Match Stats/Report - Nadal vs Federer, French Open final 2006

Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer 1-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6(4) in the French Open final 2006 on clay

The win saw Nadal defend his maiden Slam title from the French Open 2005, where he had beaten Federer in the semis and he would go onto defeat the Swiss at the next two finals at the venue too. Federer meanwhile, had been gunning for a non-calender year Grand Slam in this match (as he would be doing the next year also -

Nadal won 123 points, Federer 107

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (85/111) 77%
- 1st serve points won (55/85) 65%
- 2nd serve points won (17/26) 65%
- Aces 3, Service Winners 1
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (24/111) 22%

- 1st serve percentage (72/119) 61%
- 1st serve points won (49/72) 68%
- 2nd serve points won (25/47) 53%
- Aces 8, Service Winners 1
- Double Faults 1
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (25/119) 21%

Serve Pattern
Nadal served...
- to FH 5%
- to BH 93%
- to Body 2%

Federer served...
- to FH 27%
- to BH 73%

Return Stats
Nadal made...
- 93 (31 FH, 62 BH), including 9 runaround FHs
- 16 Errors, comprising...
- 5 Unforced (3 FH, 2 BH), including 2 runaround FH attempts
- 11 Forced (5 FH, 6 BH)
- Return Rate (93/118) 79%

Federer made...
- 87 (16 FH, 71 BH), including 9 runaround FHs
- 20 Errors, comprising...
- 11 Unforced (4 FH, 7 BH), including 4 runaround FH attempts
- 9 Forced (9 BH)
- Return Rate (87/111) 78%

Break Points
Nadal 4/12 (6 games)
Federer 3/10 (4 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding aces)
Nadal 21 (14 FH, 3 BH, 3 BHV, 1 OH)
Federer 25 (11 FH, 4 BH, 6 FHV, 2 BHV, 2 OH)

Nadal's regular FHs were 6 inside-out, 4 cc, 2 dtl and 1 at net. A large portion of these were hit from just behind the service line

- 3 passes (1 FH, 2 BH). The FH was dtl, the BHs (1 cc, 1 dtl)

- the sole non-pass BH was a drop shot

- 1 BHV first volley winner on his sole S/V point

Federer's FHs were 6 inside-out, 2 dtl and 2 at net. He also hit several of these from well in front of the baseline.

- 1 pass, a FH dtl

- on the BH - 2 cc, 1 at net and 1 drop shot

- 1 FHV was the first volley of a S/V point and 3 were swinging shots

Errors (excluding returns and serves)
Nadal 55
- 23 Unforced (14 FH, 7 BH, 2 BHV)
- 32 Forced (15 FH, 16 BH, 1 Net Touch)
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 50.0

Federer 74
- 55 Unforced (20 FH, 31 BH, 1 FHV, 2 BHV, 1 OH)
- 19 Forced (7 FH, 9 BH, 1 FHV, 1 BHV, 1 BHOH)
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 46.2

(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
Nadal was 10/16 (63%) at net, including 1/1 serve-volleying (a first serve point)

Federer was 31/44 (70%) at net, including 3/7 (43%) serve-volleying - 2/5 (40%) off first serves plus 1/1 'delayed' serve-volleying, and 1/1 off second serves.

Match Report
I hadn't seen this match since it happened - or any Roger Federer clay matches since I don't remember when. My recollection of Federer essentially playing what might be called 'hard court tennis on clay is not at all the case in this match. He is very much playing classic, rally-'til-someone-makes-the-error' clay court tennis in this encounter. Probably unwisely so

Nadal plays poorly in the first set. He is sluggish of movement and commits about as many unforced errors as Federer does. The difference is that Federer is also able to force errors and hit a few winners - as much from the net as the baseline - and runs away with the set.
Federer returns in kind and plays poorly in the second set. As Nadal tightens up his game and ceases making errors, Federer makes and more and more to yield the set.

It probably doesn't make much difference, but the second set does turn on an act of sportsmanship. With Nadal having held to open the set, Federer is on 40-0 on his first service game when a Nadal return is called long. Its the Swiss who checks the mark and after the umpire confirms that the ball was good, the point is replayed. Nadal goes on to break - and doesn't look back after that.

In Sets 3 and 4, Nadal is far and away the better player. The two men have settled into playing a typical, who-blinks-first clay court match. And Nadal is far more consistent. Federer loses ground making errors and doesn't seem to be looking for ways to find the net (which had served him handsomely at the start of the match). It isn't until Nadal is serving for the match that Federer is able to break, for the first time in 3 sets to push the set into a tiebreaker, which Nadal takes comfortably.

The 'weakness' of Federer's BH is evident throughout the match. He actually keeps rallies going for some time before yielding errors but there's no punch coming out of that wing at all. Just plopping the ball back in the court. I thought he might try to be more defensive with the shot (though not getting power behind the shot, he was driving the BH), and just loop it over the net the way Sampras used to, and invite Nadal to aggressively jump on the ball. Probably wouldn't have worked, but as it is, Nadal just hits his routine FHs until Fed yields the inevitable errors. Another possibility was to slice more, but I imagine Federer had already accumulated plenty of experience of that just not working against the Spaniard.

In the 4th set, Federer is returning from as far back as Nadal himself. A strange choice, given the grind fests were clearly going against him. With the omniscient benefit of hindsight, it looks like waiting for the inevitable.... and perhaps seeing as he couldn't beat Nadal this way, an alternative might have been for Federer to try seizing the net. He has an excellent 70% points won at net for the match.... though taking it against Nadal's machine like consistent groundies would have been a hard task

Nadal's 93% serving to the BH pattern is the highest rate of going to one wing that I've tracked - and the only time I've seen that figure cross 90%. Federer is not particularly successful in his attempts to run around the BH return. He makes errors trying and when he doesn't, doesn't get the ball back with much greater force when successful... Nadal is able to command the 3rd ball with his FH anyway

Other points of interest. Note Nadal shading Federer on unreturned serve percentage. Since Federer sent down a healthy 8 aces, I would take this as both an indication that Nadal returned particularlying solidly and Federer, relatively poorly. The 11 unforced return errors from Fed (Nadal had 5) supports this - and he wasn't returning with any particularl aggressive bias

Note Federer's respectable overall serve stats - serving at 61%, winning 68% 1st serve points and 53% second

These look like match winning numbers. The reason they aren't is because Nadal wins a very high 65% of his second serve points

Again, the suggestion is that Federer served well enough, but returned poorly

If it were just a case of Nadal being stronger from the baseline, we'd expect Fed to have a lower 2nd serve points won rate

Note Nadal heading the Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 50 to 46.2. This is a sign that -

a) Nadal was just not missing regulation groundstrokes (predictable)
b) Federer was not being aggressive (his choice, and probably not a good one)

Summing up - sluggish start from Nadal, allowing Federer to sweep the first playing aggressively (from the net and the back). After that, grinding baseline-to-baseline stuff, with Nadal a league apart in terms of consistency of shot and the Fed BH in particular somewhat fragile.
Last edited: