Match Stats/Report - Nadal vs Djokovic, French Open final 2012


Hall of Fame
Rafael Nadal beat Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 in the French Open final, 2012 on clay

It was Nadal's record breaking 7th French Open title. Djokovic had been going for a non-calendar year Grand Slam. It was the pair's 4th successive Slam final (Djokovic had won the previous 3). Nadal had won both of the pair's matches on clay leading into the event (Monte Carlo and Rome finals)

Nadal won 125 points, Djokovic 116

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (73/118) 62%
- 1st serve points won (45/73) 62%
- 2nd serve points won (24/45) 53%
- Aces 4
- Double Faults 4
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (21/118) 18%

- 1st serve percentage (73/123) 54%
- 1st serve points won (45/73) 62%
- 2nd serve points won (22/50) 44%
- Aces 3
- Double Faults 4
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (16/123) 13%

Serve Pattern
Nadal served...
- to FH 29%
- to BH 66%
- to Body 5%

Djokovic served...
- to FH 43%
- to BH 57%

Return Stats
Nadal made...
- 103 (50 FH, 53 BH), including 9 runaround FHs
- 13 Errors, comprising...
- 4 Unforced (4 FH), including 1 runaround FH
- 9 Forced (4 FH, 5 BH)
- Return Rate (103/119) 87%

Djokovic made...
- 93 (31 FH, 62 BH), including 3 runaround FHs
- 3 Winners (1 FH, 2 BH)
- 17 Errors, comprising...
- 9 Unforced (6 FH, 3 BH)
- 8 Forced (8 BH)
- Return Rate (93/114) 82%

Break Points
Nadal 9/17 (9 games)
Djokovic 7/10 (9 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding aces)
Nadal 30 (22 FH, 4 BH, 1 FHV, 3 OH)
Djokovic 36 (19 FH, 10 BH, 2 FHV, 3 BHV, 2 OH)

Nadal's FHs - 2 cc, 1 cc/longline pass (off an OH), 4 dtl (2 passes), 8 inside-out, 5 inside-in and 2 drop shots
- BHs - 3 cc (2 passes) and 1 drop shot

- the FHV was a swinging shot and 1 OH was on the bounce

Djokovic's FHs - 3 cc (1 at net), 1 cc/inside-in, 2 dtl (1 return), 9 inside-out, 1 inside-in, 1 longline and 2 lobs
- BHs - 4 cc (1 return, 2 passes), 3 dtl, 1 inside-out return (which took a bad bounce), 1 lob and 1 drop shot

- 1 from a serve-volley point - a first volley FHV

Errors (excluding returns and serves)
Nadal 60
- 36 Unforced (22 FH, 14 BH)
- 24 Forced (15 FH, 19 BH)
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 44.2

Djokovic 70
- 57 Unforced (26 FH, 30 BH, 1 BHV)
- 13 Forced (5 FH, 8 BH)… with 2 BH running-down-drop-shots at net
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 46.5

(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 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
Nadal was...
- 5/12 (42%) at net, with...
- 0/2 forced back

Djokovic was...
- 18/26 (69%) at net, including...
- 2/2 serve-volleying, both 1st serves

Match Report
A good, if patchy match with one or the other player having off periods. Its a baseline match and Djokovic is the more proactive player, though less so than many of the pair's other encounters. Nadal steps up to command play, almost always with his FH, regularly too. Conditions are tough with rain making it tricky at best and problematic beyond that

Rain, Conditions & Sportsmanship
The match is played over two days because of rain and its ironic that it ends in bright sunshine, which appears about 10 minutes before the finish. About 95% of the match had taken place in overcast conditions and about 50%, during light rain/drizzle

When plays is called off with Djokovic a break up in the fourth set and Nadal just broken a run of 8 straight games lost, Nadal is complaining about the court. Its been drizzling throughout Djoko's run of games and how heavy conditions have become becomes evident on resumption; Play looks like a hard court compared to what it had been when it was called off. Both players were moving with extra care and even Nadal was tentative with his sliding. Ball comes off the court slower than normal and without much spin

Conditions hadn't changed much (probably at all) over the last hour. There were no complaints when Nadal was leading 2-0 at the start of the third. This is understandable. If he's winning and looks like he can finish the match that evening, why stop playing? From Djokovic's point of view, the heavier conditions would be in his relative favour

Commentators suggest that play wasn't called off earlier due to the possibility of the match being finished in three sets. Whatever the reasons and however convenient the timing of Nadal's complaints, conditions were sub-par enough to have halted play long before it was, probably at the end of the second set

The match is played with good sportsmanship. Both players make calls against themselves multiple times. Unprompted and with Djokovic ready to serve a second serve, Nadal checks the mark of the supposedly missed first serve and calls it in. Djokovic concedes a point where Nadal had hit a winner of a ball erroneously called out rather than play a let

Serve & Return
Nadal's return is the standout shot here

Uber-consistent returning is part of the Nadal package (especially on clay), but he's outdone himself returning 87% of Djoko's serves. Furthermore, in keeping with changes to his game this year, he's returning quite deep. With a return rate that high, you'd expect to see a fair few weak, short returns that Djoko can wade into. Not too many of them is what you actually see

While giving bulk of credit to Nadal's returning, Djoko's serve isn't great either. With Nadal standing so far back, there's scope to move him out of position with well placed serves. Djoko doesn't do much of it... its not a particularly strong point of his serving. Even power seems to be a bit down (just 3 aces) and for that, serving at 59% is on the low side. Note also the bad timing of double faults - 3 come on break points, including match point

Nadal by contrast serves quite strongly, and would have realized the need to against the strong Djoko returner. In the previous years final against Roger Federer, he'd all but rolled in first serves. Here, he bangs them down hard. According to commentary, he'd been broken once in his run to the finals

The distribution of serves is interesting. Maybe a gamble? By this date, Nadal would have been familiar with Djoko enough to know the FH return is more error prone than the BH. He'd served majority to FH at both Monte Carlo and Rome leading into the French

But here, he's gone 66% to BH and 29% to FH. Doesn't seem to have made much difference - he draws 6 FH errors to 11 BHs, about in proportion to how he served. Djoko's return winners are also in about the same proportion - 1 FH, 2 BHs

A strangely comforting part of serving to Djokovic is there's not much need to agonise over such things. He's about as good of either side

Note coincidental identical first serve points won of 45/73 @ 62%
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Hall of Fame
Play - Baseline (& Net)
Djokovic is more proactive and on the attack more often than otherwise. His attacks though lack subtlety or variety

back-away FH inside-outs make up most of it and he has 9 winners with the (plus forcing the majority of Nadal's 16 FH errors... by comparison, Nadal has 9 of BH and Djoko has 12 total FEs). BH cc's though prove not only ineffective, but costly. In first set in particular, he misses a large number of attackingly angled BH cc's, and when he gets them in, Nadal copes reasonably comfortably. Thereafter, he doesn't use the shot too aggressively but it remains error-prone. 30 UEs on the shot, a match high

That high number is more attributable to Nadal's FH out-steadying it in cc rallies... but gist is, BH cc proves inadequate offensively, leaving extra pressure on the FH inside-out to deliver - and sacrificed court position due to it

Which isn't to say Djoko hits BHs tamely. He has a good go with it... only Nadal keeps putting ball in play when he's rushed or pushed wide or deep or some combination of the three. As ever, Nadal's ability to retrieve balls from defensive positions is key... its not rare for 3, 4, 5 good, hard forceful shots to not be enough to finish a point for Djokovic (even on the FH), and his errors go up straining to. Djoko has 31 attacking or winner attempt errors, Nadal 13

Nadal's BH is his rock. with 14 UEs, its by far the least error prone and its also hit powerfully and deep in neutral rallies. If Djoko bails on trying to break it down with FH cc's, that's wise... it looks a waste of time. Its hard to blast forced errors out of the Nadal BH with high risk attacking shots. Getting UEs out of it with regulation or slightly attacking shots wouldn't have been likely to work

With that side locked down, Nadal looks to attack with FH. When he steps up to contest for command from the back, he usually manages. You could thus say that Djoko being the playmaker in the match is by Nadal's consent

22 FH winners from Nadal to Djoko's 19. On UEs, its 22-26 in Nadal's favour too. This would be counter-balanced by Djoko forcing significantly more errors with his FH than Nadal manged.... in the indirect battle of FHs, Djokovic probably has a slight lead despite having fewer winners and more unforced errors. Its actually Djoko's BH woes that put him behind

Another danger Nadal's FH presents is in its ability to turn momentum of points, which also highlights the need for Djokovic to not let up offensively. Occasionally when Djoko is running Nadal around, he'll ease up a touch and hit a moderate shot. Nadal tends to hit attacking FHs that change attacker-defender dynamics at a stroke when this happens. His offense is also more efficient than Djoko's (largely due to comparative defensive advantage). When Nadal is attacking, he'll usually see point to end in that vein. Djoko stumbles more and loses a good chunk when he's in charge

This is mostly due to Nadal's ridiculous defensive abilities, but Djoko's aren't lacking by any means. Rest is due to Nadal having more variety in his attacking....

Alternatives for Djokovic?
Both for this match and in general given the players games, what exactly can Novak Djokovic do to better his chances of toppling Nadal on clay?

Nadal leads serve-return complex in this match. And off the ground, he's more consistent (that is, less error prone). That leaves the onus on Djokovic to attack

The problem he has is Nadal's defence, which is remarkably defiant. How can Djokovic attack better?

a) he needs more and a better FH inside-in. The inside-out is his attacking spear, but its a lot to ask of the shot to continuously win points. In his wins at Madrid and Rome in '11, the shot was supported by potent BH cc's and FH cc's to break down Nadal's BH

Here, the BH cc's aren't strong enough and Nadal's BH is too strong to be broken down, leaving the FH inside-out to carry the full load. And its too much

Can he complement it with a better FH inside-in? Djoko doesn't hit many and when he does, it hits them hard. Not hard enough to end points - credit to Nadal for that, but taking Nadal's supreme defence as a given, its upto Djoko to find better ways

The contrast in the way the two players attack with FHs brings this up. When Nadal is attacking, he can finish points with FH inside-out but also mix up inside-in's... running Djoko all over and finishing him in the direction Nadal pleases. When Djokovic attacks, there are no inside-ins... its a straight shoot-out between his sledgehammer inside-outs and Nadal's defensive FH retrieving

b) coming to net more? Djoko wins 18/26 net points or 69%. He has Nadal on the ropes regularly when coming to net would be a good option. Why not use it?

The alternative is to keep bashing away from the back. Which doesn't go his way nearly as often as he'd need to to come out on top overall.

Obviously, taking net isn't part of Djoko's usual modus operandi and coming in to Nadal is risky. But the positions he puts Nadal in - hunched over in FH corner well behind the baseline, having just fended a ball back somehow... even Nadal can't hit passing shots to strong approaches from that position

Djoko had used approaching to much greater extent in the past - notably '08 Hamburg - when he had trailed from the baseline more. The two are near even from the back of the court in this period, but Djoko to come out on top, he has to be the aggressor. Rallying neutrally is likely to end with Nadal outlasting him, or collaring the point with FHs and as one-dimensional FH inside-out'ng is a lot to ask for to break past Nadal's wall like defence, coming to net could have given Djoko the edge he needed

Match Progression
Nadal stats aggressive and dictates play with his FH, racing out to a 3-0 lead with 2 breaks. Djokovic fights back to even at 3-3... games are filled with tough rallies. Djoko's first break comes from 3 consecutive Nadal errors, the second is a tougher game lasting 12 points where Nadal has 2 double faults

Nadal breaks right back to get ahead again when Djoko double faults on break point. He'd do so again twice more in the match, including on match point. Serving out the set, Nadal wraps up a with a BH drop shot winner after having been run around all over the court before turning play with a FH dtl and on set point following, a back-away third ball FH inside-out winner

A pair of breaks sees the second set even at 3-3. It starts drizzling and continues regularly thereon. Djoko's FH goes on an error bender - he makes 6 FH UEs in the last 3 games of the set, all of which Nadal wins - as Nadal takes the set. On set point, an in-charge Djoko hammers a FH inside-in which he comes in behind but Nadal's up to blocking the ball for a passing winner

Third set carries on in same vein as 3 Djoko FH errors (1 mildly forced) sees him broken to go down 0-2

He wins the next 8 games. Its at least drizzling and sometimes, a bit more than that throughout. First, Djoko first trims his errors and keeps balls in court, prolonging rallies. Next, Nadal starts missing difficult balls (the kind he'd been making regularly up to this point) and finally, Nadal starts blinking to give up the unforced errors.

After breaking the streak with a hold to trail 1-2 in the fourth, the match is suspended for the day

Nadal comes out the stronger of the two the next day, with conditions still overcast. Its not long before drizzle starts again. Nadal's looking to dominate with FH - and does. He breaks at once to even the set. Match ends with a Djokovic double fault. The key point in that game is two points earlier, when Djoko misses a regulation third ball FH

Summing up, a good match in less than ideal wet conditions. Nadal excels in defence, on the return and with the variety of his FH attacks. Djokovic tries to smash through those defences without much variety and isn't up to it, while trailing slightly in consistency off the ground. Convincing win for Nadal, but there is obvious potential for Djokovic to topple him as play stands

Stats for pair's lead up clay matches -
Stats for their Australian Open final earlier in the year -
Stats for their '08 Hamburg match -
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