Match Stats/Report - Nadal vs Federer, French Open final 2008


Hall of Fame
Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 in the French Open final, 2008 on clay

It was Nadal's 4th successive title at the event - having beaten Federer in all 4 runs (3 finals, 1 semi-final) - and he would go onto win his first Wimbledon right afterwards (again beating Federer in the final). Federer would go onto to win his sole French Open the following year

Nadal won 92 points, Federer 52

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (50/67) 75%
- 1st serve points won (35/50) 70%
- 2nd serve points won (11/17) 65%
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (7/67) 10%

- 1st serve percentage (53/77) 69%
- 1st serve points won (26/53) 49%
- 2nd serve points won (5/24) 21%
- Aces 2
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (8/77) 10%

Serve Pattern
Nadal served...
- to FH 4%
- to BH 96%

Federer served...
- to FH 42%
- to BH 58%

Return Stats
Nadal made...
- 69 (32 FH, 37 BH), including 6 runaround FHs
- 1 Winner (1 FH)
- 6 Errors, all forced...
- 6 Forced (4 FH, 2 BH)
- Return Rate (69/77) 90%

Federer made...
- 60 (14 FH, 46 BH), including 12 runaround FHs & 1 return-approach
- 7 Errors, comprising...
- 2 Unforced (1 FH, 1 BH)
- 5 Forced (5 BH)
- Return Rate (60/67) 90%

Break Points
Nadal 8/17 (10 games)
Federer 1/4 (3 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding aces)
Nadal 21 (9 FH, 12 BH)
Federer 14 (6 FH, 2 BH, 4 FHV, 1 BHV, 1 OH)

Nadal's FHs - 2 cc (1 pass), 2 dtl (1 return), 4 inside-out (1 pass) and 1 inside-in
- BHs - 5 cc (4 passes), 4 dtl (3 passes), 1 inside-out pass and 2 lobs

Federer's FHs - 2 cc, 2 inside-out and 2 inside-in
- BHs - 1 cc and 1 dtl pass

- all 4 FHVs were drops, the BHV was played net-to-net and the OH was the second volley of a serve-volley point

Errors (excluding returns and serves)
Nadal 30
- 13 Unforced (7 FH, 6 BH)
- 17 Forced (11 FH, 6 BH)
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 43.8

Federer 64
- 47 Unforced (26 FH, 17 BH, 4 FHV)
- 17 Forced (9 FH, 4 BH, 1 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 2 BHV)
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 47.0

(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 0/3 at net

Federer was...
- 16/36 (44%) at net, including...
- 2/8 (25%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 2/6 (33%) off 1st serve and..
- 0/2 off 2nd serve
- 0/1 return-approaching

Match Report
Starting with the obvious, a thrashing. Nadal near flawless, Federer painfully bad.... probably more Nadal near flawless than Federer painfully bad

First set is an unforced error fest from Federer. He makes 18 (10 FH, 8 BH), while Nadal makes 6. On the winners front, Fed can manage 1 while Nadal bangs down 6 (all BHs).

From middle of first set to early in the second, Federer loses 21/24 points, including 9/10 in the second set. Here, he stops the rot and the rest of the set is competitive, though he's strained to the full to stay just slightly behind. Third set is the rot of all rots... bagel aside, even the points don't last long, 3-4 shots being typical before Fed makes errors

Playing Dynamics & Stats
The standard pattern of Nadal-Federer on clay is Nadal being -
a) very consistent (i.e. not making unforced errors)
b) hitting a heavy ball for one being so consistent (i.e. being hard to attack)
c) defending like the dickens (i.e. resisting being forced into errors and having winners hit against him)
d) staying on the baseline (i.e. not many net points for him)

Federer's play typically is -
a) attacking (i.e. trying to force errors and hit winners)
b) loose (i.e. making many unforced errors, which goes with the territory of point a)
c) forced to up the attacking because his standard attacking plays aren't finishing points (which leads to more unforced errors)
d) mixing up attack from the baseline (particularly off the FH) and the net

