Duel Match Stats/Reports - Nadal vs Djokovic, Madrid & Rome semi-finals, 2017 & 2018

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Rafael Nadal beat Novak Djokovic 6-2, 6-4 in the Madrid semi-final, 2017 on clay

Nadal, seeded 4, would go onto beat Dominic Thiem in the final to win his 4th title at the clay version of the event. Djokovic was the defending champion and ranked 2. Djokovic had won the pair's last 7 matches. Nadal would finish the year ranked 1, Djokovic 12th

Nadal won 65 points, Djokovic 48

Serve Stats
Nadal...
- 1st serve percentage (36/57) 63%
- 1st serve points won (28/36) 78%
- 2nd serve points won (10/21) 48%
- Aces 2, Service Winners 2
- Double Faults 1
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (13/57) 23%

Djokovic...
- 1st serve percentage (39/56) 70%
- 1st serve points won (22/39) 56%
- 2nd serve points won (7/17) 41%
- Aces 4
- Double Faults 2
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (11/56) 20%

Serve Pattern
Nadal served...
- to FH 52%
- to BH 45%
- to Body 4%

Djokovic served...
- to FH 41%
- to BH 59%

Return Stats
Nadal made...
- 43 (17 FH, 26 BH)
- 2 Winners (1 FH, 1 BH)
- 7 Errors, comprising...
- 5 Unforced (3 FH, 2 BH)
- 2 Forced (2 BH)
- Return Rate (43/54) 80%

Djokovic made...
- 43 (24 FH, 19 BH), including 2 runaround FHs
- 1 Winner (1 FH)
- 9 Errors, comprising...
- 4 Unforced (3 FH, 1 BH)
- 5 Forced (3 FH, 2 BH)
- Return Rate (43/56) 77%

Break Points
Nadal 4/6 (5 games)
Djokovic 1/2 (2 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding aces)
Nadal 16 (8 FH, 6 BH, 1 OH, 1 BHOH)
Djokovic 14 (6 FH, 5 BH, 1 FHV, 1 BHV, 1 OH)

Nadal's FHs - 5 dtl (1 return, 3 passes) and 3 inside-out
- BHs - 2 dtl (1 pass), 1 inside-in return pass, 1 longline, 1 drop shot and 1 running-down-drop-shot cc at net

- the BHOH was played net-to-net

Djokovic's FHs - 2 dtl (1 at net), 1 inside-out and 3 inside-in (1 return)
- BHs - 1 cc, 2 dtl (1 pass), 1 inside-out and 1 drop shot

- the FHV was a swinging shot
- the OH was on the bounce form behind service line and has not been counted a net point

Errors (excluding returns and serves)
Nadal 22
- 13 Unforced (11 FH, 2 BH)... with 1 FH at net
- 9 Forced (8 FH, 1 BH)... with 1 FH running-down-drop-shot at net
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 50

Djokovic 34
- 23 Unforced (11 FH, 11 BH, 1 FHV)
- 11 Forced (4 FH, 3 BH, 1 FHV, 3 BHV)... with 1 BH running-down-drop-shot at net
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 47.0

(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...
- 7/11 (64%) at net

Djokovic was...
- 7/21 (33%) at net, including...
- 0/2 serve-volleying, comprising...
- 0/1 off 1st serve and...
- 0/1 off 2nd serve
---
- 0/1 forced back

Match Report
Good match from Nadal and not a good one from Djokovic... more a good one from Nadal than a not good one from Djokovic. Nadal hits hard and consistently from the back. Djoko does neither and is bossed from the back and thrashed still more when he ventures to net

Brief background. Nadal was ranked 5, Djokovic 2 and Djokovic had been the dominant player on clay for 2 previous seasons. Events prior to the year, however, indicated that current form belied rankings. Nadal had commandingly won 2 tournaments on clay (Monte Carlo and Barcelona) and done well in the hard court season prior to it. Djokovic had had a string of poor results

Still, Djokovic had won the pair's 7 previous matches - all in straight sets (15 sets total) - including 3 on clay (with 1 at French Open). And he was the defending champion, as well as reigning French Open champion

You can see why this match would have been highly anticipated. In the event, it turns out to be one sided victory for Nadal. Stand out stats are Djoko winning low 56% first serve points won and Nadal's BH with tiny 3 total errors (2 UE, 1 FE)

The two had played a series of matches on clay in period 2011-2014 which are among the toughest, most competitive, high quality and rich of complexity matches I've seen. I'll be using general dynamics of matches from that period as a frame of reference to describe action here. In those matches -

a) Baseline based action. Little net play by either
b) Court position - Djokovic central, Nadal tending to lean on BH side. Nadal might shift to central if pounded down too much and Djoko might shift to BH side to hit FH inside-outs when particularly pounding down
b) Djoko usually dictating - stepping in court, hitting early (compared to Nadal), driving the ball hard. Off both sides
c) Nadal occasionally challenging for command of play. Always and only off his FH. When it works, he runs Djoko around with combinations of FH cc's, inside-in and inside-out - with inside-out being the biggest point finisher
d) great defensive gusto shown by both. Nadal, being on defence more, has more chances to showcase it. Footspeed declined somewhat in 2013
e) Djokovic off standard FHs - pounds cc's to beat or breakdown Nadal's BH. When working at its best, also utilize the dynamic to open court and go for FH dtl point finishers
f) Djoko attacking Nadal's half-open FH wing - always with FH inside-outs, sometimes coupled with BH cc's. At best when BH cc clicking too. At worst, BH cc's lead to errors, he's left with just FH inside-outs... tends not to work and makes more errors trying than ending points forcefully
g) Nadal off standard FHs {different from c) above} - tries breaking down Djoko's BH with cc's. Tends not to work - Djoko hits back just as hard and snatches initiative
h) Nadal off BH - holds the fort. Resists being broken down, is not offensive. Works when Djoko misses his beatdown shots

Serve & Return
Healthy serving from Nadal. Decent power, usually conservatively placed but also, throwing out good wide ones on occasion - even the odd second serve

Not much wrong with Djoko's returning, though its obviously less than his top form. 77% return rate is decent for high-altitude Madrid. He returns with what for anyone else would be good depth (for him, its a step down) and Nadal isn't left with short third balls to wade into often. Not too many balls returned right back to baseline though - a typical shot for him, that's generally given Nadal in particular a world of trouble. Some good wide returning too

Djoko's serve though is distinctly below his norm of power, if not placement. Of power, he probably trails Nadal a bit while placement is about normal. Nadal's deep return position allows him to get serves out wide reasonably well

The same position allows Nadal to move over and reach balls in time. Nadal returns with typical consistency (80% return rate) and greater depth and force than usual. Djoko's not only denied cheap unreturned points, but also doesn't get much initiative out of the serve. 56% first serve points won is key to match (though that's more about court game than serve quality), where Nadal has 78% won

Note 0 runaround returns from Nadal. that's new. Usually, he runs around constantly in ad court and in extreme cases, even deuce court to return with FH. 0 attempts in this match

Good returning from Nadal and its more effective than usual because Djoko's serving quality is down
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Play - Baseline & Net
Nadal mostly commands play because Djoko is passive. Djoko tends to stay behind baseline and hit neutrally. the strength of his neutral shots off both wings are down, which in and of itself would likely shift advantage to Nadal. As is, its shifted drastically towards the lefty because Djoko's consistency is poor

22 groundstroke UEs (Nadal has 12). And they tend to come in short rallies. Basically, Djoko's not hitting hard but missing regulation balls fairly easily - just poor play

The standout shot is Nadal's BH, which has the amazingly low 2 UEs (3 remaining groundies on show all have 11) and just 1 FE. Some of that is due to Djoko both not hitting heavy FHs and also, since he's not dictating, most rallies are are led by Nadal's FH

Still, good, strong hitting from Nadal off the BH. The shot is powerful and hard, at least a step up from previous matches. It would be interesting to see Djoko's full flight FH in battle with this BH... I would favour Djoko to come out ahead in that (as he usually did in older matches), but to a lesser extent than those older matches. As is, the Djoko FH - Nadal BH rallies are 50-50 deals of force whereas in older matches, it was Djoko pounding and Nadal resisting being pounded. And Nadal comes out ahead by far off consistency. So much so that he even belts a few attacking BH dtl's to good effect

Djoko briefly takes charge of play in second set. It serves to highlight the extent to which he didn't for most of the match

Outplayed from the back, Djoko does the logical thing; comes to net. Its the right move but falls flat because Nadal is in monster mode on the pass. Just the 1 volleying UE for Djoko - but he wins just 33% of his 21 approaches (Nadal has 11) - he's forced into 5 errors and Nadal has 5 passing winners (excluding a running-down-drop-shot at net and a BHOH, both played with Djoko at net)

Djoko keeps going for short angled BHVs. It doesn't work... Nadal runs them down and belts the passes from about service line

A note on movement. Nadal's is efficient and he's at the ball in good time. He's not particularly tested since Djoko does most of the running, but it looks on same level as 2013-2014

Match Progression
First set is a thrashing. Nadal races into 4-0 lead and has a break point to finish set 6-1. He has to make do with 6-2. There's nothing majorly wrong with his groundies by a general standard, other than being a bit inconsistent. But lack of particular heaviness of shot - and his position, which is normal for most players - sees Nadal bossy points with heavier shots off both sides

Nadal starts the second set with a break too and goes ahead 2-0. From there, Djoko turns it up

First he holds to love with 2 FH winners and 2 ace. Then he breaks Nadal with strong BH cc's taken early standing up to the Nadal FH

Nadal breaks back at once though in a game where Djoko's hitting well. Hitting well is no guarantee of coming out ahead of Nadal, though it seems hitting conservatively is a sure way of coming out behind

Nadal nurses break through to end. Finding baseline rallies going against him, Djoko continues coming forward occasionally and losing points at net

Not an easy serve out for Nadal. consecutive FH errors bring up Djoko's 2nd break point, on which a lively rally develops. Nadal wins it with a drop shot and next point, hits a second serve on the T, before blasting another pass Djoko can't handle on his third match point

Few good rallies of the lively, open-ish court variety but not many. And some noteworthy shots. 2 BH drop shot winners - 1 by each man - both are perfect. A Nadal BHOH winner, against an at net lob by Djoko is stunning. Otherwise, Nadal's running FHs and FH dtls stand out for being damaging, as does his brutish passes

Summing up, commanding and consistent showing from Nadal, with his BH particularly strong and consistent, to go along with thunderous passing. A seemingly low-on-confidence Djokovic plays conservatively from the back, is inconsistent of shot and blasted at net

Stats for pair's 2011 final - https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/index.php?threads/duel-match-stats-reports-djokovic-vs-nadal-madrid-rome-finals-2011.666819/
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Nadal beat Djokovic 7-6(4), 6-3 in the Rome semi-final, 2018 on clay

Nadal, the world number 1, would go onto beat Alexander Zverev in the final to win his 8th Rome title and follow up by winning the French Open. Djokovic, seeded 11, would go onto win Wimbledon and US Open later in the year and finish year end ranked 1. Nadal would finish 2

Nadal won 68 points, Djokovic 60

Serve Stats
Nadal...
- 1st serve percentage (40/65) 62%
- 1st serve points won (26/40) 65%
- 2nd serve points won (17/25) 68%
- Aces 1, Service Winners 1
- Double Faults 2
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (15/65) 23%

Djokovic...
- 1st serve percentage (45/63) 71%
- 1st serve points won (27/45) 60%
- 2nd serve points won (11/18) 61%
- Aces 4
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (13/63) 21%

Serve Pattern
Nadal served...
- to FH 46%
- to BH 46%
- to Body 8%

Djokovic served...
- to FH 35%
- to BH 65%

Return Stats
Nadal made...
- 50 (13 FH, 37 BH), including 1 runaround FH
- 1 Winner (1 BH)
- 9 Errors, comprising...
- 5 Unforced (4 FH, 1 BH)
- 4 Forced (2 FH, 2 BH)
- Return Rate (50/63) 79%

Djokovic made...
- 48 (28 FH, 20 BH), including 3 runaround FHs
- 3 Winners (3 FH)
- 13 Errors, comprising...
- 9 Unforced (6 FH, 3 BH), including 2 runaround FHs
- 4 Forced (1 FH, 3 BH)
- Return Rate (48/63) 76%

