Match Stats/Report - Federer vs Nadal, Wimbledon final, 2006


Hall of Fame
Roger Federer beat Rafael Nadal 6-0, 7-6(5), 6-7(2), 6-3 in the Wimbledon final, 2006 on grass

The win gave Federer his 4th straight Wimbledon title and the match was the first of to date 4 meetings between the pair at the event and on grass. They would go onto play in the finals for the next two years also. Nadal had recently beaten Federer in the final of the French Open

Federer won 133 points, Nadal 113

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (82/119) 69%
- 1st serve points won (64/82) 78%
- 2nd serve points won (21/37) 57%
- Aces 13, Service Winners 4
- Double Faults 1
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (47/119) 39%

- 1st serve percentage (94/127) 74%
- 1st serve points won (65/94) 69%
- 2nd serve points won (14/33) 42%
- Aces 9 (1 not clean), Service Winners 1
- Double Faults 3
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (29/127) 22%

Serve Pattern
Federer served...
- to FH 42%
- to BH 57%
- to Body 1%

Nadal served...
- to FH 23%
- to BH 74%
- to Body 2%

Return Stats
Federer made...
- 95 (31 FH, 64 BH), including 12 runaround FHs
- 1 Winner (1 FH), a runaround FH
- 19 Errors, comprising...
- 3 Unforced (3 BH)
- 16 Forced (6 FH, 10 BH)
- Return Rate (95/124) 77%

Nadal made...
- 71 (27 FH, 44 BH), including 1 runaround FH
- 2 Winners (1 FH, 1 BH)
- 30 Errors, comprising...
- 4 Unforced (2 FH, 2 BH)
- 26 Forced (14 FH, 12 BH)
- Return Rate (71/118) 60%

Break Points
Federer 6/10 (7 games)
Nadal 2/3 (3 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding aces)
Federer 27 (12 FH, 3 BH, 6 FHV, 4 BHV, 2 OH)
Nadal 32 (12 FH, 13 BH, 3 FHV, 2 BHV, 2 OH)

Federer's FHs - 4 cc (1 pass), 2 dtl (1 pass), 4 inside-out (1 runaround return), 1 longline/cc and 1 cc/inside-in
- BHs - 2 cc (1 pass) and 1 inside-out pass

- 2 FHVs were swinging shots and 1 other FHV can reasonably be called an OH
- 1 OH was at net on the bounce and the other OH can reasonably be called a very high FHV

Nadal's FHs - 4 cc (2 passes, 1 at net), 4 dtl, 2 inside-out (1 return) and 2 inside-in
- BHs - 7 cc (2 passes), 5 dtl (3 passes - 1 of them a net chord pop over without which Federer likely had the ball covered) and 1 inside-in return

- 1 FHV was the second volley off a serve-volley point and 1 BHV was played net-to-net

Errors (excluding returns and serves)
Federer 51
- 37 Unforced (23 FH, 14 BH)
- 14 Forced (9 FH, 1 BH, 2 FHV, 2 BHV)
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 45.7

Nadal 56
- 33 Unforced (20 FH, 12 BH, 1 OH)
- 23 Forced (10 FH, 12 BH, 1 FHV)
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 46.7

(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 a measure of how aggressive of intent the average UE made was. 60 is maximum, 20 is minimum. This match has been scored using a four point scale - 2 defensive, 4 neutral, 5 attacking, 6 winner attempt)

Net Points & Serve-Volley
Federer was...
- 23/35 (66%) at net, including...
- 2/4 (50%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 0/2 off 1st serve and...
- 2/2 off 2nd serve
- 0/1 forced back

Nadal was...
- 16/22 (73%) at net, including...
- 4/6 (67%) serve-volleying, all 1st serves

Match Report
This match is somewhat different from how I remember. In real time, my feeling had been that Federer had clearly outdistanced Nadal. Now, I still think that's true but with caveats regarding specific areas. Some noteworthy features of the match -

- Key difference in the match is Federer's huge advantage on the serve
- on the whole, Nadal was better in play, particularly from the baseline... and his BH is the star shot of the show
- Nadal choked away the second set
- Federer clutched to dominate the final set and to lesser extent, the second set tiebreak (where he held his level - a subtle and usually overlooked form of clutching)

First set is done in a breeze. While Federer plays well, Nadal playing poorly is the biggest factor to that

On serve, Fed's untouchable. Making 14/15 first serves, he loses just 3 points and 9 serves are unreturned (including 4 aces and a service winner). The sole second serve is unreturned too - and its a strong enough shot to have been marked forced too

Nadal's return games are error fest - there are 13 UEs between the two players in 24 points. Fed returns comfortably, and while Nadal's serve isn't strong, Fed's comfortable returning of it is commendable. He plays well too, hitting deep regulation balls and keeping Nadal behind the baseline. Nadal tends to miss balls from that position. Fed does finish with a flourish, wrapping up with back-to-back winners - a FH inside-out and a finely angled BH cc pass from defensive position

Any thoughts of Nadal rolling over are put to an end first game of second set when he break, raising break point with back-to-back winning passes - FH cc and BH dtl. Playing dynamics change in that Nadal steps up to baseline and mostly gets the better of baseline rallies. Comfortable holds - bar a 12 point game where Fed has a break point - mark the rest of the set, til Nadal serves for the set

He makes a mess of it with a double fault and 2 FH UEs to be broken to 15. The most forceful contribution from Fed is a wide, ground clinging cc slice, that Nadal can reach in good time but not put in play

Couple of bad shots from Nadal are the difference in the tiebreak too. In command of a service point, he misses simple FH inside-in winner attempt, Fed having done well to squash FH the previous FH inside-out back in play to begin with. Next point, Nadal misses a routine 3rd ball FH. Rafa does hit the best shots of the breaker too - a BH dtl passing winner and an excellent drop FHV winner to a low ball. Usually, you'd see Fed hitting the best shots and making the gross UEs

Third set is best of the bunch of play. Plenty of winners and forcing plays from both, still cheap service points won by Fed but with Nadal returning with more confidence. Without games going as far as being difficult for servers, returners do gain more counter break. Nadal has the only break point, which is service-winnered away. In addition to having significantly the better of the baseline rallies, Nadal comes to net more than at any time in the match also. He dominates the tiebreak with strong shots - including a lashing FH inside-out return winner and even a FHV winner from a serve-volley point - and a couple of loose errors from Fed does the rest

Fed's always in charge of the last set. First break comes from Nadal errors mostly, but Fed does pressure him with a couple of runaround FH returners - including a winner. He adds a second and this ones all his own doing - a return to Nadal's feet nursed to coming in and finishing with drop BHV winner, a strong FH cc winner (Nadal slips to ground and can't chase it, but would have been on the defensive even if he hadn't) and well constructed point where he pushes Nadal back, comes in and finishes with FHV standout, though the gem in the crown of the game is a Nadal BH cc winner from regulation position.

Fed fails to serve out match on first asking, but has no problems in the service game after

Serve & Return
Federer's superiority in this complex is the biggest difference between the two players. His serve is a lot more powerful and lot better placed. He serves at 69%, which is very high for such strong serving. Even his second serves are strong - and the a number of errors he draws with it have been marked forced (curiously, 1 first serve return error has been marked unforced - which is very rare for Fed, even on slower surfaces). A discrepancy in serve quality of the magnitude seen in this match is usually more than enough to be decisive on grass, even with the player trailing in the regard being better in other areas

Fed serves aggressively too in his placement. Note the 42/57 distribution across FH/BH - which is heavier towards FH than would be expected. Its not about serving to FH or BH but about usually serving out wide regardless of which Nadal shot is there... Fed looks to open court with the serve, in other words. And just the 1 double fault

Nadal returns from an orthodox position in this match. He returns about as well as he's allowed to. In later years, he return from a further back position. That's a good move in that allows more returns to be made. The cost is giving the server more time to take charge of the point with third ball. Having established his superiority in play in this match (and it continued for next two years), it was to be a good move for Nadal (his returning positions in next two years weren't of the extreme variety he sometimes goes, but further back than in this match)

Nadal's serve looks ordinary. Nonetheless, he'd lost serve twice coming into final according to commentators and was on an 80 game holding streak before losing 3 straight to start this match. I would primarily credit Fed's returning more than Nadal's serving - though neither are of the spectacular, memorable sort

Nadal gets about as much of the shot as he can with 74% first serves in. Federer takes returns early and gets 77% back in play. He does so with that strainless element that marked his play and without undue force, but its good returning on grass, frequently neutralizing Nadal's prospective advantage with the shot. And he's choosey and highly effective in utilizing runaround returns... making all 12 he tries, virtually all more forceful than his BH and some downright aggressively (including a winner)

Fed makes 1 return which is either a miracle of reaction or luck. A Nadal second serve jumps off the line, reaching Fed face high. How he manages to adjust and not just get racquet on ball but actually puts the ball in play is a wonder. Nadal muffs an easy third ball that was there to be putaway on that point


Hall of Fame
Play - Baseline & Net
Look at the stats -

On winners, Nadal +5 (surprising. probably shouldn't be since he repeated it following year)
On UEs, Nadal +4 (i.e. Fed with making 4 more. Would probably expect a wider gap)
On FEs - Fed +9

When return put in play, the two players are dead even statistically, in terms of points won and lost (which given the serve-return advantage, leaves Federer comfortably ahead overall)

Nonetheless, I though Nadal was noticeably, if by a small margin, the stronger player for bulk of match. The first set is anomalous - Federer edging the fourth, and Nadal has the better of the middle two sets

Neither fire of their favoured FHs. Fed 12 winners, 23 UEs and Nadal 12 winners, 20 UEs. For that matter, neither particularly strains to. Both are known for looking to play off FH as much as possible, but in this match, both keep regular court position - not unduly looking for FHs. Nadal in particular, rarely uses his favoured FH inside-out. Federer does a bit more. Just the 1 inside-out winner from Rafa (+ 1 return), Fed has 3 (+ 1 return). Fed forces more errors with it - and probably edges that particular, indirect duel

The BH stuff is more interesting. Note both players with far fewer UEs on that side than the FH (Fed 14 to 23 on FH and Nadal 12 to 20 on FH). The UEFI's are moderate (Fed 45.7, Nadal 46.7), indicating that BH more secure than FH wasn't a product of undue FH aggression. This is unusual

Nadal gives FH cc'ing to the Federer BH a go at the start, and is wise to not persevere with it. Fed not only holds up well, but whips some damaging, court opening cc angles himself. Thereafter, Nadal plays a step-in power brand of baseline tennis, not specifically targeting a side. Fed doesn't slice much but when he does, their excellent shots, clinging to the ground. Nadal doesn't seem bothered - which wouldn't have been a given on grass. Fed could probably have used slicing more... on other surfaces, particularly clay, it was not only a waste of time but a handicap; Nadal would just treat slices like very weak top spin shots and hammer them. Here at least, he has to respect the slice, though it doesn't hurt him. Scope for Federer to have utilized it more strategically

Nadal's BH is the shot of the match. Note the 13 winners (Fed has 3)… the only groundshot to have a net positive on winners/UEs. The winners include the most spectacular shots in the match. There are plenty of great attacking winners or points constructed to finish with strong winners from both players, but Nadal's BH - especially the cc - is the only shot that hits winners from regulation positions. Note 5 baseline-to-baseline BH cc winners from Nadal. By contrast, Fed has 3 FH cc's... by winning the cc battle along the basic diagnol of play, Nadal scores a major strategic win (nowhere near close enough to override his serve-return complex handicap, of course)

The flip side is Nadal being forced into 12 BH errors. Fed has just 1. The errors forced out of Nadal are from all sources - volleys, BHs and FHs... certainly not by Federer FH cc's

Nadal is virtually on his knees several times to deal with low BHs. Visual inelegance aside, it doesn't look like the sort of thing you'd want to do too often to your knees

Neither player utilizes net play much and its an area both had potential to benefit from. Federer is very good at net - both in instincts and on the volley. He's kept down to 66% points won because Nadal passes exceptionally well. 0 UEs in forecourt by Fed to 4 FEs. When Nadal can get a pass off, they're almost always a handful. Fed errs on the side safety by not coming in more. He's not so far behind from the back that he'd have felt driven to come in... but I think doing so more - tinged with obvious risk with Nadal hammering passes - he could have enjoyed a better share of play

Strangely, Nadal's net play impresses me more. He doesn't come in much either - 22 approaches to 35 by Fed - but is obviously less comfortable doing so than Fed. But he does come in, though not much, to finish up points and pulls it off by winning 73% points up there. Fed's passes aren't as strong as his own and he does have mishaps there. Down break point in 4th set, he serve-volleys, hits two bad OH/FHVs - not putting away the first and missing the second. Easy balls both. He does win one of the best points of the match, when he guesses/anticipates a Federer BH dtl at net and picks off a BHV volley winner. Note the general out and out baseliner Nadal serve-volleying 6 times to Federer's 4 (Fed also 'delay' serve-volleys a few times)

Clutching and Choking
In years to come, patterns in mental areas would emerge - Nadal clutching and Federer choking

In 2006, not only were these unknown, but the opposite more fancied. This tournament marked Nadal's first impressive outing on grass - and his natural, heavy but not aggressive consistent baseline play (along with weak serve) didn't seem suited to grass. And Federer was an established master of the green - even more so than Nadal on dirt. Federer was justly celebrated for playing big points well - especially on grass

The expectations of the time were validated in the match. First, there's a nervy start from Nadal as he's blown away in first set playing poorly. Mostly discredit to him for that, with some credit to Fed

Nadal demonstrates his toughness by getting his game in order for the rest of the match. But chokes to not serve out second set... his errors in the game in question were out of sync with his play around it. Couple of bad points from him in tiebreak too

In my opinion, accounts of Federer choking are generally overstated. That said, whatever he did in a great many matches that are generally spoken of as chokes... whatever they are, they weren't clutch. Here, he's plays well in general rather than clutches, especially with the serve. He finds strong serves when he needs them - but he finds them when he doesn't particularly either. Best way of putting it, his level doesn't drop at critical times - which is a mild form of clutch - without which, there's no scope for opponent choking to begin with. He ups his game in the 4th set too - breaks with a wonderful game (does make a hash of serving out the match first time though)

Prospects for the future?
Going on this match, for Nadal to hope to overthrow Federer on grass, a few things needed to be addressed. Primarily, his large disadvantage in serve-return complex

Great credit to him for doing so - and on both fronts. His serve got stronger year by year til 2008 when it was strong by a general standard. He improved his return efficiency too by changing his position

From Federer's point of view, nothing in this match justifies panic for future. Best case scenario would be the whole thing could was nothing more than a clay-courter having the grass tournament of his life. While possible, taking such a view wouldn't be wise for a champion determined to remain so indefinitely.

For Federer, slightly trailing Nadal from the baseline is a cause for future concern. Sharpening up his net game - and he was already familiar with what Nadal could be like on the pass, he'd been burnt even on a fast hard court in Dubai earlier in the year - is a thought. I don't see any indication he did. And his coach at the time was Tony Roche, a renowned net specialist

Mostly credit Nadal for how things were to transpire - he has a solid base already, but worked on it to keep improving. Other than getting mentally scarred via losses on clay, I don't see that Federer did anything different in the next two years. That he was capable is obvious, given the changes/improvements he made to his game years later - but the need for said changes/improvements were more evident in say, 2011, 2015 and 2017 than in 2006. Some element of complacency maybe from Federer in this period

Summing up, comfortable win for Federer, riding on his superior serve, holding steady in play when needed and seemingly stronger of mind. Nadal's court game is the more impressive - strong, heavy groundstrokes that work well on fast grass. With neither man's FH firing (if not falling flat), its the worst of the pairs Wimbledon trilogy, but by any normal standard, a good match

Stats for their '06 French Open final -
Stats for their '07 Wimbledon rematch -