Match Stats/Report - Djokovic vs Nadal, Wimbledon semi-final 2018

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Novak Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(9), 3-6, 10-8 in the Wimbledon semi-final, 2018 on grass

Djokovic would go on to win his 4th Wimbledon title as well as the next 2 Slams, including another win over Nadal in Australia (https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/index.php?threads/match-stats-report-djokovic-vs-nadal-australian-open-final-2019.644899/)

Djokovic won 195 points, Nadal 191

Serve Stats
Djokovic...
- 1st serve percentage (126/176) 72%
- 1st serve points won (95/126) 75%
- 2nd serve points won (24/50) 48%
- Aces 23, Service Winners 3
- Double Faults 4
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (54/176) 31%

Nadal....
- 1st serve percentage (150/210) 71%
- 1st serve points won (100/150) 67%
- 2nd serve points won (34/60) 57%
- Aces 10 (1 not clean), Service Winners 5
- Double Faults 4
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (55/210) 26%

Serve Patterns
Djokovic served...
- to FH 48%
- to BH 49%
- to Body 2%

Nadal served....
- to FH 52%
- to BH 43%
- to Body 5%

Return Stats
Djokovic made...
- 151 (78 FH, 73 BH), including 5 runaround FHs
- 5 Winners (4 FH, 1 BH)
- 40 Errors, comprising...
- 7 Unforced (6 FH, 1 BH)
- 33 Forced (24 FH, 9 BH)
- Return Rate (151/206) 73%

Nadal made...
- 118 (50 FH, 68 BH)
- 1 Winner (1 FH)
- 28 Errors, comprising...
- 5 Unforced (1 FH, 4 BH)
- 23 Forced (17 FH, 6 BH)
- Return Rate (118/172) 69%

Break Points
Djokovic 4/19 (12 games)
Nadal 4/11 (6 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Djokovic 46 (22 FH, 14 BH, 4 FHV, 4 BHV, 2 OH)
Nadal 60 (32 FH, 7 BH, 7 FHV, 9 BHV, 5 OH)

Djokovic's FHs - 5 cc (3 passes - 1 of them at net), 9 dtl (2 returns), 5 inside-out (1 return) and 3 inside-in (1 return)
- BHs - 6 cc (1 return, 1 pass), 4 dtl, 1 inside-out and 2 running-down-drop-shots

- 2 FHVs were swinging shots, 1 was a drop and 1 was a lob
- 2 BHVs were drops

- 1 OH was the third such shot needed to end the point

Nadal's FHs - 4 cc, 9 dtl, 11 inside-out (1 return), 1 inside-in, 2 longline, 4 drop shots and 1 at net
- BHs - 2 cc, 3 dtl (1 pass), 1 inside-out and 1 drop shot at net

- 1 FHV was a swinging shot

- several volleys of both sides were drops

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Djokovic 71
- 36 Unforced (23 FH, 13 BH)
- 35 Forced (16 FH, 17 BH, 2 FHV)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 45.6

Nadal 93
- 40 Unforced (20 FH, 19 BH, 1 OH)
- 53 Forced (30 FH, 19 BH, 1 FHV, 3 BHV)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 45

(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...
- 26/40 (65%) at net, with...
- 0/2 forced back

Nadal was...
- 35/49 (71%) at net, with...
- 2/3 forced back/retreated
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Match Report
Even by the standards of these two, this is gruelling stuff and goes down past the end of the wire. The final result is appropriate - Novak Djokovic was the better player and with more appropriate tools for the surface - though it could just as easily have gone the other way

What makes Djokovic the better player, when the final points tally is an all but even 195 points Djokovic, 191 Nadal? For one thing, that statistic is biased by Nadal serving 34 more points than Djoko, which he had to do because his serve was under greater threat (Nadal faced break points in 12 games, Djoko 6). Mostly clutch stuff from Rafa to see of so many break points - but it was Djoko's superiority that forced him into those positions to begin with. By contrast, Djoko has a relatively easy ride on serve

Secondly, its all begins with...

Serving & Returning
Djokovic serves much better and returns significantly better. On grass, you'd expect that to be all but completely decisive, so its a minor miracle that Nadal can even keep the match so close

The two have similar serve percentages (Djoko 72%, Nadal 71%), but Djoko's serve is a lot heavier and generally, better placed. You can see that in the aces/service winner counts (Djoko 26, Nadal 15) and the unreturned serve percentages (Djoko 31%, Nadal 26%) and also visually. Nadal's unreturned serves are generally returnable - they're decent first serves, but not making Djoko hop and jump to reach; the Serb just misses them due to power (which happens a certain part of the time, especially on grass). And when he does get stuck into the return - even against first serves - Djoko not infrequently hits a powerful and/or deep return that forces an error or gives him control of the point, or at the very least, neutralizes any advantage Nadal may have had

By contrast, Nadal is made to hop and jump to make returns - which he does quite well. And of course, he also makes the routine forced errors against powerful but not line-licking first serves. But his return rarely troubles Djokovic

Both Nadal's serving and returning strategies are questionable. His returning position varies across the match, but he is guilty at times of playing it too safe and returning from too far back a position. That's a reasonable strategy if one can win rallies starting from a mildly defensive position - but that's not how things were playing out, nor was it likely to on grass; When Djoko had time to step up and take the third ball early, he dominated the points.

Early in the match, Nadal serves mainly down the middle to keep the court closed up. It doesn't work too well. He does switch later on to serving more out wide, and has better results with the move. Nadal also serves predominantly to the Djoko FH (52% serves directed there, to 43% to the BH)… though an unusual choice, the stats are indicating he was on to something with the ploy. Djoko has a disproportionately high number of FH return errors - both unforced (6 to 1 BH) and forced (24 to 9 BH), given the distribution of Nadal's serving pattern. On return, Djoko's BH does appear to be his more consistent side

How to serve to Nadal is a more difficult question. He takes more risks with the FH, so its both more damaging and more inconsistent. On the BH, he's focused on just putting the ball in play. Djoko distributes serves almost identically (83 to FH, 85 to BH)

Baseline Dynamics
This is where the fun is, of course. How it plays out depends largely on what comes out of serving/returning dynamics and Nadal's strategy

Overall, the players are about 50-50 from the baseline and on a quick court, that means the more aggressive player usually has the advantage.

For much of the match, Djoko's serve gives him that edge to start things off (on top of all the unreturned serves) and with baseline playing strength being about equal, its enough for him to nurse rallies through to winning conclusions. So he holds relatively easily.

Nadal's serve, by contrast, often isn't giving him an edge... so his service games are made up of plenty of 50-50 points. The percentage are not in his long term favour, and so it proves. In the third and fourth sets in particular (to a lesser degree, the second and fifth), he's more commanding from the baseline and that's when he's at his best. He looks to put away balls with the FH, but isn't particularly clever at opening the court up first. That he can hit so many winners (32 from the FH alone) in this situation is testament to just how brilliant that shot is. But because he can't do the same with the BH, the FH is under a lot of pressure to deliver (which its upto handling)

Djoko is less aggressive in attack. He keeps balls powerful and particularly when going to the Nadal FH, is careful to keep balls deep. Anything short gets shot down, but Djoko's BH is up to the task of carrying out his plan. 30 errors he forces out of the Nadal FH (as opposed to 16 from the BH and with Nadal managing to force 16 errors out of Djoko's FH)

Nadal with 60 winners to Djoko's 46 makes it look like Nadal was the aggressor, but if you add the forced errors (which vary from 'mild' to 'flagrant' in nature), the total comes to Nadal 95, Djoko 99. And note Djoko having fewer UEs too (36 to 40)

Hard to declare a clear winner in answering the question who was the better baseliner. 2nd serve points won (Nadal 57%, Djokovic 48%) is suggesting it was Nadal

Nadal's drop shot
One of the odder elements of the match. He puts away 5 winners with it and I believe wins all the points (about 10) where he uses the shot. Only 1 of those is due to Djokovic playing a bad shot (missed an easy pass)

And he introduces it in the critical third set tiebreaker, of all times - hitting 2 winners and forcing an error with it. So can't fault Rafa for leaning on out-of-the-box strategies.... this one worked like a charm and against a very quick moving opponent

Net Play
Makes up a bigger piece of the overall pie than is usual between the two. Also unusually, its Nadal who takes the initiative in coming forward... I took this as a sign that he realized he was being outplayed from the back of the court. He tends to stay back more when he's getting the better of the baseline battles

Nadal volleys well and shows fine touch with a number of drop volleys. So does Djokovic actually - there's a lovely FHV lob and a particularly good inside-out drop BHV (also, a hideous BHV to a high ball)

Nadal comes up with the better numbers, winning 71% to Djoko's 65%... but that's probably due to a number of net errors Djoko makes trying to run down drop shots. On the volley alone, they're about even, Nadal perhaps slightly better

And more willing to come up. Djoko stays back on a number of points where he's pushed Nadal out of position and coming in seems the best play, while Nadal is quite quick to take such chances.

The point that's probably best remembered from the match is a net point, where Nadal approaches to the Djoko FH on break point late in the fifth, only to be passed cc. It was a good play, but at odds with Nadal's play in the match... he wasn't coming in unless he'd clearly took charge of the point, whereas this approach was a 50-50 deal and it was in a short rally (i.e. it was a 50-50 baseline scenario at the time of the approach). Can't blame Nadal for the attempt - he was at his best when being attacking and uncharacteristic shot choices had worked for him (drop shot) in the match. And what a brilliant pass from Djoko under extreme pressure
---

Summing up, a top class match, with the kind of brutal baseline battles that characterizes this match up. Djokovic comfortably the better server, the better returner and not far behind - if at all - in play overall. Nadal tough and clutch and erring too far on the side of safety for much of the match. Could have gone either way, but Djokovic coming out on top the most just result
 

vanioMan

Legend
Great summary of a tremendous match between those two. I was gutted that Rafa lost, but at the end of the day somebody had to.

I just hope that Rafa can win one more Wimby. He's been doing very well on grass since since 2017, but I don't think his chances will be higher next year or in 2021.
 
