Match Stats/Report - Federer vs Nadal, Wimbledon semi-final, 2019

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Roger Federer beat Rafael Nadal 7-6(3), 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the Wimbledon semi-final, 2019 on grass

This was the pairs 4th meeting at the venue and first in 11 years. Federer had won finals in 2006 and 2007, Nadal had won in 2008. This result saw Federer extend his Wimbledon final reaching record to 12. He would go onto lose the final to Novak Djokovic

Federer won 126 points, Nadal 117

Serve Stats
Federer...
- 1st serve percentage (79/116) 68%
- 1st serve points won (58/79) 73%
- 2nd serve points won (23/37) 63%
- Aces 14
- Double Faults 1
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (38/116) 33%

Nadal...
- 1st serve percentage (81/127) 63%
- 1st serve points won (60/81) 74%
- 2nd serve points won (22/46) 48%
- Aces 11 (1 not clean), Service Winners 3
- Double Faults 4
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (52/127) 41%

Serve Pattern
Federer served...
- to FH 39%
- to BH 61%

Nadal served...
- to FH 44%
- to BH 54%
- to Body 2%

Return Stats
Federer made...
- 71 (32 FH, 39 BH), including 1 runaround FH
- 38 Errors, comprising...
- 9* Unforced (1 FH, 8 BH), including 1 'SABR'
- 29 Forced (14 FH, 15 BH)
- Return Rate (71/123) 58%

(*Note: Federer unsuccessfully challenged a Nadal serve that he returned. This has been counted as an Unforced Return Error for him and also an Unreturned Serve for Nadal)

Nadal made...
- 77 (34 FH, 43 BH), including 7 runaround FHs
- 24 Errors, comprising...
- 5 Unforced (3 FH, 2 BH)
- 19 Forced (7 FH, 12 BH)
- Return Rate (77/115) 67%

Break Points
Federer 2/10 (6 games)
Nadal 2/8 (5 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding aces)
Federer 35 (17 FH, 5 BH, 3 FHV, 6 BHV, 4 OH)
Nadal 16 (8 FH, 7 BH, 1 FHV)

Federer's FHs - 7 cc, 2 dtl, 5 inside-out, 1 inside-in, 1 dtl/inside-out and 1 drop shot
- BHs - 1 cc, 2 dtl, 1 dtl/inside-out pass and 1 running-down-drop-shot at net cc

- 5 from serve-volley points
- 1 first volley (1 BHV)
- 4 second volleys (1 FHV, 2 BHV, 2 OH)

Nadal's FHs - 1 cc, 1 dtl, 6 inside-out
- BHs - 3 cc (2 passes), 1 inside-out, 1 dtl running-down-drop-volley at net, 1 inside-in pass at net and 1 net chord dribbler

- the FHV was a drop

Errors (excluding returns and serves)
Federer 48
- 29 Unforced (13 FH, 13 BH, 2 BHV, 1 OH)
- 19 Forced (10 FH, 8 BH, 1 FHV)
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 46.2

Nadal 49
- 24 Unforced (11 FH, 12 BH, 1 BHV)
- 25 Forced (15 FH, 10 BH)
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 45.8

(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...
- 23/32 (72%) at net, including...
- 9/12 (75%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 9/11 (82%) off 1st serve and...
- 0/1 off 2nd serve

Nadal was...
- 6/12 (12%) at net, including...
- 0/1 serve-volleying (a first serve)
--
- 0/2 forced back/retreated

Match Report
Excellent display from Roger Federer in a match that deviates from most of the usual norms of the match up

Note -
a) Federer leading 68% to 63% first serve percentage
b) Nadal leading 74% to 73% first serve points won
c) Federer leading 63% to 48% second serve points won
d) Nadal leading 45% to 33% unreturned serve numbers
e) Federer serving more to one side than Nadal (to BH, Fed serves 61%, Nadal 54%... Fed's numbers aren't unusual but Nadal is usually up around 85-90%)

First set is even, with both players largely coasting on unreturned serves. Federer has the only break point and on it, the two players get into a lengthy and good rally, with Nadal dictating. Typically, it ends with a Federer BH UE. The tiebreak is going Nadal's way - he's up 3-2 with two serves to come - when Fed turns it up a notch on shot making. A good approach shot forces Nadal into a lobbing error, an excellent FH cc winner, a well judged serve-volley point where Fed conservatively hits third ball FH at net to draw a weak response that he smashes (it would be normal to go for an aggressive winner of a first 'volley' FH at net) gives him the next three points. He seals the set a couple of points later with a FH dtl winner to one of Nadal's powerful FH inside-outs that leaves the court open for Federer's counter, but is powerful enough to draw an error

Second set starts very lively and there are plenty of great attacking shots from both players in the first three games. Federer is in his twinkle footed mode. He has to save 2 break points in his first service game - which he does with winners at net. In the next game, he has 2 break points and Nadal saves 1 with a brilliant FH inside-out on the half-volley off a very deep Federer return. Other winning shots during this passage of play includes a crisp Fed BH cc, an off balance Nadal managing a BH cc pass, a Nadal BH inside-out forcing a Fed error, Nadal countering two excellent Federer volleys to finish with a BH inside-in pass at net, a brilliant Fed FH inside-out winner... great stuff all round, in short

Then, we see the dark side of great shotmaking. Fed is broken to love, missing 3rd ball FH winner attempts. It goes with the territory of the kind of game he plays. The other two points illustrate another feature of this match - relatively weak defence, as Fed makes 2 mildly forced errors. Nadal gets a second break in a genuinely poorly played game by his opponent... and Fed tanks the last game of the set (which illustrates another feature of the match - selective effort and conservation of energy)

The next two sets is some excellent, balanced tennis from Federer. There's shot making excellence and some of his standard 1-2 attacking plays, but for the most part, the 1-2 plays have been replaced by point construction with an attacking edge. There's forays to the net, including serve-volleying. There's deep returning that puts Nadal in a jam on the third ball. And there's solid neutral rallying - always with the danger of an attacking shot turning the dynamic upside down lurking behind it... Federer wining some critical, long rallies (often on important points), usually when Nadal is moderately dictating is another atypical feature of the match

Nadal of course, doesn't go down easy. After going down a break in the 3rd set, he has 3 break points in very next game. And in he pushes Fed as the Swiss serves out the match in the 4th set... but Fed is clearly the better player for the second half of the match

Now, what's going on with all the unusual numbers for the match?

Serve & Return
Nadal is generally not thought of as a big server, and rightfully so. Round about this time though, he was serving more aggressively than he'd done over his career. Even so, Fed's serve is significantly stronger... so why is does Nadal have a 15% lead in unreturned serves?

Mostly due to the returning strategies of the two players. In the past, Federer tended to prioritize consistency (getting more balls back in play) over doing damage (hitting winners, forcing errors or otherwise giving Nadal a difficult 3rd ball) with the return. Here though, he's switched gears. Fed almost always comes over the BH return (in the past, he was apt to chip most of the time) and is attacking of the FH too (that's not different from the past).

Federer isn't overly aggressive with the return. Not much chance of him hitting winners with it... the focus is more on getting the ball deep with moderate power. He's successful and curbs Nadal's ability to take charge of the point with a big third ball FH. The cost is a lower return rate. Nominally, 58% poor from Federer against Nadal - even on grass (in 2007 final, it was 80%. In 2008, 73%)

The returning sub-strategy fits into Federer's overall match plan. He doesn't seem overly concerned with making an impact on return games and is happy to look after his own service game, while waiting for chances on return. Somewhat like Pete Sampras used to. A good shift, given his obvious stamina issues

Note Federer's high 9 return unforced errors (Nadal has 5). He misses a number of makeable returns that have been marked forced too... change in strategy aside, his return has room for improvement in terms of consistency.

I thought Nadal erred in not serving to the BH more. The BH return might have improved relative to what it used to be, but its still a step down from the FH return (UEs - BH 8, FH 1)… despite Nadal serving 44% to FH to 54% to BH. Roughly, a 40/60 distribution would probably have been preferable

Nadal by contrast strategically looks to raise consistency at the cost of doing damaging. He's returning from his usual, very far back position all match.... but retreats still further after the first set, and stays just as far back for second serves as he does firsts. This allows him to get more balls back and like Federer, he gets a number of balls back problematically deep

Serve-Return dynamics shape...
 
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Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Play - Baseline & Net
This is one of Federer's most balanced attacking showings in play. His most celebrated outings on this front tend to of the ultra attacking kind... but that's not very sustainable, and often, leads to boatloads of UEs (which everyone forgets about if he wins and judges him to have choked if he doesn't - both assessments miss the point of the style of play in question). Here, he's attacking enough. Weak returns are swished away for winners. Short balls are punished. Routine balls are selectively attacked in moderation.

But its tempered with sound play.... not many wild attacking shots, many moderately attacking ones. There are 1-2 point ending combinations but there are more constructed points, leading to a moderately attacking play. Attack is led by the FH as always, but the BH is damaging too, especially cc.

Topping of the attack is net play. Federer is highly successful there, but probably under utilizes the tactic. Even by his standards, Nadal is returning from well behind the baseline. Fed makes hay of this with aces out wide and just occasionally, serve-volleys to win a quick point. It is a good second line of attack to have up one's sleeve if things get tough though (it usually doesn't get tough here)

Nadal feels the downside of having so many of his serves go unreturned; the balls that don't come back deep and he can't begin his usual baseline 'bossing' pattern of third ball FHs (Note: this is exactly the primary key to Novak Djokovic's success against Nadal, only Djokovic usually does it without missing a lot of returns). Occasional third ball FEs, occasional third balls winners/error forcing shots aside.... Nadal's service points when the ball is returned tend to begin neutrally. And Federer doesn't "messes it up" (baseline UEs Fed 26, Nadal 23), while maintain the balanced attacking outlook already outlined

Both players defensive capabilities are down. For Nadal, this is evident because it used to be such a key part of his game. For Federer, its evident because he's particularly down. Moderately attacking shots - a bit wider than normal, a bit deeper, a bit more powerful or some combination of the 3 - tend to force errors. To be clear, they are 'forced errors' but often 'just' mildly forced... balls that good players get back as often as not (and in Nadal's case, more often). Good footwork from both players, but footspeed/court coverage has much room for improvement

Nadal's BH underperforms and Federer capitilizes. Note the high number of Federer FH cc winners. Usually, FH cc to the Nadal BH is a waste of time... Nadal can belt the ball back cc at least just as strong while remaining rock solid (i.e. not making unforced errors. In fact, even forcing errors out of the Nadal BH with FH cc is tough). In this match though, his BH cc looks fairly soft, if not vulnerable. This allows Federer to safely play simple FH cc's to prolong rallies or build up to an attack. Its not dissimilar to how Nadal typically uses his own FH cc to Federer, though less extreme. Crosscourt plays a bigger hand than usual in Fed's FH offensive (which is usually inside-out based)… it makes life easier for the Swiss to lead with such a basic shot

Part of the success of Federer's balanced attack is down to Nadal's declined defence. In earlier matches, moderate attacks tended not to be able to finish points, and Federer would thus go to extreme attacks, resulting in him making more UEs. On grass at least, moderate attacks are usually enough to win points. I would still primarily credit Federer for sound judgement of both intent and execution.... a balance he's rarely mastered against Nadal

There are a few long rallies and Federer unusually comes up on top more often. Stamina and fitness issues are hinted at. After long rallies, Federer in particular tends to look short of breath. After one particular gruelling game, he moves more slowly at the changeover than even Nadal has probably ever done... it catches the eye because its so uncharacteristic

Summing up, very good modern grass court match with strong serving from both players, polar opposite returning strategies (both work) and balanced mix of attacking baseline stuff, with some net stuff thrown in for by the winner. Masterful from Roger Federer, who has adjusted for his changing capabilities to hit a near perfect playing style that he executes adroitly

Stats for 2007 final - https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/index.php?threads/match-stats-report-federer-vs-nadal-wimbledon-final-2007.633831/
Stats for 2008 final - https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/index.php?threads/match-stats-report-nadal-vs-federer-wimbledon-final-2008.632647/
 

krosero

Legend
Glad you did this one Wasp.

Agreed that returning strategy had much to do with the unusual unreturned %s.

I liked "dark side of great shotmaking."

Official stats (Wimbledon.org) gave Federer 27 UEs, Nadal 25, somewhat less than your numbers (presuming you got 4 df's by Nadal?)

Slight correction: you've got Nadal serving 127 points, but in his Unreturned Serves row you have 116 (Fed's number). So his unreturned rate was actually 40.9%.

Still, I don't recall ever seeing Nadal break 40%, against anyone. I know he had 34.4% against Berdych in 2010 Wimb final, and 34.1% against Djokovic at Wimb the following year.
 
Glad you did this one Wasp.

Agreed that returning strategy had much to do with the unusual unreturned %s.

I liked "dark side of great shotmaking."

Official stats (Wimbledon.org) gave Federer 27 UEs, Nadal 25, somewhat less than your numbers (presuming you got 4 df's by Nadal?)

Slight correction: you've got Nadal serving 127 points, but in his Unreturned Serves row you have 116 (Fed's number). So his unreturned rate was actually 40.9%.

Still, I don't recall ever seeing Nadal break 40%, against anyone. I know he had 34.4% against Berdych in 2010 Wimb final, and 34.1% against Djokovic at Wimb the following year.
Having scouted the TA chart, Federer's dominance over Nadal in longer return points is stunning and the only way that crazy strat could work and it did. Basic facts: 1) Nadal didn't win a single service point in the first set TB when his serve was returned (went 1-4, the one point was an unreturned 1st serve); 2) after winning the first rally of the 3rd set (at 0-0 15-15), Nadal lost 12 of the next 13 service points that went over 3 shots; so if he didn't take it with his serve or 2nd shot, he was doomed. The streak lasted almost two full sets until Nadal's last service game, the *3-5 one where he saved several MPs.
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Official stats (Wimbledon.org) gave Federer 27 UEs, Nadal 25, somewhat less than your numbers (presuming you got 4 df's by Nadal?)

Slight correction: you've got Nadal serving 127 points, but in his Unreturned Serves row you have 116 (Fed's number). So his unreturned rate was actually 40.9%.
Thanks for catching those - edited in

I'd also made a simple addition error for Federer's total return errors that I've corrected

Handy, multiple checking mechanisms for everything... if I make a mistake and forget to include double faults (think I copy-pasted the format from Fed-Nad YEC 2010, where Nadal had 0 doubles, and forgot to enter that field fresh), you'll still be able to gauge it from the other players return rate denominator

Still, I don't recall ever seeing Nadal break 40%, against anyone. I know he had 34.4% against Berdych in 2010 Wimb final, and 34.1% against Djokovic at Wimb the following year.
I have him with 44% against Andre Agassi, Wimby 2006

would be curious to see his numbers in his 2010 US Open run. He was serving in the 130s in that one and I believe dropped serve once in reaching the final (or not at all?)

In the final, he outserved Djokovic 29% to 13%.... 29% being quite high against Djokovic

Wouldn't bet against a 40%+ in the earlier rounds


Agreed that returning strategy had much to do with the unusual unreturned %s.
Comparing this match and the final, its easy to see the difference

my guess would be that here Federer felt confident of holding serve and so could be proactive on return

In the final, despite holding serve easily for most of the match - he didn't face break point til late in the 4th set - he doesn't really try to take it the Djoko serve and tried returning safely (also didn't do that particularly well

I liked "dark side of great shotmaking."
I've noticed a not regular pattern

Broadly generalizing, he has two modes of play -
a) attacking
b) solid (it'd be an exaggeration to call it 'passive' relative to a general standard of play... passive for him, lets say)


When in attacking mode, he's looking to hit winners and force errors... and tends to make more unforced errors doing that. That much is common and logical

What isn't is he also tends to make more unforced errors of neutral/routine shots... its as though his brain is attuned to attacking, and that detracts from the consistency of bread & butter shots

So the dark side for him, has potential to be worse than for most players (counterbalanced by the 'light side' being a good deal brighter)

Contrast with Novak Djokovic, who seems to seamlessly blend solid-attacking or attacking-solid play
 

krosero

Legend
Coming into this match Nadal had actually out-aced Federer over five rounds, 47-42.

Federer out-aced him in this match only 14-10.

Having scouted the TA chart, Federer's dominance over Nadal in longer return points is stunning and the only way that crazy strat could work and it did. Basic facts: 1) Nadal didn't win a single service point in the first set TB when his serve was returned (went 1-4, the one point was an unreturned 1st serve); 2) after winning the first rally of the 3rd set (at 0-0 15-15), Nadal lost 12 of the next 13 service points that went over 3 shots; so if he didn't take it with his serve or 2nd shot, he was doomed. The streak lasted almost two full sets until Nadal's last service game, the *3-5 one where he saved several MPs.
And with the total unreturned serves known, we can calculate that Nadal won 30 points and lost 41 whenever his serve was returned (that's all serves, both 1st and 2nd). Federer meanwhile won 43 points and lost 34, when his own serve was returned.

I have him with 44% against Andre Agassi, Wimby 2006

would be curious to see his numbers in his 2010 US Open run. He was serving in the 130s in that one and I believe dropped serve once in reaching the final (or not at all?)

In the final, he outserved Djokovic 29% to 13%.... 29% being quite high against Djokovic

Wouldn't bet against a 40%+ in the earlier rounds

The '06 one must be down to Agassi's immobility. And Rafa had 18 aces -- in only 3 sets.

Still he served very well at that event, holding 80 straight times before Federer broke him in the final. At 2013 USO he held 73 straight times before Gasquet broke him in the semis. At 2010 USO he had 62 straight, broken by Verdasco in the quarters.
 
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