Match Stats/Report - Agassi vs Hewitt, Cincinnati final, 2004

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Andre Agassi beat Lleyton Hewitt 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 in the Cincinnati final, 2004 on hard court

This was Agassi's 17 and last masters level title, as well as third and last at Cincinnati. Hewitt would be runner-up at the US Open shortly afterwards

Agassi won 81 points, Hewitt 75

Serve Stats
Agassi...
- 1st serve percentage (47/77) 61%
- 1st serve points won (36/47) 77%
- 2nd serve points won (17/30) 57%
- Aces 7, Service Winners 2
- Double Faults 1
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (27/77) 35%

Hewitt...
- 1st serve percentage (33/79) 42%
- 1st serve points won (28/33) 85%
- 2nd serve points won (23/46) 50%
- Aces 13 (1 second serve), Service Winners 2
- Double Faults 5
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (25/79) 32%

Serve Patterns
Agassi served...
- to FH 39%
- to BH 61%

Hewitt served...
- to FH 45%
- to BH 53%
- to Body 3%

Return Stats
Agassi made...
- 49 (23 FH, 26 BH)
- 1 Winner (1 FH)
- 10 Errors, comprising...
- 4 Unforced (2 FH, 2 BH)
- 6 Forced (1 FH, 5 BH)
- Return Rate (49/74) 66%

Hewitt made...
- 49 (18 FH, 31 BH)
- 2 Winners (1 FH, 1 BH)
- 18 Errors, comprising...
- 5 Unforced (4 FH, 1 BH)
- 13 Forced (7 FH, 6 BH)
- Return Rate (49/76) 64%

Break Points
Agassi 3/5 (4 games)
Hewitt 1/5 (3 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Agassi 11 (4 FH, 4 BH, 2 BHV, 1 OH)
Hewitt 14 (5 FH, 7 BH, 2 FHV)

Agassi's FHs - 1 cc return, 2 dtl and 1 inside-in
- BHs - 1 cc, 2 dtl and 1 drop shot at net

- 1 BHV was a first volley of a serve-volley point and both BHVs were sharply angled drops

Hewitt's FHs - 1 cc, 2 dtl (1 return) and 2 inside-out
- BHs - 1 cc return, 3 dtl, 2 inside-out (1 return, 1 would-be approach shot slice) and 1 dtl/inside-out

- 1 FHV was a drop

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Agassi 35
- 20 Unforced (9 FH, 11 BH)
- 15 Forced (8 FH, 6 BH, 1 FHV)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 46

Hewitt 38
- 27 Unforced (9 FH, 18 BH)
- 11 Forced (7 FH, 4 BH)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 41.9

(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
Agassi was...
- 5/6 (83%) at net, including...
- 1/1 serve-volleying, a 1st serve
--
- 1/1 forced back

Hewitt was...
- 2/2 at net

Match Report
Unusual action for a fast hard court match. Its basically all BH-BH who-blinks first rallies, with large chunks of unreturned serves thrown in (due to the court pace). Agassi is more consistent off the BH... and so he wins

Serve & Return
Its the kind of court where even average serving is difficult to cope with. Neither player has a big serve, but both make the most of it

Hewitt has the more powerful first serve and looks to hit aces with it - especially out wide in the deuce court. He's successful - banging down 13 aces and 2 service winners, winning 85% first serve points and with 32% unreturned rate - but in being so ambitious with the shot, lands a low 42% first serves in. For winning 85% of those, its probably worth it.

Agassi's first serve is less strong and he isn't as committed to finishing points outright with it. Some strong serves, others less powerfully hit but placed wide... and serving at 61%

On first serves, Hewitt's greater strength is cancelled out by Agassi's greater consistency (i.e. making more)… its near a wash, probably with the edge for Agassi

Court is fast enough that even second serves aren't easy to handle, even for two such great returners. Agassi has the better, more varied and better placed second serve. Hewitt's is relatively ordinary. Agassi forces a few errors with the second serve, Hewitt's are rarely good enough to threaten to do so. Clear advantage to Agassi here - even without the greater consistency (Agassi with the 1 double, Hewitt 5)

(Slight detour... one way of looking at the match is double faults being decisive, on a statistical level anyway. In play, Hewitt has 3 more winners, cancelled out by Agassi having 3 fewer errors. Agassi has 2 more unreturned serves. The biggest difference is in Hewitt having 4 more doubles)

Neither player can gain much counter-play with the return. Agassi can barely return first serves and Hewitt fares little better. But Agassi comfortably returns the second serve more regularly (note Hewitt's 5 UEs facing 29 second serves vs Agassi's 4 facing 41). A minor blackmark against Hewitt on this front. Its not an easy task... but he at any rate was capable of doing a lot better

Serve-return complex is near enough equal, Agassi with a small lead

Play - Baseline & Movement
Stats being dead even - both players won 49 points apiece in rallies - is deceptive as the figures are sharply separated by sets. First set is close, with Agassi edging it, Hewitt has a sizable lead in the second and Agassi in the third. In all cases, UEs are the key. Just like a clay match... on a fast hard court

Most of the action is BH cc rallies - again, like a clay match. And Hewitt's is a lot more error prone (18 UEs to 11 for Agassi)

On the minority FH side of things, Agassi is clearly stronger though this hasn't come out in stats. Though seemingly holding back, his FHs do damage that Hewitt's can't. The Aussie's shots tend to land short and aren't particularly powerful (and he doesn't seem to be holding back). Agassi strongly forces errors with his FH, while any Hewitt does are as much a product of Agassi's movement problems as Hewitt's shots

Hewitt, in my view, played a very poor match strategically. His greatest advantage is in movement and it is a huge advantage. Agassi is downright slow by any standard and Hewitt is very quick

Regarding FEs. Agassi having 15 to Hewitt's 11 is not an indicator of Hewitt's greater aggression but of Agassi's poorer movement. Balls Agassi has to move to, even if its slightly and not particularly powerfully struck tend to 'force errors' because he gets there late enough that his shot is rushed. Similar balls to Hewitt are reached comfortably, so when he misses, its marked unforced. Slightly wide balls forcing errors is a common feature of fast court tennis, but even taking that into account, Agassi's movement is poor

Despite his +7 on points won via winner and forcing errors, note Hewitt's very low 41.9 UEFI. 21/27 of his UEs were neutral shots. He's not aggressive, he's just less consistent than Agassi

Should be noted that Hewitt doesn't necessarily play badly, but does play less well than Agassi. Rallies go on for some time before he yields errors. Where he's off is in playing this who blinks first game in the first place
 
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Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Strategy - and Alternatives
Agassi's seems to be do what damage he can with the serve and than outlast Hewitt BH-BH. He succeeds in both
Hewitt's seems to be do as much damage with the serve... and then??

Outlast Agassi BH-BH? I don't think so, its Agassi who initiates these rallies and resets to it when things go to the FH. And if it were Hewitt's plan, its not a good one. Agassi has the significantly stronger BH

I don't think he had a plan, and by default, let Agassi 'dictate' a passive dynamic that was the American's best shot

There's an easy alternative... move Agassi around. Hewitt's court coverage is outstanding, Agassi's is the opposite. Agassi isn't hitting so hard and heavy that changing dynamic of play is particularly hard. On small number of moving-other-guy-around points played, Hewitt comfortably comes out on top. His movement advantage is greater than Agassi's hitting one... I think Hewitt would very likely have won had he done so, and it wasn't too difficult to have done so

Agassi himself was likely aware of this since his default style of play at the time was moving his opponents around, 'encouraging' errors and tiring them. He doesn't try that at all... it wouldn't be a good plan against someone who moves as well as Hewitt, with groundstrokes near enough to as good as Agassi's

Good thinking from Agassi, not thinking from Hewitt

Match Progression
Mostly easy holds on the strength of cheap points won by serve

In first set, Hewitt has a couple of early break points, one of which he's outplayed on and the other he misses a second serve return. Agassi's first break point is aced away. The only break comes in a poor game from Hewitt with a double fault to open and 4 BH UEs (2 routine shots, 1 attempted dtl change up and on break point, a bad approach attempt miss). He has 2 points to break back as Agassi serves for the set, but is mildly forced into error on them (1 a return). Agassi wraps up with his sole serve-volley - a perfect first BHV winner played at a very fine angle

Agassi is poor in second set and makes errors throughout it, but mostly on Hewitt's service games. Both players are very secure on serve. The one break comes through good play from Hewitt - he comes to net to hit a drop FHV winner (he came in twice all match - both points ending with FHV winners), wins a rare BH-BH duel when Agassi misses a dtl attempt and on break point, hits a great FH cc pass from a defensive position to force a volleying error. Despite the loss, this is another area Agassi has it over Hewitt in the match. He rarely comes in too, but tends to at important times to great effect (this is the only net point he loses)

Hewitt's broken early in the decider in a poor game where he keeps netting routine balls. Similar kind of game ends the match - Agassi bringing up his second match point with a lashing return winner (a sign that he'd held back for most of the match) before Hewitt double faults going for a second serve ace

Summing up, smart match from Agassi - playing as securely as possible while having the advantage in play. He probably could up the ante and be more aggressive... but why take the risk when things are going so well as is? Loose off the ground from Hewitt and more than that, not clever to play along with the dynamic not suited to his strenghts
 

NatF

Bionic Poster
@Waspsting One thing I'd say is that I feel Hewitt in that 2004 summer HC season was playing conservatively by his standards - I don't agree he was hitting his forehand as well or as hard as he could lol.

In their 2002 Cincy match he basically hit double the number of forehand winners as this match (in about as many points 152 vs 156), and that was with gut strings. I wonder if the switch to the new strings/racquet midway through 2004 is the reason tbh, might have still been adjusting. Lleyton was obviously not a winner machine but a feature of his wins over Agassi in 2001-2002 was his aggressive play. That summer HC season and really until the AO the next year (YEC aside) I feel like he was missing a spark from his game for the most part - very few matches from that period do I remember him going through the gears, taking his forehand early and really going after it (only match that really springs to mind is USO QF against Haas, which was in heavy wind too).

His serving in this match was a bit of a shame as well, he was up at about 60% in the Robredo match - a very good serving performance from him, totally dominant on serve. I think his % often dropped in big matches, probably a technique thing where it broke down a bit under pressure? Similar thing happened at the USO, in the 60's for the QF and SF and then down at 50% for the F...
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Hewitt in that 2004 summer HC season was playing conservatively by his standards - I don't agree he was hitting his forehand as well or as hard as he could....Lleyton was obviously not a winner machine but a feature of his wins over Agassi in 2001-2002 was his aggressive play.
Most of the action is BH-BH and both players hit what I'd call 'normal' shots.... not aggressive, not even attacking, not passive... just normal

When things change to the FH, Agassi hits the same way. It didn't look to me that Hewitt did... he seemed to me to up the attacking intent behind his shots (compared both to his BHs and both Agassi's FH and BH)

Not attacking in a looking-to-hit-winners way but rather, a ball bashing one. Just hitting harder, not with the placement needed for a winner (and placement didn't have to be a corner to get the ball by Agassi), but maybe to bother Agassi with pace

It doesn't really work. He misses a few FHs trying and what he does make doesn't trouble Agassi

I think he'd have done better just to play it with less force but more placement

His serving in this match was a bit of a shame as well, he was up at about 60% in the Robredo match - a very good serving performance from him, totally dominant on serve. I think his % often dropped in big matches, probably a technique thing where it broke down a bit under pressure? Similar thing happened at the USO
In this match, he's uber-aggressive with his first serve... basically going for an ace on the line everytime. Given that, I didn't think the low percentage was too problematic

Basically, he's almost guaranteed to win any point he makes a first serve (usually with the serve shot alone). Was this type of serving strategy normal for him? I'd be surprised to see him serving at 60% following this kind of a plan

So he's serving about 40% and winning virtually all of those points... that's a healthy cushion to have on service games

The court was quick enough that I think he could have had a healthy first serves point won serving less aggressively... might see numbers like 60% in, winning 70-75% of first serve points

It's probable that Agassi's reputation for damaging returning influenced players to do low percentage service stuff against him. For Hewitt, don't think it was necessary as he's evenly matched with Agassi in play (though not in this match)

I wonder if the switch to the new strings/racquet midway through 2004 is the reason tbh, might have still been adjusting....That summer HC season and really until the AO the next year (YEC aside) I feel like (Hewitt) was missing a spark from his game for the most part
In this match, the two players were seeded 10 and 11, which seemed low for Hewitt. First thought that comes to mind would be fitness issues - I'd have expected a healthy Hewitt to be a consistent top 5er

Agassi no, he seemed to be past the day-to-day consistency necessary
 

NatF

Bionic Poster
Most of the action is BH-BH and both players hit what I'd call 'normal' shots.... not aggressive, not even attacking, not passive... just normal

When things change to the FH, Agassi hits the same way. It didn't look to me that Hewitt did... he seemed to me to up the attacking intent behind his shots (compared both to his BHs and both Agassi's FH and BH)

Not attacking in a looking-to-hit-winners way but rather, a ball bashing one. Just hitting harder, not with the placement needed for a winner (and placement didn't have to be a corner to get the ball by Agassi), but maybe to bother Agassi with pace

It doesn't really work. He misses a few FHs trying and what he does make doesn't trouble Agassi

I think he'd have done better just to play it with less force but more placement
You said before Hewitt's fh shots weren't particularly powerful - now he was ballbashing?

In this match, he's uber-aggressive with his first serve... basically going for an ace on the line everytime. Given that, I didn't think the low percentage was too problematic

Basically, he's almost guaranteed to win any point he makes a first serve (usually with the serve shot alone). Was this type of serving strategy normal for him? I'd be surprised to see him serving at 60% following this kind of a plan

So he's serving about 40% and winning virtually all of those points... that's a healthy cushion to have on service games

The court was quick enough that I think he could have had a healthy first serves point won serving less aggressively... might see numbers like 60% in, winning 70-75% of first serve points

It's probable that Agassi's reputation for damaging returning influenced players to do low percentage service stuff against him. For Hewitt, don't think it was necessary as he's evenly matched with Agassi in play (though not in this match)
Hewitt had a tendency to go for aces with his first serve, I think he had more aces than Federer in 2004 IIRC or maybe it was just more on HC, either way he did tend to hit a lot of aces and have a high win percentage on first serve. He won 88% of his first serve points in the SF as well BTW, similar percentage of aces as well. Even accounting for Agassi being a better returner than Robredo I think it's fair to say that dropping a near 20% on serve percentage was probably not a strategic choice when his serve was doing so much damage the round before.

I think it's more a case of going big on serve being easier to execute in low pressure situations.

In this match, the two players were seeded 10 and 11, which seemed low for Hewitt. First thought that comes to mind would be fitness issues - I'd have expected a healthy Hewitt to be a consistent top 5er

Agassi no, he seemed to be past the day-to-day consistency necessary
In 2003 Hewitt dropped to #17 in the world, he was still climbing back up. Agassi was still pretty consistent on HC (see his results in the majors in 04-05), he barely played clay and grass though so he couldn't maintain a high ranking.
 

NatF

Bionic Poster
Ok. So Hewitt was ballbashing but wasn't able to generate much pace? Just seems odd to me, he wasn't a big hitter but I've seen him clock in with forehands over 90 mph which really any pro can do...I charted his previous two matches at Cincy and he wasn't lighting the world on fire with his forehand but he was winning the forehand battle with guys like Safin/Robredo - Robredo especially had a very good forehand, while Safin could obviously be inconsistent.

Like I said, I think it was maybe the recent racket change, I think the off season at the end of the year helped his game a lot. Hewitt was normally good at taking the ball early, hitting angles inside out and often did good damage going down the line - getting close to the lines. And if you look at his other matches against Agassi he was often able to generate the pace and placement in order to get winners or force errors...This final was a definite come down from both really, Agassi was in top form against Roddick in the SF but played quite a bit worse in the F IMO. Maybe both guys were nervous...
 
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