Match Stats/Report - Agassi vs Safin, Paris Indoors final, 1999


Hall of Fame
Andre Agassi beat Marat Safin 7-6(1), 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 in the Paris final, 1999 on carpet

It was Agassi's second title at the venue and he remains the only player to win French Open and Paris Masters in the same year. Safin was 19 years old

Agassi won 131 points, Safin 120

(Note: I'm missing 3 Agassi service points - 1 won by Agassi, 2 by Safin - and serve/return data for 1 further Agassi service point)

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (81/130) 62%
- 1st serve points won (58/81) 72%
- 2nd serve points won (28/49) 57%
- Aces 7, Service Winners 1
- Double Faults 2
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (44/131) 34%

- 1st serve percentage (50/117) 43%
- 1st serve points won (39/50) 78%
- 2nd serve points won (34/67) 51%
- Aces 19, Service Winners 1
- Double Faults 8
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (40/117) 34%

Serve Patterns
Agassi served...
- to FH 48%
- to BH 51%

- to Body 2%

Safin served....
- to FH 30%
- to BH 59%

- to Body 11%

Return Stats
Agassi made...
- 69 (27 FH, 42 BH), including 2 runaround FHs, 1 runaround BH, 1 return-approach & 1 drop shot
- 20 Errors, comprising...
- 4 Unforced (1 FH, 3 BH)
- 16 Forced (4 FH, 12 BH)
- Return Rate (69/109) 63%

Safin made...
- 85 (40 FH, 44 BH, 1 ??), including 3 return-approaches
- 5 Winners (4 FH, 1 BH)
- 36 Errors, comprising...
- 12 Unforced (2 FH, 10 BH)
- 24 Forced (15 FH, 9 BH)
- Return Rate (85/131) 65%

Break Points
Agassi 5/7 (6 games)
Safin 3/13 (7 games)

(including returns, excluding serves)

Agassi 17 (6 FH, 4 BH, 1 FHV, 3 BHV, 3 OH)
Safin 28 (14 FH, 13 BH, 1 FHV)

Agassi's FHs - 1 cc pass, 3 dtl (2 passes), 1 inside-out and 1 at net
- BHs - 1 cc, 1 dtl (1/2 volley from baseline), 1 longline/inside-out and 1 lob

Safin's FHs - 8 cc (2 returns), 1 dtl return, 2 inside-out, 2 inside-in (1 return) and 1 net chord dribbler
- BHs - 3 cc, 8 dtl (1 return), 1 inside-out and 1 inside-out/dtl

- the FHV Agassi misjudged and allowed to go through

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Agassi 48
- 24 Unforced (11 FH, 12 BH, 1 BHV)
- 24 Forced (14 FH, 9 BH, 1 FHV)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 43.3

Safin 61
- 34 Unforced (13 FH, 19 BH, 1 BHV, 1 OH)
- 27 Forced (14 FH, 12 BH, 1 BH1/2V)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 45.9

(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...
- 15/18 (83%) at net, with..
- 1/1 return-approaching
- 0/1 forced back/retreated

Safin was...
- 8/19 (42%) at net, including...

- 1/1 serve-volleying (a first serve point)

- 1/3 (33%) return-approaching
- 0/1 forced back

Match Report
Short, experienced power baseliner with regular serve against tall, newbie power baseliner with huge serve on a standard carpet court leads to a straight forward power baseline match. The court pace looks normal of pace to my eye (i.e. fast, but not unduly so). Some stats support this (unreturned serve and rally length, which is typically short), others do not (winners and errors). Would be curious to hear what people thought of the pace of this court at the time... it looks a good deal slower than the US Open that year, where Agassi beat Todd Martin in the final
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Hall of Fame
Serve & Return
Safin has a big fat serve and when he gets the first in, that's usually all he has to do. 50 first serves in with 19 aces and 1 service winner and most of Agassi's 16 forced return errors speaks to the potency of Safin's first serve

Second serve isn't far behind and strong enough to force errors on its own. Agassi standing inside the baseline to take it confounds this (I occasionally mark errors unforced if the player has chosen to take unduly early position to play the ball on)… but my feeling is most Safin second serves are strong enough to be considered forcing shots regardless

Despite Safin's huge 20-8 advantage in aces/service winners, the unreturned serve percentages are the same (34% for both players). And Safin has been given a huge 12 return unforced errors, almost all of second serves. So did Safin return badly?

He could have returned better certainly, but Agassi also serves a good second serve, typically deep. Agassi has a cranked up first serve, but most of his first serves aren't overly powerful and some of his second serves are on par with it (and less powerful than Safin's seconds)

No one seems to have told Safin that its legal to just serves back. However out of reach, he takes a big swing at the ball. Big enough that he misses returns more makeable than not (including against first serves). Can't fault his returning.... one of the best over his career and he has a superb indoor record... but I think he could have been a better player still if he'd learnt to block back more powerful serves and just get them in play

Certainly true of this match because baseline points are near 50-50 and Safin's the more aggressive.... better to get tough serves back in play and take your chances from there then miss makeable returns. Agassi does (though against Safin's bigger serve, his choice is often block or be aced, unlike Safin). The upside of Safin's returning style is the damage he does with the return... 4 winners and a small number of other initiative grabbing shots. Still, overall, he'd probably have done better with a more judicious mix of blocking and swinging

Note the difference in serve patterns. Agassi about even (48% to FH, 51% to BH), negligible to the body), Safin BH directed heavy (59% BH, 30% FH... and high portion to the body)

In my opinion, Agassi was the smarter here. Against players who are about equally strong off both wings, I've always favoured distributing serves near equally (thus keeping them guessing) over targeting the BH (which is almost always by default, at least slightly weaker) and letting them get into a groove. Both Agassi and Safin qualify as this type of returner

Stats are inconclusive though. Safin makes 2 FH UEs to 10 BH and has 4 FH winners to 1 BH... maybe default serve-mostly-to-BH would have been better strategy

Baseline Play
Where the real action takes place

There's next to no defence here. Safin's showing is one of the worst for defence I've seen. Anything he has to move slightly to or is stretched a bit or deeper than usual... he fails to get in play. This is particularly evident in the FEs he makes.... an FE is forced, but many of his are about as mild as can be and still be called forced. By contrast, Agassi's FEs are much more obviously forced, though he too isn't great defensively. More due to slow footwork than court coverage

Safin is all offense in a clinical way. He doesn't seem to be trying to attack... his regular shots are pretty attacking (particularly in that they are deep). And he pulls it off when going for winners - 7 BH dtl winners in a relatively short match is on the high side. He also uses the rare BH inside-out to throw Agassi for a loop on a few occasions

Agassi is more conservative. Not quite as powerful, or consistently deep (which has a big hand in him committing 10 fewer UEs) he is still commanding from the back (as is Safin) without being defensively impotent (unlike Safin)

In a nutshell, baseline battles are even and powerful. No one seems to be 'going on the attack' or 'playing passively'.... regulation shots are more powerful and deep than the norm. Safin's 'regulation' is more attacking than Agassi's... and the usual patterns that follow (Safin more winners, Agassi fewer errors) follow from there. Slightly tilting things Agassi's way is Safin's non-existent defence so that Agassi forces 27 errors - 3 more than Safin - not much, but shouldn't be the case given Safin was more aggressive

Look at the break points. Agassi has them in 6 games, Safin 7. Agassi makes 5/7, Safin 3/13... if Agassi has an edge in play, its slim as can be

Summing up, a tough power baseline battle. Subtlety in serving, returning and baseline play by Agassi lightly thrown into his power baselining makes him more eye-catching than Marat, who's all power all the time but not much in it between the two. Agassi's greater experience and consistency winning out