Throw in Nadal FH cc to Federer BH leaving Fed at best impotent and at worst, bleeding errors. And that forces Fed to protect his BH by staying over to the BH side of the court and hitting FHs instead.... which leaves the other side of the court open for Nadal to aim FH inside-outs to

On serve-return dynamics, typically...
- Nadal gets a remarkable number of balls back in play (i.e. Fed doesn't win cheap points the way he would against other players)
- Federer's BH is targeted relentlessly

In this match, most of the standard dynamics hold true but the positive ones of Fed are dampened, while the negative ones are enhanced

From the baseline, Federer does not attack much or at least, not in any effective way. Usually, his baseline attacks come out of court opening angles. In this match, he "attacks" by stepping into court and trying to hit FHs extra hard and deep down the middle of the court. First, it doesn't work... these shots not only aren't enough to force errors out of Nadal, but they don't even draw particularly weak responses (massive credit to Nadal for this). Second, Fed can only hit 1 or 2 shots before going long and making the error. Plenty of credit to Nadal, about as much discredit to Fed

With Fed relatively passive, its left to Nadal to dictate, which he does by just hammering down consistent and heavy groundstrokes. Consistency is about the same as usual, but average shots is probably heavier. Like his attacking shots, Fed's neutral ones are down a gear too... and he makes unforced errors not only more often than usual, but after fewer shots per rally. Credit to Nadal, more discredit to Fed here

Net play offers little relief. Fed volleys well enough, but Nadal is incredible on the pass.... primarily credit to Nadal

Serving offers no relief. Fed sends down an excellent 69% first serves in... with good placement and pace. And they keep coming back - a full 90% of them. Ridiculously good consistency from Nadal on the return - all credit to him

Returning offers no relief. Nadal's serve looks stronger than it had previously been (which would become even more evident a couple of weeks later on grass)… and he bangs down 64/67 of them to Federer's BH or 96%... the highest proportion to 1 wing that I've tracked. Fed still returns 90%... the serve looks strong enough that it would difficult to attack (and Nadal serves at 75%). Mostly credit to Nadal... attacking BH returning is generally outside Fed's norm, so getting so many serves back is about the best he could have hoped for

The sole competitive part of the match is the middle of the second set, from game 3 to game 8. Cutting back on errors, coming to net more (and more successfully - he wins 11/18 in the period, up from 3/10 prior to it), coming up with the goods on attacking baseline shots.... even with all this, Federer lags just a bit behind Nadal, whose level remains roughly the same

Its question and answer time with Nadal. Fed had barely sliced a BH in play to this point. What happens when he does? Nadal swishes away a FH inside-in winner. Fed wins a couple of points via perfectly struck, sharply angled BH cc's. What happens when its hit less than perfectly? The next sharply angled but not wholly powerful (as opposed to weak) BH cc is dispatched FH dtl from outside the court for a winner. Nadal uncharacteristically goes for a FH inside-out winner early in a rally and nets the ball. What happens next point? He does it again - and gets the winner. As Fed plays better, Nadal switches from beating errors our of him to moving him around. When Fed tries to reciprocate, what happens? A moving Nadal hits error forcing powerful shots. Fed's expecting Nadal's BH dtl passes. What happens next? Nadal runs around a BH to deliver a FH inside-out pass.... and he didn't even really have time to run around it, but somehow did it anyway

In a nutshell, Nadal has all the answers

3rd set is a replay of the first, only worse in terms of how long it takes Fed to make errors

Summing up, the usual stuff from Nadal - returning everything, making next to no unforced errors, hitting heavy, passing well, peppering the BH return, finding the BH in rallies - executed even better than usual. Unusual quasi-attack from the baseline from Fed, executed exceptionally poorly along with the usual stuff executed likewise.... the recipe for a full on thrashing
Last edited: