoko. And as the huge first serve points and second serve points won (20%) along with the outright poor second serve points won (just 37%), he needs the serve to give him initiative he can nurse to winning points

Some powerful, court opening serves from Djoko (Nadal doesn't do this) that leaves him open court to hit winners into or force flagrant errors. Even then, Nadal manages to thwart a few or extend the rally with ridiculous 4th ball gets. Negligible attacking third ball errors from Djoko - he does well here. Nadal also hits a bunch of third ball winners, but that's more about the quality of the shot then serve that preceded it

Key to serve-return complex is Nadal's return. He misses very little, minimizing Djoko's potential advantage
 
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Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Play - Baseline and Net
Mostly baseline stuff

Rallies are tough, frequently near even. Djoko tends to miss routine balls more. Not often, but with Nadal almost never doing so, it stands out and puts him behind. Rallies are also double winged affairs, especially for Djokovic with working the opponent around central to dynamics (as opposed to trying to break down a shot)

Djokovic clobbers FHs and BHs. Offensively, he prefers to do so off FH, with inside-out his favourite. 5/11 FH winners are inside-out and a good chunk of Nadal 12 FH FEs are forced by FH inside-out. He's not as attacking with BH, but hits firmly at all times, with good dtl changes ups

Also a good number of drop shots from Djoko. Its a good ploy because he regularly pushes Nadal back behind baseline. For most of match, Djoko comes out net positive on his drops shots... until third set when he makes a bunch of errors. By then, he'd given up anyway and probably just didn't want to fight out every point

Neutrally, Djoko's BH is the weakest link. 25 UEs. These are mostly just-missed-a-ball type stuff, not Nadal systematically breaking it down as he is wont to

The biggest problem Djoko has is Nadal's defence. When Djoko can dominate rallies - and he does at least as often as not - its very difficult to finish points. Nadal runs down ball after ball, running from side to side several meters behind the baseline. These points, that Djoko would have fancied winning, not infrequently go Nadal's way with Djoko eventually making the error. Or Nadal hitting something that flips the attacker-defender dynamic from a defensive position

So from Djoko's point of view -
- from neutral position, he trails in consistency of shot. He'll usually blink first, even though rallies go on for awhile
- from attacking positions, Nadal will eke out a few points (or flip the script with a wonder shot on the run)… Djoko's not winning as much as he could realistically expect
- from defensive positions, he's also outstanding and keeps putting balls in play on the run. Nadal tends to see such points through though or at very least, allow dynamic to fall back to neutral. Where he still has an advantage

The killer shot on show is Nadal FH. Note not just the very large 23 winners - as many as Djoko has in total - but their variety. Inside-out are the majority, but cc and inside-in are also regular point enders. Whereas his BH is steady - just 5 UEs, by far the least of the 4 shots on show - his FH is deadly. This complicates Djoko's attacking strategy too... Nadal's FH is the more vulnerable side, but its also apt to turn defence into offence too

Trailing from baseline, a natural option is to come to net more. Djoko does so well, winning 67% net points. He volleys particularly well - which isn't a given for him, and has 0 volley UEs. But getting to net is difficult against Nadal's heavy shots... and Rafa's likely to come out with a blazing passing shot from defensive positions. At least a couple of running, sliding, 8 feet behind the baseline passing winners from him. Djoko has to approach off huge shots - strong enough to likely force errors out of most players even without an approach - to be safe at net, and even then, he's not all that secure up there. Needs to hit a few good volleys to end points against improbable passes

Match Progression
Djokovic is much the aggressor at start of match. He's the one hitting winners, forcing errors and making unforced errors while Nadal reacts, keeping central position in court. Play is roughly even, when Djoko's BH starts giving out, and Nadal breaks twice to go up 5-2

He can't serve it out. Djoko breaks - nice BH inside-out forcing error and a BH cc - FH cc 1-2 winning him another point before Nadal double faults. No matter, Nadal has 2 set points at 15-40 next game, but misses 3 returns in a row. And breaks again to put match back on serve. Only to broken, Nadal wrapping up with a precise FH inside-in winner and this time he serves it out. From hereon, Nadal is more aggressive and shifts position, looking to take FHs more often

Second set is probably best of the match, with playing dynamics as described earlier, but unlike first set, Nadal looking to play more with FHs. In second game, Nadal escapes 0-40 to hold with some great play. First break point he threads needle with BH dtl pass - and Djoko in vain, looks for a mark outside the court, but the ball seems to have touched the line. Next point is a third ball, fall away FH inside-out winner.

Nadal gains the only break in the match to 15. Djoko serve-volleys on break point and does well to loopily put BH1/2V in play after a booming serve out wide. Nadal runs full speed to middle of court and makes the pass. Just another normal shot for him

Nadal serves out the set in 10 point game where he saves a break point with an ace. Its a particularly tough game of rallies. Losing it seems to break Djoko's spirit. Or maybe he's just realistic?

In third set, Djoko's already half checked out. Or if he wasn't, the first point sees him to it. run all over court by big shots, Nadal runs down ball after ball until Djoko misses a drop shot. After that, Djoko caves. He makes 3 more attempted drop shot errors in next 5 points over two games. From end of second set, Nadal wins 20/22 points to go up 4-0. And no hiccups thereafter

Summing up, good match with quality clay court play by both players - heavy regulation shots, consistency and court coverage. The biggest difference is in defence. Nadal is bordering on inhuman in the way he retrieves balls and along with being less error prone to start with, its enough to not just win, but likely leave Djokovic wondering what on earth he has to do to finish points

Stats for the final between Nadal and Roger Federer - https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/ind...dal-vs-federer-french-open-final-2007.658317/
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
In 2008, Nadal beat Djokovic 6-4, 6-2, 7-6(3) in the semi-final

Nadal would go onto win the title, again beating Roger Federer in the final. He did not lose in winning the title. Djokovic had recently won Rome, his first Masters title on clay
@abmk previously posted https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/ind...vic-french-open-2008-semi-final-stats.558246/

Nadal won 108 points, Djokovic 90

Serve Stats
Nadal...
- 1st serve percentage (71/98) 72%
- 1st serve points won (47/71) 66%
- 2nd serve points won (19/27) 70%
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (20/98) 20%

Djokovic...
- 1st serve percentage (54/100) 54%
- 1st serve points won (31/54) 57%
- 2nd serve points won (27/46) 59%
- Aces 2
- Double Faults 1
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (15/100) 15%

Serve Pattern
Nadal served...
- to FH 31%
- to BH 59%
- to Body 10%

Djokovic served...
- to FH 23%
- to BH 76%
- to Body 1%

Return Stats
Nadal made...
- 84 (31 FH, 53 BH), including 11 runaround FHs
- 13 Errors, comprising...
- 7 Unforced (3 FH, 4 BH), including 1 runaround FH
- 6 Forced (1 FH, 5 BH)
- Return Rate (84/99) 85%

Djokovic made...
- 78 (25 FH, 53 BH)
- 1 Winner (1 FH)
- 20 Errors, comprising...
- 9 Unforced (3 FH, 6 BH)
- 11 Forced (4 FH, 7 BH)
- Return Rate (78/98) 80%

Break Points
Nadal 5/14 (7 games)
Djokovic 2/6 (5 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding aces)
Nadal 24 (17 FH, 3 BH, 1 FHV, 1 BHV, 1 OH, 1 BHOH)
Djokovic 31 (12 FH, 9 BH, 2 FHV, 3 BHV, 1 BH1/2V, 4 OH)

Nadal's FHs - 4 cc (1 running-down-drop-shot pass at net), 1 cc/inside-in, 4 dtl, 5 inside-out, 1 inside-in, 1 longline at net and 1 lob
- BHs - 2 cc and 1 dtl running-down-drop-shot at net

- 1 FHV was net-to-net

Djokovic's FHs - 2 cc, 2 dtl, 5 inside-out (1 return), 1 inside-in, 1 inside-in/cc, 1 longline at net
- BHs - 4 cc (1 Nadal whiff), 2 dtl, 1 cc running-down-drop-volley at net, 1 drop shot at net and 1 net chord dribbler

- 1 BHV was a swinging shot
- 1 OH was not a smash
- 1 BH1/2V was the first 'volley' of a serve-volley point

Errors (excluding returns and serves)
Nadal 44
- 16 Unforced (6 FH, 10 BH)… with 1 BH pass
- 28 Forced (17 FH, 11 BH)… with 1 FH at net
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 44.4

Djokovic 63
- 39 Unforced (22 FH, 14 BH, 1 FHV, 2 BHV)
- 24 Forced (8 FH, 11 BH, 4 FHV, 1 BHV)… 1 FHV was not a net point
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 48.2

(Note 1: all half-volleys refer to such shots played at net. Half -volleys played from other parts of the court are included within relevant groundstroke counts)

(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...
- 11/16 (69%) at net, with...
- 0/2 forced/back retreated

Djokovic was...
- 23/32 (72%) at net, including...
- 1/1 serve-volleying, a 2nd serve

Match Report
Significantly different action from the previous year, more in Nadal's favour. Chiefly, whereas in '07 Nadal's defence stood out here, its his ability to dictate play, particularly in moving Djokovic about

Using the '07 match as a frame of reference, Djoko plays more within himself. Previous year, he'd swung hard with his groundies. Here, he's normal of typical shot - which hardly makes him passive, but its a step down from the pointed attempt to command via power that had characterized his play a year ago

One sees the need for the pointed aggression because without it, Nadal is able to take charge of play. While previous year, command of point had been a tug-of-war and Nadal had led based on consistency of shot and defensive excellence without necessarily being in charge of rallies, here, he's the one calling the tune. Djoko's the one reacting

Again, not undue running around BHs to hit FHs from Rafa, particularly early in match. He keeps central position and is happy to trade BH cc's with Djoko's FH. After asserting superiority, he becomes more varied in using runaround FHs

In a nutshell, power of shot is about equal but Nadal is the more artful at moving Djoko around. Nadal has a natural, greater consistency and one imagines even plain ol' ball bashing would see him make fewer UEs... but the playing dynamic enhances this still more. Throw in some commanding to the point-ending degree stuff from off the Nadal FH and his superiority is clear as can be

There's solidity too. Djoko seeks to attack via FH inside-outs... but they don't seem to be drawing errors from the Nadal FH. Good hard shots from Djoko, just too solid from Nadal

Djoko's BH is a bit down from previous year. Here, its attacked, bossed and somewhat broken down via FH cc and inside-in's... the quintessential Nadal pattern. Balls redirected longline to Rafa BH are returned longline. Ultimately, its his FH that starts falling apart (22 UEs, to BH's 14. Nadal's combined total is 16). That's on Djoko... just bad play, rather than anything special Nadal is doing to directly make it happen. Indirectly, Rafa has a hand by prolonging points and resisting making errors himself but I would primarily discredit Djoko's FH rather than credit anything of Rafa's for that

So it is that Rafa takes the first two sets, his hold on the match getting tighter longer match goes on. He breaks twice to go up 3-0, with Djoko again looking ready to quit. Across 2 games, Djoko loses 7 successive points with UEs - and 9/11 at a stretch. I imagine anyone asked to predict the final score of the set would far more likely have said 6-0 than 7-6 after 3 games. Nadal's completely on top, Djoko seems to have clocked out mentally

a lot of credit to Djoko for turning that around and making a scrap of the rest of the match. First he grabs a break back in a partially loose game from Rafa - a mishit 3rd ball error and a missed FH when having Djoko on the run - but Djoko steps up too with an error forcing deep return and runaround FH inside-out winner. Then he fights through a scrappy 12 point game to hold - turning the scrappiness around with decisive net play. He continues coming to net next game - 6 times in 12 points - but Rafa holds him off to save 2 break points and hold

This last portion is the highest quality tennis of the match. Djoko shaves his errors roughly maintains equality of play. Rafa is broken while serving for the match, mostly due to strong play from Djoko and just odd loose balls from Rafa, which still requires top play to capitilize on.

Djoko even has set point as Rafa serves to take set into tiebreak. Rafa whacks a FH cc winner on it from a standard position and goes on to hold

The tiebreak isn't a contest though. Rafa opens up a 6-0 lead in it. He'd made just 1 BH winner, but reels off 2 in a row here. Last point is an exciting one, ending with a back pedalling Nadal OH winner
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Other Points of Interest
- Note both players winning more second serve points than first. Nadal is 66% on first serves and 70% on seconds, Djoko 57% and 59%

Rafa's still leading in serve-return complex. His serve is quite ordinary - 0 aces, 0 service winners, 0 double faults - but Djoko misses odd regulation errors (9 unforced, and good chunk of the 11 marked forced would be makeable). To an extent, Djoko's misses are just natural error rate - you can't make 'em all, even if they're not very hard, and 80% return rate is a good number. But given action, these aren't points he can't afford to give away

Especially in light of Rafa not doing so. He's up against a much stronger serve... but gives away a lot less. 85% return rate from Rafa

Return is of course one of the cornerstones of Djoko's game. He hasn't quite got it down pat yet. In general, his best returning is deep and down the middle. In these two matches - and the hard court matches in '07, he doesn't go this route consistently. Good firm returning and there's probably no such thing as overly damaging returning against Rafa on clay... but Djoko's second shot isn't quite what it would come to be. Something to keep an eye out for

- Note shift in Rafa's serve pattern from '07 match, where he'd gone full 85% to BH. He's similar here, but as Djoko fights back in third, shifts to serving more to FH and catches Djoko by surprise a few times. Bulk serving to BH was probably just Rafa's default strategy... and his feeling the need to change it is a good sign from Djoko's point of view

- Note Djoko with 72% net points won. As previous year, he comes in off strong approaches, but his net game is probably down a bit from '07. The slack is made up by Rafa not being overwhelming on the pass and Djoko does make 3 volleying UEs this match

Still good stuff from him - and passing of Nadal's best is not something that can be counted on every single match. On his sole serve-volley point, he comes in off a second serve and makes of all things, a BH1/2V winner

