Match Stats/Report - Djokovic vs del Potro, US Open final 2018


Hall of Fame
Novak Djokovic beat Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-3 in the US Open final, 2018 on hard court

It was the 3rd title and record tying 8th final for Djokovic, the 6th seed, who had won Wimbledon and would go onto to finish the year ranked number 1 for the fifth time

Djokovic won 111 points, del Potro 96

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (75/118) 64%
- 1st serve points won (51/75) 68%
- 2nd serve points won (25/43) 58%
- Aces 1, Service Winners 1
- Double Faults 2
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (16/118) 14%

del Potro....
- 1st serve percentage (57/89) 64%
- 1st serve points won (38/57) 67%
- 2nd serve points won (16/32) 50%
- Aces 6, Service Winners 1
- Double Faults 1
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (18/89) 20%

Serve Patterns
Djokovic served...
- to FH 43%
- to BH 56%
- to Body 1%

del Potro served....
- to FH 27%
- to BH 73%

Return Stats
Djokovic made...
- 70 (19 FH, 51 BH), including 1 runaround FH
- 11 Errors, comprising...
- 1 Unforced (1 BH)
- 10 Forced (3 FH, 7 BH)
- Return Rate (70/88) 80%

del Potro made...
- 100 (38 FH, 62 BH)
- 14 Errors, comprising...
- 5 Unforced (4 FH, 1 BH)
- 9 Forced (7 FH, 2 BH)
- Return Rate (100/116) 86%

Break Points
Djokovic 4/7 (5 games)
del Potro 2/6 (3 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Djokovic 30 (13 FH, 3 BH, 5 FHV, 2 BHV, 7 OH)
del Potro 24 (16 FH, 5 BH, 2 BHV, 1 OH)

Djokovic's FHs - 4 cc, 1 dtl, 3 inside-out, 2 inside-in, 1 drop shot and 2 at net (1 lob)
- BHs - 3 dtl (2 passes)

- 2 FHVs were swinging shots from behind the service line and 1 OH was hit from the baseline

del Potro's FHs - 6 cc (2 passes), 2 dtl, 3 inside-out, 3 inside-in (1 pass), 1 longline and 1 longline/inside-out
- BHs - 3 dtl, 1 inside-out and 1 drop shot
- 1 BHV was played net to net

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Djokovic 52
- 36 Unforced (11 FH, 24 BH, 1 BHV)
- 16 Forced (6 FH, 7 BH, 3 BHV)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 43.6

del Potro 64
- 50 Unforced (34 FH, 16 BH)
- 14 Forced (7 FH, 6 BH, 1 FH1/2V)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 44.4

(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
Djokovic was...
- 26/35 (74%) at net, including...
- 0/1 serve-volleying, a 1st serve
- 1/1 forced back

del Potro was...
- 8/15 (53%) at net, with...
- 1/4 forced back/retreated

(Note 1: Djokovic made 3 third ball volleys - what might be called 'delayed' serve-volley points, spontaneously moving forward to deal with looping returns. He won all 3 points, but these have not been counted as serve-volley points)

Match Report
Djokovic is at near his best but for a loose period of play in the second set as he systematically dismantles del Potro. The critical factor is Djoko's excellent returning

Serve & Return
Delpo has a big serve and even on a slow court, its a handful... but apparently not for Djokovic, who returns a very high 80% of them. His concession to the quality of Delpo's serve is that he's not winning points or grabbing the initiative with returns.... rather he's neutralizing or near neutralizing Delpo's advantage by getting most balls back reasonably deep

On the flip side of things, Djoko serves fairly softly. First serves under 100 mph are not uncommon and some second serves are in the 80s. Probably because he realizes there isn't much advantage (given his abilities on the serve, which is cut below Delpo's) to be had trying to go for big serves. Delpo returns an impressive 86%... but is unduly passive with the second shot; he at least has the firepower off the FH to destroy soft serves... but never even tries. Not 1 runaround return attempt

Baseline and Net Play
With most serves being returned by both players, the two men settle into baseline rallies; The common tale is Djokovic is a balanced baseliner, del Potro FH heavy

Djoko however, makes no particular effort to avoid the Delpo FH. He serves there 43% (Delpo does so at 27% by contrast) and plays normally from the baseline. There are plenty of FH-FH rallies

The Delpo FH proves to be the only groundstroke on show that can overcome the court and hit winners/force errors from neutral position... but at what cost? 34 FH UEs for Delpo to 16 winners (and the majority of the 16 errors he forces)… the big FH is a net liability for the 2009 champion

Part of the reason is Djokovic's superb defence. He's quick and agile as he runs down balls, stretches to meet them and somehow get them back over and over again. He does so even when Delpo is at net, forcing the giant back 4 times (out of 15 approaches). The balls that would be winners against most anyone else, aren't, just as the serves that would be unreturned against the field weren't.... going for 1 more shot or/and going for something extra because the normal shots aren't finishing points, Delpo makes many an error

Part of the reason is also that Delpo is just loose and misses many routine FHs. There are a surprising number of shanks -5/6, I'd estimate

Delpo's BH though proves reliable. More than Djoko's in fact (16 UEs to 24). Partially because Delpo rarely goes for much on the shot (more often than not slicing), partially because Djoko has a bad BH day (most of his misses are neutral shots too) and partially because Djoko for some reason goes in for quite a few slice-to-slice rallies (most of which he loses)

Unlike Djoko, Delpo's movements are sluggish (normal for him). Moving him around might have been a good strategy - but its a bit of a lottery, given he can smash a FH winner from out of nowhere

Djoko is excellent at net. He constructs points to get there nicely and volleys well to boot. Noteworthy is how good he is on the OH... not a hint of an error (and 7 winners, even 1 from the baseline after being forced back by a lob) of what is sometimes a relative weakness for him. On this day, its exemplary and he finishes the match with one

Role of the Crowd
I was surprised that the veteran Djokovic was put off by the crowd to the extent he was. Crowd in general is more with Delpo than him. Naturally, that's even more the case as Djoko takes the lead. And there's a particularly loud group of Delpo fans who get up Djoko's nose. They're at their most vocal as Delpo fights back from a break down to even the second set... and are shouting the roof down for most of the rest of the set. There's a 22 point Djoko serve game that excites them - despite its length, the play is actually quite dull in it - but Djoko holds on

The 2015 final had a more hostile crowd... and the less experienced Djoko scarcely batted an eyelid in response (if anything, they steeled him up). Surprising response then from Djoko... he makes errors at a high rate during the second set, carnival atmosphere part of the match and is clearly not a happy bunny. 3 net approaches and Delpo errors give him the tiebreak though... and clinical service is resumed in the 3rd

Summing up, superb from Djokovic... the returning and the defence particularly so. Could have been more secure off the ground, but excellent transition from defence to offence also. For Delpo, with his serve and FH not able to finish points, a little toothless looking and nowhere near consistent enough to win passively
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I think Djokovics low first serve speed (never faster than 119 mph) is because he was afraid to injure his elbow again. It was the same at wimby 2018. It is back to normal now and he serves now regularly over 122 mph.