Match Stats/Report - Nadal vs Djokovic, Rome final, 2021

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Rafael Nadal beat Novak Djokovic 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 in the Rome final, 2021 on clay

This was Nadal's 10th title at the event. Djokovic was the defending champion and had been going for a 6th title in his personal best for a tournament 11th final. The two had previously met 8 times at the event - Nadal winning 5 ('07, '09, '12, '14, '18 and '19), Djokovic 3 ('11, '14 and '16), including finals in '09, '11, '12, '14 and '19. The two would meet shortly afterward in the French Open semi, with Djokovic winning en route to the title

Nadal won 97 points, Djokovic 94

Serve Stats
Nadal...
- 1st serve percentage (72/96) 75%
- 1st serve points won (47/72) 65%
- 2nd serve points won (11/24) 46%
- Aces 3
- Double Faults 1
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (20/96) 21%

Djokovic...
- 1st serve percentage (63/95) 66%
- 1st serve points won (41/63) 65%
- 2nd serve points won (15/32) 47%
- Aces 6 (1 not clean)
- Double Faults 4
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (20/95) 21%

Serve Pattern
Nadal served...
- to FH 20%
- to BH 73%
- to Body 7%

Djokovic served...
- to FH 34%
- to BH 65%
- to Body 1%

Return Stats
Nadal made...
- 71 (34 FH, 37 BH), including 10 runaround FHs
- 14 Errors, comprising...
- 3 Unforced (2 FH, 1 BH), including 1 runaround FH
- 11 Forced (3 FH, 7 BH)
- Return Rate (71/91) 78%

Djokovic made...
- 75 (22 FH, 53 BH), including 7 runaround FHs
- 17 Errors, comprising...
- 12 Unforced (4 FH, 8 BH)
- 5 Forced (2 FH, 3 BH)
- Return Rate (75/95) 79%

Break Points
Nadal 3/6 (6 games)
Djokovic 3/8 (4 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding aces)
Nadal 34 (23 FH, 8 BH, 1 FHV, 1 BHV, 1 OH)
Djokovic 23 (7 FH, 11 BH, 3 FHV, 1 OH, 1 BHOH)

Nadal's FHs - 3 cc (2 passes), 3 dtl, 10 inside-out, 4 inside-in, 1 inside-in/cc and 2 drop shots
- BHs - 3 cc (1 pass), 3 dtl (1 pass), 1 longline and 1 drop shot

Djokovic's FHs - 2 cc, 2 dtl, 1 inside-out, 1 inside-in and 1 drop shot
- BHs - 1 cc, 5 dtl and 5 drop shots

- 1 FHV was swinging, non-net shot and 1 FHV was a pass from near baseline
- 1 OH can reasonably be called a FHV

Errors (excluding returns and serves)
Nadal 50
- 32 Unforced (15 FH, 15 BH, 2 BHV)... with 1 non-net BHV pass attempt
- 18 Forced (7 FH, 10 BH, 1 Back-to-Net)... with 1 BH running-down-drop-shot at net
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 45.9

Djokovic 39
- 32 Unforced (14 FH, 18 BH)
- 7 Forced (5 FH, 1 BH, 1 FHV)... with 1 FH running-down-drop-shot at net
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 46.6

(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...
- 3/9 (33%) at net, with...
- 0/2 forced back

Djokovic was....
- 16/24 (67%) at net, including...
- 2/3 (67%) serve-volleying, all 1st serves
---
- 2/2 retreated

Match Report
Great match, very close and high quality from start to stop. And interestingly different. Nadal plays an attacking, FH shotmaking based game. Djokovic plays a more classic, strong dual winged neutral rallying based one. Nadal's style of play is unusual and its not the only thing in the match that is

There is no key, outcome determining difference between the two. Match is virtually dead even - and so are a host of numbers that spring out of it. Remarkably so

Points won - Nadal 97, Djoko 94
Points served - Nadal 96, Djoko 95
Break points - Nadal 3/6, Djoko 3/8 (Nadal has them in 6 games to Djoko's 4)

Almost nothing in that, Nadal having break chances in more games giving him little edge. The one game Djoko has break points that he doesn't convert in is the game before Nadal (fantastically) breaks decisively in the final set

