Match Stats/Report - Nadal vs Djokovic, Olympic Games semi-final, 2008


Hall of Fame
Rafael Nadal (Spain) beat Novak Djokovic (Serbia) 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 in the Olympic Games semi-final, 2008 on hard court in Beijing, China

Nadal would go onto beat Fernando Gonzalez (Chile) to win the Gold medal. Djokovic would win the bronze medal by beating James Blake (USA). Nadal had won French Open and Wimbledon earlier in the year while Djokovic had claimed his maiden Slam at Australian Open

Nadal won 78 points, Djokovic 82

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (53/75) 71%
- 1st serve points won (33/53) 62%
- 2nd serve points won (14/22) 64%
- Aces 2, Service Winners 2
- Double Faults 1
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (20/75) 27%

- 1st serve percentage (54/85) 64%
- 1st serve points won (39/54) 72%
- 2nd serve points won (15/31) 48%
- Aces 9, Service Winners 2
- Double Faults 5
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (26/85) 31%

Serve Pattern
Nadal served...
- to FH 30%
- to BH 58%
- to Body 12%

Djokovic served...
- to FH 34%
- to BH 66%

Return Stats
Nadal made...
- 54 (17 FH, 37 BH), including 6 runaround FHs
- 15 Errors, comprising...
- 5 Unforced (3 FH, 2 BH)
- 10 Forced (7 FH, 3 BH)
- Return Rate (54/80) 68%

Djokovic made...
- 54 (23 FH, 31 BH), including 4 runaround FHs
- 3 Winners (3 FH), including 1 runaround FH
- 16 Errors, comprising...
- 6 Unforced (3 FH, 3 BH), including 2 runaround FHs
- 10 Forced (7 FH, 3 BH)
- Return Rate (54/74) 73%

Break Points
Nadal 3/7 (4 games)
Djokovic 3/4 (3 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding aces)
Nadal 13 (7 FH, 2 BH, 2 FHV, 1 BHV, 1 OH)
Djokovic 19 (7 FH, 4 BH, 2 FHV, 6 BHV)

Nadal's FHs - 1 cc, 3 dtl (1 pass), 1 inside-out, 1 inside-in and 1 lob
- BHs - 1 cc and 1 dtl pass

- 1 FHV was a drop
- 1 BHV was the first volley off a serve-volley point

Djokovic's FHs - 1 cc/inside-in, 4 dtl (2 returns), 1 inside-out and 1 inside-in runaround return
- BHs - 2 cc, 1 cc/longline running-down-drop-shot at net and 1 dtl

- 4 first volleys from serve-volley points (1 FHV, 3 BHV)

Errors (excluding returns and serves)
Nadal 36
- 19 Unforced (11 FH, 7 BH, 1 BHV)… with 1 BH at net
- 17 Forced (7 FH, 9 BH, 1 FHV)
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 44.7

Djokovic 40
- 27 Unforced (15 FH, 10 BH, 1 FHV, 1 OH)
- 13 Forced (6 FH, 4 BH, 1 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 1 BHV)
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 46.3

(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...
- 5/8 (63%) at net, including...
- 1/2 serve-volleying, both 1st serves

Djokovic was...
- 14/23 (61%) at net, including...
- 5/6 (83%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 4/5 (80%) off 1st serve and...
- 1/1 off 2nd serve

Match Report
Odd match on fast court. Neither player seems to know exactly what they want to do or what they're trying to do is unusual to the conditions. Match is decided by an sub-par game by Djokovic - not much in that. The loser actually wins 4 more points in the match

Bad show from Djokovic in first set. Misses a lot of near enough routine balls where he's just moved slightly or a bit pushed back. Sets only competitive because of his serve

He turns it around in the second audaciously. He starts coming to net regularly, serve-volleying occasionally, going for return winners of second serve... changing it up, in short. It seems to rattle Nadal, who starts missing routine balls, while Djoko's groundshots (especially the BH) picks up on damaging quality as well as consistency too

Third set is the only really high quality one. Effectiveness of Djoko's serve takes a dive and Nadal returns quite comfortably and the pair get into the kind of tough rallies they're matches are renowned for. Play is more open court and moving-other-guy around than it had previously been (most of first two sets was characterized by closed-ish court ball bashing). Some typical high end defence from Nadal. Match ends on a slight low with a slightly loose game from Djoko. The impression of it being so is accentuated by the final point where Djoko misses the easiest of OHs to lose

Typical features of Nadal-Djokovic matches include Nadal's offense being centered on runaround FHs, especially inside-out and Djoko's offense directed to Nadal's FH, with FH inside-out again the chief shot to a lesser degree. Neither are true here. Nadal eschews runaround FHs in play and inside-outs for the most part. And Djoko mostly attacks the BH. Action varies across the match, with a relatively large amount of closed-ish court ball bashing making up the bulk of it. Depth is key to match in all areas, including the return, for both players in the match

Time Violation Issues

According to commentators, its particularly hot and there doesn't appear to be any breeze. Both players are known for playing slowly and here, they're probably slower still between points. The handling of the matter by the chair umpire raises questions about the rules governing such situations

Nadal gains a warning and doesn't react at all to it or change his tempo thereafter. Exactly the same thing had happened in the pair's semi at the French Open earlier in the year. Djoko gets one too and reacts hotly, telling the umpire something like he has a great sense of timing angrily. I agree with him... the warning came not just after a gruelling point, but a series of gruelling ones

According to commentators, rules give complete discretion to umpires regarding giving point penalties for violations after the first warning. In other words, umpire could give as many further warnings after the first without adding the point penalty

The whole things is ridiculously inadequate to handle the matter. Why issue a warning for one point and not another? Both players undoubtedly take just as long at least on several occasions other than the one on which they were warned for (especially Nadal). And were the umpire to call a penalty, the questions that would be raised about why on this point and not the other would be overwhelmingly complicated

Furthermore, that the situation only comes up when two serial slow players involved makes applying time standards for players who play at a faster pace very difficult. How can you justifiably call anybody, even if they transgress flagrantly on a particular point, when 2 top players are habitually at least around the limit (and probably transgressing?)

The warnings that were given just seem like token gestures. Umpire isn't willing to give further warnings, much less point penalties. Commentators note that this is standard pattern when dealing with Nadal - umpires give him a warning, he carries on the same way, and no more warnings come his way. Not even non-penalty, second warnings... which would very likely be criticized (justly) for being too lenient

So umpires just give a token gesture warning... and do nothing after. I don't see the point. In a match around this period, Djokovic upon getting a warning tells the umpire sarcastically something like, "good job, let everyone know your the boss man here" and gives him a thumbs up. I think he captured the value of warnings well

In a nutshell, rules/guidelines for dealing with this issue are severely flawed to the point of being useless and if applied, could easily be ripped to shreds on grounds of why one point was called (or player) and not another. Either have no time limits (which would open up potential for unmitigated abuse) or something more concrete for umpires to go on

Unfortunate things had to come to what they have now with a less interpretive shot clock, but I don't see an alternative. Rules in this match and period are woefully weak to meaningfully address the matter
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Hall of Fame
Nadal's Play
First of all, he serves gently. There's plenty of scope to do damage with the serve, and he had done so at Wimbledon and Queen's shortly before and had a serve that could hurt his opponent. Instead, he serves gently, just starting points with the shot. 71% first serves in for an unreturned rate of 27% (and large part of that is down to Djoko missing attacking returns) with just 2 aces on a fast court. Neither utilizing the potential of the serve, nor trying to from Rafa

He returns surely though. Djoko's bigger serves are near unreturnable (9 aces, 2 service winners) but most serves that aren't come back. From his usual, well back position, the main focus is on getting balls back rather than being particularly damaging, but there are a couple of point endingly deep returns too

In play, Rafa plays consistent baseline stuff. He's often well behind the baseline rallying and doesn't look to particularly dictate with FHs. Very little running around to hit FHs as he maintains standard central positions. Its not a style of play that seems to be suited to conditions, but not out of Rafa's norms either. He'd played similarly in the pairs Queen's Club final on grass shortly before

Its not clear who imposes or primarily benefits from closed court play. Its a standard Djokovic imposed dynamic that favours power and consistency of shot making over attack, but the Serb doesn't have a clear advantage over Nadal in either area. Nadal usually prefers moving-other-guy-around dynamics and pouncing on short balls with big FHs

He doesn't get many short balls, and the way play is shaped, doesn't have much scope to move Djoko around. When he does, its effective, though I'd primarily discredit Djoko for being not good (as opposed to outright bad) of consistency in the match

Court pace shapes dynamics. Slight moving player around to get errors is normal in fast conditions, as is lack of running around BHs to hit FHs, which is a luxury of slower courts

When Djoko attacks - which he does by hitting extra hard or/and deep - Rafa defends with customary vigour. Some amazing gets from him on the run from well behind he baseline, but in all, rather passive from Nadal. To an extent, he's leaving match on opponents racquet... and there's potential for him being blown off court the way he plays

Djokovic's Play
Not great from Novak. He starts off serving a storm and winning lots of cheap points. Second set on though, he eases up on it - some of that due to Nadal getting a better grip on return, but more Djoko's serving level dropping a bit. And the second serve is fairly harmless. Its possible to be damaging even with second serves on this court, though difficult against Nadal

I like what he does to turn his fortunes around in second set. In first, he'd played badly and was loose off ground. In second, he starts coming to net and returning with aggression.

Note 6 serve-volleys (rare and high for him) - 4 of them ending with first volley winners. Probably just catching Nadal off guard, but a good change up. And 3 return winners, along with 4 runaround FHs (+2 errors trying). Djoko generally isn't a runaround FH return guy - he doesn't need to be as he can return almost as strongly off the BH. But outplayed from baseline, consistent firm returning wasn't cutting it and he turns to something a bit more edgy. It works... Rafa gets rattled a bit and starts making errors in play himself

Where Djoko errs a bit is in the way he attacks from baseline. He's powerful of shot and hits deep enough to keep Nadal pinned back, but mostly stays back a bit too much himself. With Nadal not opening the court, Djoko could have stepped up more, enhancing effectiveness of down the middle ball bashing shots. As he plays it, Nadal's is able to hang in more comfortably with Djoko rarely stepping into court to hit hard

He leads with FH cc, not inside-out. And to an extent, is able to break down Nadal's BH. When opening court with FH cc, he's able to capitilize with some very good BH cc's.

While not slack defensively, he trails Nadal in that area. That's Nadal's credit - he's exceptional - not discredit to Djoko. Consistency is a problem though. 25 groundstroke UEs to Nadal's 17 with a 46.3 UEFI to Nadal's 44.7 is a fair reflection of that. With numbers like that, Djoko has the platform to have a sizable lead in hitting winners and forcing errors. He has a lead... but not as much as needed to come out on top. Particularly in third set, which is key to match. First set Nadal dominates (sans Djoko serve), second set Djoko does... the match is decided in third not just in result but in who plays better.

The net play is bold move, and pays off to tune of 61% such points won. Against good Nadal passing. the ground attack needed to be stronger to augment it though, and here, he's a little short. That and Nadal's defence are both significant to outcome

For all that, by no means does Djoko trail appreciably in play. Match is decided by last game. Some superb play in it from Rafa - a well played FHV winner after running down a very good drop shot, a FH inside-out to force an error and a brute BH cc pass from way behind the baseline that forces an error and a deep error forcing return. But also some slack stuff from Djoko - couple of routine errors and unwillingness to take a floater out of the air is what leads to the volleying error in the first place. And of course, the horror of all horror OH misses on match point. In a career riddled with OH mistakes, this is a strong candidate for worst

Summing up, decent match with some typically tough rallies but action on the whole is a bit drab with closed court ball bashing the epicentre. Djoko is the aggressor, but his attacking plans is less than ideal and its execution isn't the best either, particularly with Nadal defending like a beast. For all that, its Nadal who wins it more than Djoko losing it - result is up in the air in either case - mostly on back off being more consistent. A bit disappointing for the conditions but can't argue with the result

Stats for final between Nadal and Fernando Gonzalez (Chile) -
Stats for pair's Queen's Club final earlier in the year -
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