BH dtl seems a potent approach shot against Rafa. Its a small oddity of this game, which baseline to baseline seems to have been built on two things
- hammering FH cc's to break down right handers BH's, which is well known but equally...
- hammering BH cc's to resist all attempts to attack his BH by the right hander's FH cc

the odd part comes in that while powerful and consistent against FH cc's... the BH is a lot more passive when targeted by BH longlines. Usually, Rafa just plops the ball back BH longline instead of the more natural BH cc. This is a consistent pattern in his game

I don't think he's ever comfortable in BH cc vs right handers FH cc rallies, even when he's winning them (which he often does). the hard hitting BH cc's looks like a bluff... a way of discouraging such right handers from engaging that line of play. If he's as good at it as he looks, he'd be happy to even initiate it when the balls on his BH, but he tends not to

Djoko, who's particularly good with BH dtl and with BH longline change ups, particularly has the tools to make something of this. In these 2 matches, his attack is FH inside-out based. Something to keep an eye on in the pair's later matches

Summing up, top performance from Nadal, who controls play without strain for most of the match. Good fight from Djoko late in the match to stop a rot, but trailing by a long way overall

Stats for the final between Nadal and Federer - https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/ind...dal-vs-federer-french-open-final-2008.652794/
 

Third Serve

G.O.A.T.
Nadal was scary in RG 08 really. Watched the 08 one in full. Djokovic played quite well as well the last set was just fire.
I don’t know if I can back this up with a source, but I remember reading from some interview that Nadal thinks the 2008 semi was the best match he’s ever played. Feel free to correct me on this.
 

RS

G.O.A.T.
I don’t know if I can back this up with a source, but I remember reading from some interview that Nadal thinks the 2008 semi was the best match he’s ever played. Feel free to correct me on this.
Yes. I thought i heard this from another poster as well but could never find were this was but here it is

 

Sport

G.O.A.T.
One of the most impressive RG matches between Nadal and Djokovic at RG is the 2008 SF. Fantastic groundstokes and high-quality baseline game from both sides. Because the match ended in 3 sets, it lacks the emotion of the more famous RG 2013 SF, but it is still a beatiful match nonetheless.


 
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Rafa4LifeEver

Hall of Fame
The greatest warrior of tennis world in 2 of his most dominant runs had nothing in his game which djokovic could expose. Only the ballstriking quality from the serb kept him alive in these matches. Imo, he played better matches in 2007-2008 than 2012 & 2014. But the thing is, younger nadal had the almost unconquerable defense, footwork, superhuman defense to offense, virtually unlimited stamina on clay and almost laser alike passing shots from all postions on court that it was a humongous task even to take sets from him at RG, leave aside beating him.
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
No sir, it was his 3rd title at the event in 2007 and 4th in 2008
Thanks for the catch - edited in

The greatest warrior of tennis world in 2 of his most dominant runs had nothing in his game which djokovic could expose. Only the ballstriking quality from the serb kept him alive in these matches. Imo, he played better matches in 2007-2008 than 2012 & 2014. But the thing is, younger nadal had the almost unconquerable defense, footwork, superhuman defense to offense, virtually unlimited stamina on clay and almost laser alike passing shots from all postions on court that it was a humongous task even to take sets from him at RG, leave aside beating him.
Interesting to compare Nadal's game across time. Speaking generally (i.e. not specifically the matches against Djokovic but his play in those years) -

Upto '08, footspeed, court coverage and subsequent defence was far better than later years. Definitely plus for those years

On flip side, his hitting improved in later years. From neutral rallies, its not too difficult for opponent to take attacking position against Nadal in early years. He'll drop a ball short sooner or later, not particularly hard hit. Opponent can take charge... and then has to cope with Nadal whizzing around retrieving everything and anything

Later years, harder hitting - particularly off BH - and fewer short balls. More difficult to take charge. Obviating need for the ridiculous whizzing around retrieving everything and anything. Not that he's slack defensively in later years - probably still the best in the world - but it suffers by comparison to the off-the-charts ability he had in this area in younger years

I don't think one is clearly better than the other, just different. The younger one is more spectacular to watch for the frequency of ridiculous gets he makes

Have you seen the match with Djokovic at '08 Hamburg? In my opinion, the best of the pair's clay matches -
Match Stats/Report - Nadal vs Djokovic, Hamburg semi-final, 2008 | Talk Tennis (tennis-warehouse.com)
 

aldeayeah

Legend
I don't think he's ever comfortable in BH cc vs right handers FH cc rallies, even when he's winning them (which he often does). the hard hitting BH cc's looks like a bluff... a way of discouraging such right handers from engaging that line of play. If he's as good at it as he looks, he'd be happy to even initiate it when the balls on his BH, but he tends not to
I've noticed this too, Nadal tends to slap the crap out of the ball in those crosscourt BH rallies (vs oppo crosscourt FH).

I agree it must not be a natural pattern for him, since he never starts those exchanges himself, but somehow it works.
 
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