Break Points
Nadal 3/5 (3 games)
Djokovic 1/3 (2 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding aces)
Nadal 21 (11 FH, 5 BH, 1 FHV, 4 OH)
Djokovic 22 (11 FH, 5 BH, 1 FHV, 5 BHV)

Nadal's FHs - 2 cc, 1 cc/inside-in, 2 dtl and 6 inside-out
- BHs - 1 cc pass, 3 dtl (2 passes - 1 return) and 1 running-down-drop-shot cc at net

Djokovic's FHs - 1 cc, 3 dtl (2 returns), 3 inside-out (1 return, 1 possibly not clean), 1 inside-out/longline and 3 inside-in
- BHs - 3 cc and 2 dtl

- 1 from a serve-volley point, a first volley, BHV

- 1 other BHV went over after hitting top of net chord

Errors (excluding returns and serves)
Nadal 23
- 12 Unforced (6 FH, 6 BH)
- 11 Forced (6 FH, 4 BH, 1 FHV)
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 47.5

Djokovic 32
- 18 Unforced (6 FH, 12 BH)
- 14 Forced (8 FH, 4 BH, 2 FHV)
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 51.7

(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...
- 11/14 (79%) at net, with...
---
- 0/1 forced back

Djokovic was...
- 9/15 (60%) at net, including...
- 1/2 serve-volleying, both 1st serves

Match Report
Good, competitive match with both players playing well. Nadal is just that bit more consistent off the ground

Brief background. Nadal was world number 1, had completed dominated clay the previous year and looked to be doing so again. Djokovic's results had gotten worse and worse over the year and he was showing hopeful signs of a turnaround during clay season. Nadal would have been strongly favoured going into the match

Its an unusual match. Note both players having higher second serve points won then firsts (Nadal 68% to 65%, Djokovic 61% to 60%). Don't think I've seen that before. Note also both players having more winners than UEs (Nadal +9, Djoko +4), which is very unusual for clay

Play is different from the pair's norm. Djoko's looking to end points sooner rather than later, as opposed to willing to stay out til the cows come home if necessary

There's not much in it between the two, though Nadal does appear the more secure. Djoko's BH failing to end points can be signalled out as the decisive difference. He has match high 12 UEs off the BH, with all 3 other groundies on show having half that number

Serve & Return
Nothing exceptional going on

Both serve decently, Djoko a bit more. Decent first serves - and he makes a very high 71% of them. He mixes them up - some slower, some harder, some out wide, most in Nadal's reach. Very good second serves... with Djoko mixing up his firsts, it wouldn't be easy to differentiate firsts and seconds. And no double faults. His second serve is like a smaller version of his firsts, not just a safe point starter

Nadal's just a touch off from his best on the return. He has 5 UEs and return rate of 79%. No big deal, barely worth mentioning. He returns from well behind the baseline but gets ball in deep to keep Djoko from taking charge off third ball

Similar calibre serving from Nadal, but he serves lower 62%. And his second serves, though decent, can be told apart from firsts (which is normal)

Djoko's returning is the most interesting part of serve-return complex. He starts slow and makes 6 errors in first 2 return games, which means he only missed 3 more for rest of match. The balls he makes, he makes with customary authority. And he belts 3 winners

Its something I've wondered about Djoko. His well earned reputation as a great returner is based on returning deep down the middle and he doesn't often aim wide. With his ability to take ball early and hit flat, I imagine if he turned to it, he would hit a lot more winners
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Play - Baseline & Net
The pair's norm is very tough baseline rallies, with neither player giving an inch

This match is a bit different. Rallies are still tough, but Djokovic in particular (though not exclusively) has an eye to ending points from neutral rally situations. Generally, when rallies have reached neutral, neither player appears to be looking to for point killing shots but focus on hitting heavy neutral shots or moving the other around.

Note Djoko's extremely high UEFI of 51.7. Nadal's 47.5 is on high side too. Breakdown of UEs -
- Neutral - Nadal 6, Djoko 5
- Attacking - Nadal 3, Djoko 5
- Winner Attempts - Nadal 3, Djoko 8

The kinds of UEs Djoko makes aren't wild (as UEFI of 51.7 would usually imply). Even dubbing it 'ambitious' is small stretch. Rather, the shots he goes for are appropriate. We'd say a player was zoning or redlining if he made the bulk. Certainly, hitting a heavy neutral or mild to moderately attacking shot would have been safer - and more in line with Djoko's norm. Its just a difference of style, rather than quality from his norm

The two are about even in dictating play, Nadal with a slim edge. One reason is Nadal, unlike previous years, is dictating off both wings. He is hammering BHs, and though nothing to Djoko's extent, going longline attackingly with it too. His FH play is a bit different. He keeps more central position and thus, doesn't rely on backaway FH inside-outs as much (though that is still his go to kill shot - 6/11 FH winners are inside-out). Transitioning from neutral to offence, he relies on FH dtl. Few errors trying, but the shot comes up net positive for him

Gist of it though is - command of play is up in the air. Unlike other matches, where its clear who's dictating (usually Djokovic) and who's reacting

Rallies are duel winged, with not much persistent cc play. Its not clear if Djokovic is avoiding Nadal's FH. Is he going BH dtl to be attacking? Or to avoid the Nadal FH? Probably some combo of the two. Nadal's FH is heavier and more consistent than Djoko's BH... and Djoko doesn't seem to be in the mood for challenging that further

Not too many prolonged Djoko FH - Nadal BH rallies either. What there are are about even. Nadal hits his BHs back every bit as hard as Djoko's FH, but is also the one to change direction longline to get out of the rallies. Djoko hits FHs significantly cleaner than BHs and would have done well to lead his attacks with the FH. Good job by Nadal to both neutralize Djoko's FH and take the ball away from it

Unlike previous years match, Nadal's movements are tested. He's not fast. Not slow either, but I wouldn't call him fast

Good net play from both, something they both tend to eschew (especially Nadal). Nadal comes in from commanding positions (which he has more than usual off) but also makes the odd dash to net. and wins 79% net points. Djoko's 15 approaches - just 1 more than Nadal - is on conservative side, given his inclination to make points shorter. He wins healthy 60% points too - but the ones he doesn't can be said to have cost him the match

That and those drop shots. From their first match in 2006, Djokovic has always used drop shots against Nadal on clay. I'd estimate he comes out net positive in less than 20% of their matches with the shot. He makes errors trying and even when he makes them, Nadal's usually up to running the ball down. Here its 2018... and he's still at it. Generally, Djokovic has played Nadal with great strategic sense, but not when it comes to drop shots. Both generally and in this match, he doesn't use them to bail out of rallies or because he's coming off second best from baseline... he uses them because he likes it, apparently. And it very rarely works. This is one area where Djoko has been stupid over the years. How many years do you have to lose more points than win before you get it?

Finally, I get the impression that neither player (particularly Djokovic) is willing to die out on a Rome court in the semi-finals. Neither tank by any means and both make more than professional efforts. Just noting that this wasn't always the case. In 2009 for example, don't think the physical cost of gruelling battle ever occurred to either player. In Monte Carlo that year, they took 37 minutes for 3 games - and were on serve at the end of it. Then followed up with a 4 hour match in Madrid. Don't think either of them would go for that now... one or the other would end the point one way or another, not continue brutal neutral rallies or keep chasing ball after ball from side to side as they used to

Match Progression
First set is just about dead even and both players win 38 points in it. Nadal breaks to go up 4-2, with Djoko making 3 BH errors. Nadal does his bit too with a BH dtl pass and a FH inside-out winner. Point of the game goes to Djoko - a rally where both players move the other around, ending with Nadal forced into error. It was a break point

Thrilling point in the next game with Djoko drop shotting Nadal in and a net-to-net battle that sees Nadal forced back, make a remarkable get and finally, Djoko putting away a FHV winner

Djoko breaks back as Nadal was serving for the set. Couple of Nadal FH errors, a BHV winner after slowly taking charge of baseline rally and an error forcing deep ball from Djoko in the game