It's not sound to say Djokovic was both a better server and a better returner given that Nadal won only 2 more points in extended rallies, so they were even from the baseline, yet the match was as close as it gets.

Point-by-point stats reveal that:
Djokovic was clearly better on the 1st serve+return throughout the match, but
Nadal was significantly better on the 2nd serve+return,
especially in sets 2&4 where he returned Djoel's serve aggressively and won a lot of quick return points that way.
Their long rally balance was similar on 1st and 2nd serves, 1-2 point advantage Nadal, which is noise for such a long match.

Djokovic struggled returning body 2nd serves quite a lot. He also lacked confidence in BHDTL at times, handing Nadal the initiative back by hitting again CC to his FH... if those two elements of Djok's play were in peaker condition, the match would've been fairly one-sided.

In short:
1st serve+return Djokovic>Nadal, 2nd serve+return Nadal>>Djokovic, rally Nadal~Djokovic. 70% 1st serve from both saw that the former advantage proved bigger. NB: net play in the last two sets Djokovic>Nadal, Nadal kept losing approaches to Novak's FH, that key BP was only part of the trend.
 

ibbi

Hall of Fame
Good stuff, as always :D These posts are pretty much the highlight of visiting this forum, and this match is probably the match of the decade. Djokovic serving himself out of trouble in that breaker and whenever he was down in the 5th was the key to this one. Clutch as all hell.
 

NoleFam

G.O.A.T.
Djokovic's serve saved him in this match and it wasn't his best performance on the return. Nadal was better off the ground in this one and at the net. Even though Djokovic wasn't excellent on the return he still put a considerable amount more of returns in play. So it was serve versus an aggressive ground game and the serve won on that day.
 
Great summary of a tremendous match between those two. I was gutted that Rafa lost, but at the end of the day somebody had to.

I just hope that Rafa can win one more Wimby. He's been doing very well on grass since since 2017, but I don't think his chances will be higher next year or in 2021.
Last year was probably his last chance.
 

NatF

Bionic Poster
It's not sound to say Djokovic was both a better server and a better returner given that Nadal won only 2 more points in extended rallies, so they were even from the baseline, yet the match was as close as it gets.

Point-by-point stats reveal that:
Djokovic was clearly better on the 1st serve+return throughout the match, but
Nadal was significantly better on the 2nd serve+return,
especially in sets 2&4 where he returned Djoel's serve aggressively and won a lot of quick return points that way.
Their long rally balance was similar on 1st and 2nd serves, 1-2 point advantage Nadal, which is noise for such a long match.

Djokovic struggled returning body 2nd serves quite a lot. He also lacked confidence in BHDTL at times, handing Nadal the initiative back by hitting again CC to his FH... if those two elements of Djok's play were in peaker condition, the match would've been fairly one-sided.

In short:
1st serve+return Djokovic>Nadal, 2nd serve+return Nadal>>Djokovic, rally Nadal~Djokovic. 70% 1st serve from both saw that the former advantage proved bigger. NB: net play in the last two sets Djokovic>Nadal, Nadal kept losing approaches to Novak's FH, that key BP was only part of the trend.
Wasping has significantly less errors than the TA chart, any thoughts on that?
 

TennisFan3

Legend
I think Nadal's weaker serve and weaker return of serve, will always result in him being an underdog vs Djokovic on non-clay surfaces.

He will need to play above his level from the baseline and use some creative strategies at the net (volleys + drop shot) - to be able to win matches.

At the end of the day, Djokovic does have more weapons in general. The fact that Nadal CANNOT improve his serve, hurts him. Even Djokovic's serve has improved tremendously since his early days. It is an evolution from what it used to be in 2008/2009 for ex. However, in Nadal's case his serve has never been good enough for an ATG and hasn't really improved significantly.

Great post. Thanks so much for sharing the analysis.
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
I think Nadal's weaker serve and weaker return of serve, will always result in him being an underdog vs Djokovic on non-clay surfaces.

He will need to play above his level from the baseline and use some creative strategies at the net (volleys + drop shot) - to be able to win matches.

At the end of the day, Djokovic does have more weapons in general. The fact that Nadal CANNOT improve his serve, hurts him. Even Djokovic's serve has improved tremendously since his early days. It is an evolution from what it used to be in 2008/2009 for ex. However, in Nadal's case his serve has never been good enough for an ATG and hasn't really improved significantly.
I agree with almost everything here

One exception - Nadal's serve has improved a lot from his early days. The difference between Wimbledon 07 and 08 is huge.... but I agree, even improved, its remained.... shall we say, not a strength? unlike Djokovic

Couple of other ATGs with serves on par with Nadal - Jimmy Connors, Mats Wilander, maybe Andre Agassi

regarding the match up with Djokovic - with court skills about even, and Nadal trailing in the two most important shots.... he's starting with a ridiculous handicap

I'm particularly curious about how they stack up as baseliners. My gut feeling is Nadal is better, but not sure. Might isolate pure baseline points from this match - unreturned serves, double faults, net points, return winners excluded - and see who comes up ahead

My feeling is from neutral starting points, it would be Nadal, but Djoko far more often starts from advantageous positions due to his serve and return... and overall, would likely come out on top
 
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