1st serve points won - both 65%
2nd serve points won - Nadal 46%, Djoko 47%

Even less nothing in that. Nadal serving at 75% to Djoko's still good 66% does give him slightly advantage

Unreturned serves - Nadal 20/96, Djoko 20/95

Still less nothing in that. Nadal with 1 double fault to Djoko's 4, perhaps gives him hint of an edge. There are large differences in types of unreturned serves and unusual elements in serving and returning for both players (more on that later)

UEs - both 32
UEFIs - Nadal 45.9, Djoko 46.6

Breakdown of UEs...
- Neutral - Nadal 20, Djoko 18
- Attacking - Nadal 5, Djoko 7
- Winner attempts - both 7

I don't think I've seen that close a breakdown of UEs over a match (its also rare for UEs total to be identical, obviously). There are significant implications, given major differences in the way each player attacks, related to the breakdown (more on that later)

Winners - Nadal 34, Djoko 23
Errors forced - Nadal 7, Djoko 18, to yield...
Winners + Errors Forced - Both 41

So absolutely, dead even on both UEs and points ended aggressively
Unreturned serves are identical, with Nadal serving 1 more point
The biggest difference is in double faults - Nadal 1, Djoko 4

Statistically, can a match possibly be closer?
Non-statistically - i.e. across different parts of match - there are differences, but even those are small

Serve & Return
Excellent serving from both - Nadal, unusually strong beyond his norm, while Djoko's is probably normal around the period which is possibly be a career best period
Excellent returning from both - Nadal unusually using runaround FHs for the period, while Djokovic biffs back returns typically but also very unusually, takes to hitting runaround FH returns

In general, Nadal's best serving is hefty of pace but not widely placed. On clay, he tones down the pace for most part, throwing in the heftier ones when he's in spot of bother
Here, he's serving heftily all the time. For him, its very unusual on clay but it goes with his shot-making, end points from half-chances baseline play (which is also highly unusual)

75% first serves in serving that way is good outcome for him. Hefty to powerful serves, but comfortably where Djoko can reach them, as just 3 aces hints at. Serving that can be counted on to draw a few weak returns and few errors - though nothing is particularly challenging to return. Against Djokovic, can count on a few errors, but wouldn't count on too many weak returns - which is how things turn out out

Nadal serving 73% to BH and 20% to FH also tips his hand. He more than anyone knows the patterns of Djokovic's returning (BH a bit more consistent, FH a bit more damaging) and in other matches, has served predominantly to either side, depending on how he plays from the baseline. In general, there is no right or wrong way to serve to Djokovic... he's outstanding off both wings, but along BH more steady, FH more damaging. I'd usually take Nadal serving so much more to BH as sign he's ready to grind things out from the back and feels good about coming up ahead from the back. He does edge the baseline battles, but not at all for being better at grinding things out (more on that later)

79% return rate from Djoko is also good. 12/17 errors being marked unforced less so, and indicating room for improvement, though its not as bad as the number sounds. He misses regulation returns against hefty serves - missing some of those are inevitable. He typically returns deep and firm/hard. Number of returns right to the baseline - a bit more than his norm (his norm isn't low in this regard)

The unusual part of Djoko's returning is all his runaround FHs. He has 7 such shots. In general, Djokovic very rarely runsaround to hit FH returns. Why would he? His BH is steadier and near as damaging. His runaround FH returns are just his norm of force, so he's not going for point ending or even particularly damaging shots when he goes in for it. No real reason for it. It doesn't hurt - and he's in better position near center for it to start the rally so it might even help slightly. But it is outside his norm

On flip side, Djoko serves less powerfully but with better wide placement. He has 6 aces or 1 every 9.5 first serves (Nadal has 1 every 24). With Nadal standing as far back as possible, serves have to be perfectly placed to go for the ace. Beyond that, good lot of wide serves that drag Nadal well wide. Very good spot serving from Djokovic and 66% first-in with that kind of placement reflects a good showing

Nadal returns in his typical, barely-miss-a-return way and just 3/14 errors are unforced. What's unusual is all his runaround FH'ng. He has 10 such shots.

In his early years, Nadal had constantly runaround to hit FH returns against second serves, particularly in ad court, but had largely dropped it from about 2017 onward. Since then, he's been in habit of returning from whichever direction serve is direction. Here, he turns back the clock, and goes in for his earlier years style runaround FH returning

Does it exactly as he used to. Not attacking shots, but heavily spun ones that rise shoulder high on other side. Again, if anything, this would be in line with Nadal looking to outlast and outgrind Djokovic from the back

In nutshell - both players serving and returning well, with some unexpected/unusual things thrown in. Nadal serving heftily constantly is odd for him and he hasn't used runaround FH returns to this extent for at least half a decade. Djokovic hitting spots excellently, returning with typical clout but also unusually, using runaround FHs a bit. Not much, but far more than he's in habit of doing
 
Last edited:

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Play - Baseline
Playing dynamics of the match up on this surface vary some. As a base starting point, generally Nadal looks to remain consistent, Djokovic is also steady but less consistent off the ground. There's plenty of tough grinding rallies (Nadal usually winning the bulk). Djokovic is the one to take initiative to attack. Neutrally, Djoko's BH is able to handle Nadal's stock FH cc's and often, Djoko looks to particularly test Nadal's BH with beat-down strong FH cc's. Offensively, Djoko likes to attack Nadal's FH corner with combinations of BH cc (not always reliable) and FH inside-outs or with FH dtl's amidst Djoko FH - Nadal BH cc rallies.

In years gone by, Nadal would play his running Djoko around with FH inside-out + FH cc/inside-in combos. More recently, he's kept more central court position and hit meaty BHs and not been overly dependent on FH for offence.

Both players ability to defend varies radically across matches. Nadal at least puts up a fight on the defensive (whether its a losing one or not)

This match is very different though still very high of quality

Nadal is the aggressor to a very surprisingly extent. He doesn't start off that way. The two trade their usual groundstrokes at start, Djoko is particular clean of BH hitting and Nadal turns up the hitting on his regulation FH cc's. And then, goes in for all out, point ending FH shotmaking. This all happens within first 4-5 games (by which times the two have traded breaks) and Nadal continues in this vein all match

He hits FH cc's hard. Not only does Djoko's BH not breakdown, but he hits back cleanly. In virtually all their other matches, Nadal's response is to keep at the FH cc'ng. Here, he just moves aside to whack FH inside-out winners. The balls he hits these off are strong - let alone 'not weak'. I can't recall any clay matches where Nadal has been this adventurous in his shot choices

23 FH winners from Nadal speaks for itself. Djokovic has that many total. Most aren't third ball putaways or set up by the serve or to weak shots from Djokovic. 10 are inside-out and 5 are inside-in based which illustrates a secondary unusual aspect of Nadal's play. Like with the return, he's turned back the clock and gone in for relying on back-away FH'ng to attack. He's been playing dual winged heavy game - the FH naturally more attacking than the BH, but not exclusively dependent on FH - for many years now

Not that he's passive with the BH. His hard hitting BH play is probably on par with his play in the period, but the FH aggression is sky high above probably anything he's tried on clay

23 winners comes to 0.82 per game. Comparing to other choice matches -
- 0.62 in '20 French
- 0.91 '19 Rome (a match Nadal wins easily)
- 0.70 in '06 French
- 0.77 in '07 French
- 0.55 in '08 French
- 0.56 in '12 French
- 0.38 in '12 Monte Carlo
- 0.64 in '13 French

Nadal turns to FH shot making before a clear pattern of Djoko coming out ahead in neutral rallies emerges. But it does emerge. Djoko ends up winning overwhelming bulk of longer rallies. The rallies that develop aren't passive, who-blinks-first affairs either. Hard hitting from both sides, with Djoko as often as not overpowering and outmanuvering Nadal to finish by forcing errors as points ending with a blink (i.e. when Nadal doesn't swat away a winner from regulation position) As noted earlier, though trailing substantially in winners, he's ahead by the same substantial amount in forcing errors. BH is particularly clean hit, in both directions and he's able to force errors with it in both directions.