Good tiebreak on the whole. 2 great Nadal FH winners and 1 BH from Djoko. The key points are enabled by Djoko's choices. He goes for his precious drop shot, which ends with Nadal hitting a FHV winner. Down set point, Djoko decides to serve-volley for the first time... not necessarily a bad move, but Nadal passes him with the return

Exceptional game by Nadal to break to love early in the second. Djoko approaches twice and is forced into hard volley errors both times. And another drop shot - this one's actually quite good - but Nadal runs it down for a finely angled BH cc winner at net

Nadal doesn't face break point in a 12 point hold, finishing with one of his best shots in the match, a back away FH inside-out winner. Its only in the last game of the match that Djoko's more or less given up. 3 carefree third ball errors gives Nadal break and match points. Djoko saves the first with a deft serve-volley, before Nadal ends matters with a BH dtl winner

Summing up, high quality match with both players hitting well from the baseline. Nadal is just that bit more stable and solid while Djokovic's not looking to rally indefinitely and ends up missing his would-be point finishers just a bit too often

@HetTheGreaterer - thoughts?
Stats for pair's final the following year - https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/index.php?threads/match-stats-report-nadal-vs-djokovic-rome-final-2019.670998/
Stats for pair's next match, '18 Wimbledon semi - https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/index.php?threads/match-stats-report-djokovic-vs-nadal-wimbledon-semi-final-2018.647805/
 
Play - Baseline & Net
The pair's norm is very tough baseline rallies, with neither player giving an inch

This match is a bit different. Rallies are still tough, but Djokovic in particular (though not exclusively) has an eye to ending points from neutral rally situations. Generally, when rallies have reached neutral, neither player appears to be looking to for point killing shots but focus on hitting heavy neutral shots or moving the other around.

Note Djoko's extremely high UEFI of 51.7. Nadal's 47.5 is on high side too. Breakdown of UEs -
- Neutral - Nadal 6, Djoko 5
- Attacking - Nadal 3, Djoko 5
- Winner Attempts - Nadal 3, Djoko 8

The kinds of UEs Djoko makes aren't wild (as UEFI of 51.7 would usually imply). Even dubbing it 'ambitious' is small stretch. Rather, the shots he goes for are appropriate. We'd say a player was zoning or redlining if he made the bulk. Certainly, hitting a heavy neutral or mild to moderately attacking shot would have been safer - and more in line with Djoko's norm. Its just a difference of style, rather than quality from his norm

The two are about even in dictating play, Nadal with a slim edge. One reason is Nadal, unlike previous years, is dictating off both wings. He is hammering BHs, and though nothing to Djoko's extent, going longline attackingly with it too. His FH play is a bit different. He keeps more central position and thus, doesn't rely on backaway FH inside-outs as much (though that is still his go to kill shot - 6/11 FH winners are inside-out). Transitioning from neutral to offence, he relies on FH dtl. Few errors trying, but the shot comes up net positive for him

Gist of it though is - command of play is up in the air. Unlike other matches, where its clear who's dictating (usually Djokovic) and who's reacting

Rallies are duel winged, with not much persistent cc play. Its not clear if Djokovic is avoiding Nadal's FH. Is he going BH dtl to be attacking? Or to avoid the Nadal FH? Probably some combo of the two. Nadal's FH is heavier and more consistent than Djoko's BH... and Djoko doesn't seem to be in the mood for challenging that further

Not too many prolonged Djoko FH - Nadal BH rallies either. What there are are about even. Nadal hits his BHs back every bit as hard as Djoko's FH, but is also the one to change direction longline to get out of the rallies. Djoko hits FHs significantly cleaner than BHs and would have done well to lead his attacks with the FH. Good job by Nadal to both neutralize Djoko's FH and take the ball away from it

Unlike previous years match, Nadal's movements are tested. He's not fast. Not slow either, but I wouldn't call him fast

Good net play from both, something they both tend to eschew (especially Nadal). Nadal comes in from commanding positions (which he has more than usual off) but also makes the odd dash to net. and wins 79% net points. Djoko's 15 approaches - just 1 more than Nadal - is on conservative side, given his inclination to make points shorter. He wins healthy 60% points too - but the ones he doesn't can be said to have cost him the match

That and those drop shots. From their first match in 2006, Djokovic has always used drop shots against Nadal on clay. I'd estimate he comes out net positive in less than 20% of their matches with the shot. He makes errors trying and even when he makes them, Nadal's usually up to running the ball down. Here its 2018... and he's still at it. Generally, Djokovic has played Nadal with great strategic sense, but not when it comes to drop shots. Both generally and in this match, he doesn't use them to bail out of rallies or because he's coming off second best from baseline... he uses them because he likes it, apparently. And it very rarely works. This is one area where Djoko has been stupid over the years. How many years do you have to lose more points than win before you get it?

Finally, I get the impression that neither player (particularly Djokovic) is willing to die out on a Rome court in the semi-finals. Neither tank by any means and both make more than professional efforts. Just noting that this wasn't always the case. In 2009 for example, don't think the physical cost of gruelling battle ever occurred to either player. In Monte Carlo that year, they took 37 minutes for 3 games - and were on serve at the end of it. Then followed up with a 4 hour match in Madrid. Don't think either of them would go for that now... one or the other would end the point one way or another, not continue brutal neutral rallies or keep chasing ball after ball from side to side as they used to

Match Progression
First set is just about dead even and both players win 38 points in it. Nadal breaks to go up 4-2, with Djoko making 3 BH errors. Nadal does his bit too with a BH dtl pass and a FH inside-out winner. Point of the game goes to Djoko - a rally where both players move the other around, ending with Nadal forced into error. It was a break point

Thrilling point in the next game with Djoko drop shotting Nadal in and a net-to-net battle that sees Nadal forced back, make a remarkable get and finally, Djoko putting away a FHV winner

Djoko breaks back as Nadal was serving for the set. Couple of Nadal FH errors, a BHV winner after slowly taking charge of baseline rally and an error forcing deep ball from Djoko in the game

Good tiebreak on the whole. 2 great Nadal FH winners and 1 BH from Djoko. The key points are enabled by Djoko's choices. He goes for his precious drop shot, which ends with Nadal hitting a FHV winner. Down set point, Djoko decides to serve-volley for the first time... not necessarily a bad move, but Nadal passes him with the return

Exceptional game by Nadal to break to love early in the second. Djoko approaches twice and is forced into hard volley errors both times. And another drop shot - this one's actually quite good - but Nadal runs it down for a finely angled BH cc winner at net

Nadal doesn't face break point in a 12 point hold, finishing with one of his best shots in the match, a back away FH inside-out winner. Its only in the last game of the match that Djoko's more or less given up. 3 carefree third ball errors gives Nadal break and match points. Djoko saves the first with a deft serve-volley, before Nadal ends matters with a BH dtl winner

Summing up, high quality match with both players hitting well from the baseline. Nadal is just that bit more stable and solid while Djokovic's not looking to rally indefinitely and ends up missing his would-be point finishers just a bit too often

@HetTheGreaterer - thoughts?
Stats for pair's final the following year - https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/index.php?threads/match-stats-report-nadal-vs-djokovic-rome-final-2019.670998/
Stats for pair's next match, '18 Wimbledon semi - https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/index.php?threads/match-stats-report-djokovic-vs-nadal-wimbledon-semi-final-2018.647805/
First of all, thanks for considering my suggestion and analysing these matches, my friend.
Well, thoughts about your analysis :- Mind boggling as usual. How do you do this with such consistency?

And thoughts about matches are different,

For Madrid 2017 :-
I think that due to injury or whatever reason, Djokovic's ballstriking was not upto mark, especially off the forehand wing, I think you also clearly noticed that weird swing which started almost from 2016 madrid or so, becoming more of a norm in this period and balls hit from that wing (and serve) exceptionally light and not much penetrating. Djokovic wasn't back to his normal swings up until clay season of 2018 iirc. Here, he was given an extra day's rest due to nishikori retiring while nadal had a tough battle against Goffin. I think the scoreline would've been even more lopsided if Djokovic had played Qf, probably the djokodal rivalry's first bagel would have been baked here.

(Will update about rome2018 after tonight)
 

NADALalot

Semi-Pro
And 2019 Rome featured the first bagel in the history of their rivalry.

That is almost better than a straight sets win, Rafa delivered Djokovic a bagel and a breadstick!
 
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