Defensively, Nadal is vulnerable. His movements are average, slightly above at best. Still masterful in the late 'get' when needed but not able to run down Djoko's wider shots

Lot of Djoko service points begining with serve out wide, return down middle and Djoko with his choice of shot with court open and Nadal well wide and back. Djoko is measured in his third ball attacking shot, staying away from lines, and Nadal's upto running down the ball to keep rally going. Djoko in charge at that point, and he's able to carry on from there to command points to end

Neutrally, the weakest shot is Nadal's BH, which has a short phase of giving up routine errors and is apt to blink in cc rallies without being pressured. Djoko's BH has match high 18 UEs though. Neutrally though, it takes an even share with Nadal's FH. good lot of dtl change ups and some drop shot errors involved in the high count. Also good lot of 11 winners and forcing Nadal's high 18 FEs with both dtl and cc shots

There's scope for Djoko to do a lot more than he tries with the FH. FH cc'ng to Nadal's BH is standard Djoko ploy. With his own power dropping in recent years, he's been more apt to go more wide, less hard to be effective. Here, he's fairly grey in what he does. Hitting is about even between Djoko FH and Nadal BH and for most of match, very little attempt to dictate with the FH by Djoko. For that matter, there's scope for better BH consistency for Nadal, but that's an on-the-day type thing. Djoko's FH play seems more like a choice to not look to dictate, if not attack

Another unusual item is Djoko throwing up 3-4 BH moonballs. Never seen that before. He's chosen the wrong day to try. Nadal slaps 3 away for winners - 2 with FH, 1 dashing to net to smash. Worth a shot, but not with Nadal in this type of mood. He's dispatching strong shots for winners, moonballs aren't likely to go unpunished

Both players doing well with drop shots. Nadal usually doesn't indulge much. Here he throws out the occasional one. Like rest of his FH offensive, not necessarily when ball is there for it, but again, pulls it off. 3 winners on drop shots by Nadal. Djoko has 6 and very few errors trying or leaving Nadal an easy run up shot. Drop shotting plenty is normal for Djoko. Losing more than he wins is almost always the end result against Nadal on clay. Not this day. Having better of rallies, he's able to set up the shots fairly well, but no better than in other matches. Good drop shotting for Djoko

As with everything else in the match, UEs are remarkably balanced
- Djoko FH 14
- Nadal FH & BH 15
- Djoko BH 18

and back to UE breakdown, viz.
- Neutral UEs - Nadal 20, Djoko 18
- Attacking UEs - Nadal 5, Djoko 7
- Winner attempt UEs - both 7

Basically, everything is near even. In context of the match up, that reflects relative wins for each player

Djokovic hanging even in neutral rallies is a win for him - with that side of thing equal, he can overpower Nadal. Some looseness of BH by Nadal has a hand. Generally, Nadal has significant advantage here

Attacking errors is a a win for Djoko, a loss for Nadal, with Djoko forcing 18 errors to Nadal with just 7

Winner attempt errors is a win for both players, but especially for Nadal who has his huge lot of 34 winners. Given the kinds of balls he picks to go after, 7 UEs is remarkably low

Djokovic's game is considerably more sustainable. Going for winners from regulation positions and making them all day isn't likely to last indefinitely - top job from Nadal pulling it off. For that matter, Djoko outplaying Nadal from even positions isn't an expected outcome either.

In short, great play from both players - Nadal moving around to hit FH winners against even strong balls, let alone neutral ones while still being tough in rallies, Djokovic tougher still and winning bulk of rallies by outmanuvering Nadal - and everything coming out just about net even
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Match Progression
Match starts as it continues - with a bang. Djoko breaks to go up 2-0 in a game filled with memorable plays. Djoko somehow intercepting a very powerful Nadal groundstoke at net with a very low FHV close to the baseline for a winner, deep returns by Djoko, Nadal with a third ball FH drop shot winner, Djoko with BH one 2 points later, a drop shot & lob volley combo by Djoko before Nadal misses a BH on break point

Nadal breaks right back. Djoko throws up his first moonball and Nadal races forward to smash it away, having earlier smacked a winning FH pass

Nadal switches to going for point ending FHs right after, usually backing away to do so. And keeps nailing them. Djoko is on point with his BH dtl's - controlled but point finishing shots. There are a number of tough holds with Nadal having slightly better of it. He grabs the decisive break to move ahead 6-5. Djoko double faults on game point, before Nadal dispatches his 2nd FH winner of the game. On break point, Djoko misses his own third ball FH inside-out

Tough serve out for Nadal, being taken to deuce. He finishes the set with another FH inside-out, this time only forcing an error. Nadal serves 43 points in the set, Djoko 42

For a breadstick, the 2nd set is tough too. From 1-1, Djoko reels off next 5 games, with Nadal's BH getting a bit loose. Still, all 3 of Djoko's service holds during the run go to deuce

To start the third, Nadal tightens up his game and cuts back the errors. At 2-2, Djoko plays a very good game with deep returns, groundies and approaches and its everything Nadal can do to hold off 2 break points to hold

Then Nadal breaks to love in as good a return game as it gets. Starting with a FH dtl winner from defensive position, dispatching a FH inside-in after net chord slows balls down and on break point, making the BH dtl pass on the run and stretch

Nadal continues to have better of play for rest of match, which aren't easy for the server. Ending is a tad disappointing, with Djoko missing 2 regulation returns as Nadal serves out to 30 to end the match

Summing up, a great match and close as it gets in all areas - serve, return and off the baseline - both players playing superbly and both at least a bit unusually.

Nadal serves with hefty force constantly (not his norm), brings out the runaround FH return from yesteryears. In play, he's tough from the back, but Djokovic is tougher, and he compensates by dispatching FH winners every which way, usually by running around or backing away to make room for the shot

Djokovic hits his spot with the serve nicely, returns with typical threatening depth while also running around to hit FHs (very unusual for him) and gets better of the back court rallies, with solid play and attacks spring out of that base. His BH being particularly strong

Brilliant FH shotmaking from Nadal, very strong, solid baseline showing from Djokovic and precious little in the outcome - a particularly superb game from Nadal putting him over
 

goldengate14

Professional
Nadal's forehand was a bulldozer in that one.
That fall he had though i think may have aggravated his foot problem.
That match was a big deal as Nadal wanted a 10th Rome and it tied up the m1000 leaderboard. Next year Nadal must skip Rome. He does not nee anymore than Barcelona as awarm up and Madrid and keeps him.in Spain
 

BeatlesFan

Bionic Poster
He does not nee anymore than Barcelona as awarm up and Madrid and keeps him.in Spain
The flight from Mallorca to Madrid is 341 miles and is a one hour flight. It's only 25 miles more to MC and a 1:10 flight. Rafa's owned MC in the past, it's a more successful tournament for him than Madrid's ever been.
 

goldengate14

Professional
The flight from Mallorca to Madrid is 341 miles and is a one hour flight. It's only 25 miles more to MC and a 1:10 flight. Rafa's owned MC in the past, it's a more successful tournament for him than Madrid's ever been.
Yes i know but in this Covid world id be advising him where possible avoid foreign travel. His game on clay is still there as he is so natural so he dpes not need much prep. It looks like 21 will win the slam race and Nadal has a golden chance in Paris if he can get fit. this year he overplayed and got hikself injured when it mattered. Hopefully he has learnt a lesson.
 

goldengate14

Professional
Depending on what happens from here on out, it MIGHT end up being Nadal's last epic match.
Hope not as im sure the fall he had due to the line not being nailed down caused his foot problem to flare up. The foot he got caught is the one he now has problems with. If a dodgy line ended a GOAt career that would be terrible.
 

spottishwood

Semi-Pro
Yes i know but in this Covid world id be advising him where possible avoid foreign travel. His game on clay is still there as he is so natural so he dpes not need much prep. It looks like 21 will win the slam race and Nadal has a golden chance in Paris if he can get fit. this year he overplayed and got hikself injured when it mattered. Hopefully he has learnt a lesson.
Dw he'll start his season at MC and play Barca, Madrid, Rome along with belgrade open and then go to Paris. Clay season will feel disrespected if he doesn't play at least 4 of them.
 

The Big Foe fan

Professional
This match was the exact reason why I thought Djokovic would go a bigger favorite in a potential Djokovic vs nadal match at RG.
My good friend @Waspsting took everything into account except for one factor :- Djokovic had played almost 5 hours of tennis with bare minimum break just 18 hours before this match.
 
Top